Pet Vaccinations

Puppies need puppy shots.

Denver’s owners know he needs to get off to a good start with his puppy shots. He’s a little scared of the shots, but it’s a lot scarier to be sick!

It’s August! That means it’s National Immunization Awareness Month. If you have school age children, you’re probably very familiar with childhood vaccinations, and may be in the midst of updating your kids for the beginning of the school year. But did you know it’s important to get regular pet vaccinations too? While most pet owners know they need to get their new puppies and kittens vaccinated, not everyone knows that those vaccinations need to be boostered, often yearly.

Just like for humans, pet vaccinations are an important ingredient for living long, healthy lives. Pet vaccines are responsible for saving millions of pets’ lives by protecting them from potentially fatal contagious diseases including distemper, parvovirus, rabies and others. To work, vaccines introduce our pets’ immune systems to antigens that look like a disease-causing organism. Those antigens stimulate their immune systems to recognize and fight off the disease in the future. However, that recognition doesn’t last forever, so vaccines have to be boostered regularly to keep our pets’ immune systems prepared.

All cats need to get vaccines.

Mikey is an office cat who doesn’t go outside, but he still gets all his shots in case something happens!

Just like we get vaccines for different diseases, our pets have different vaccines for different diseases, too. Local laws, your lifestyle, and the kind of pet you have (dog, cat, ferret, pot-bellied pig, or other will determine the kinds of yearly shots your pet needs. For example, here in the New Orleans area, the rabies vaccine is required by law every three years for every dog and cat. Many people say “but my pet never goes outside, why does it need a rabies shot?” There are a couple of reasons, beyond the legal ones, why they should get their rabies shot – and the other recommended ones – whether they go outside or not. Besides being the law, rabies can be contracted by any warm-blooded mammal (including us!), and those infected animals don’t always behave normally. In fact, bats and rats, some of the most common carriers of rabies, can get inside and bite your pets in your home. Additionally, there’s the possibility that your dog or cat could slip outside (whether on purpose or accidentally) where it could come across any number of potentially contagious animals!


Dogs interact with other dogs and humans, so they need their vaccines!

Indiana Jones’ owners know that if he’s going to go to the dog park or the pet groomer, he needs to be current on all his vaccines in case he meets a sick dog.

Your dog should get shots for several diseases, many common here in southern Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast, that are prevented with vaccines, including parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, bordetella, rabies, leptospirosis and the flu. Some pet vaccinations are given as combination shots (like DHP-P that includes distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus), others are given singly (like rabies, bordetella and the flu). In fact, some vaccines, like bordetella, can be given as an intranasal spray rather than a shot! These aren’t the only possible shots your veterinarian may recommend for your dog, though. Depending on your lifestyle, the Lyme disease vaccine may be recommended, as well as others. If you take your dog to dog parks, boarding or grooming facilities, the bordetella vaccine is often required since it protects from kennel cough. It’s important to talk to your vet about the kinds of activities you and your dog do!

For cats there are a few shots that are part of the normal vaccination schedule in addition to rabies, including the FVRCP combination vaccine and the feline leukemia vaccine. The FVRCP shot protects from feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), calicivirus and panleukopenia (“feline distemper”). FVR, a type of feline herpes virus, and calicivirus are very contagious to other cats and are responsible for many upper respiratory infections in cats and can be life-threatening. FVR also causes conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues around the eyes). FVR, like herpes in humans, is a lifetime infection – it can be treated, but it can’t ever be completely cured. The combination vaccine, in addition to the shots for rabies and feline leukemia, are the most commonly recommended (or required!) shots for cats.

Cats and dogs aren’t the only ones that need shots. Exotic pets also need their shots! Depending on your location, different vaccines are recommended for different pets. Here in the New Orleans area, ferrets are required to get distemper and rabies vaccinations, and pet pigs are required to get tetanus and mycoplasma shots to stay happy and healthy.

For more information on pet vaccinations, contact us here at MSAH or talk to your veterinarian when you come to see us!