Vaccinating Puppies & Kittens
What am I vaccinating against?
The core vaccination protects your puppy against devastating and potentially fatal canine parvovirus, adenovirus (hepatitis) and distemper virus. We also recommend vaccinating against kennel cough. For kittens core vaccination protects against feline herpesvirus, calicivirus and panleucopaenia. We can also vaccinate against feline immunodeficiency virus if your cat is deemed at risk.
How do vaccinations work?
Shortly after birth, a puppy or kitten nurses off their mother and receives colostrum. This contains antibodies which are likened to tiny soldiers which fight a particular disease. This conveys natural maternal immunity, however it wanes over time. In some animals, it drops below protective levels by 6 weeks of age whilst in others it may last up to 16+ weeks of age.
A vaccine contains a small dose of a dead or weakened version of the virus against which we are vaccinating. The immune system reacts to this, creating antibodies. In the future, if your pet is exposed to the virus, the immune system remembers it and quickly produces antibodies to fight that particular infection.
The vaccine will only work once the natural maternal immunity is below a certain level. It is impossible to tell when this will happen in your pup.
When do we give the first vaccine?
We normally start the vaccine course at 6-8 weeks of age as some animals have already lost their natural maternal immunity by this age.
When do we give the last vaccine?
Following considerable research the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) recommends finishing the vaccinations at 16 weeks of age. or over. This is because a small percentage of puppies and kittens still have natural maternal immunity protecting them at 12 weeks of age, which interferes with our vaccines.
Why do we need to give so many boosters? Why can’t we just give the vaccine at 16 weeks of age?
We walk a fine line when vaccinating puppies and kittens. We want to vaccinate enough to protect them, without over-vaccinating. If your puppy or kitten has natural immunity only until 6 weeks of age, waiting until 16 weeks leaves a 10 week window of dangerous susceptibility. It is recommended to booster your pup or kitten every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.
When do we need to give the adult booster?
Historically this was done one year after the final puppy vaccination. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association is now recommending doing this before 12 months of age to ensure all adults are properly protected. We are following their guidelines and now recommend boostering your pet at 9 months of age. This is an ideal time to recheck how your pet is growing. The next vaccination is then due 12 months after that when your pup is 21 months of age.