Gray kitten in carrier

Our fur babies are important to us and, if you have a new puppy or kitten, we bet you are reveling in the joy and fun of it all. Of course you want to give your new pet a great start in life, and you and your veterinary healthcare team can make sure that happens. 

Puppy and kitten vaccines is the place to start. Androscoggin Animal Hospital shares some of the ins and outs of vaccines, why they are important, and a bit about how they work. 

Why a Series of Vaccines?

Vaccines are important at any age. Adult pets need to be protected from infectious disease just as puppies and kittens do. With adults, we vaccinate much less often, and we carefully balance what vaccines are needed based on age, breed, and how and where an adult pet is active

So why do we still recommend a series of vaccines for kittens and puppies? The answer lies in the immune system and how it matures. 

Puppies and kittens get maternal antibodies from their mothers’ milk. These antibodies are perfectly designed to protect young pets from viral and bacterial infections as their immune systems develop, but they also block the immune system from responding to vaccination with a desired immune response. 

The reason we give a series of puppy and kitten vaccines is that these maternal antibodies decline over time (sometime between 6 and 16 weeks). Unfortunately,  we don’t know exactly when they fall off to a point to where pets are susceptible to disease. As puppy and kitten natural immunity wanes, vaccines step in to protect them from infectious diseases that they may come into contact with. 

When to Vaccinate

We give puppy and kitten vaccines beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age, every 3 to 4 weeks, to make sure pets are protected. As maternal antibodies fall, we don’t want our fur babies to be exposed to disease; instead, the immune system is activated through vaccination. 

Puppy and Kitten Vaccines

Dogs and cats can become sick with different diseases, so we vaccine them a bit differently. “Core” vaccines protect against diseases that are highly contagious, deadly, or zoonotic. 

In puppies, core vaccines are: 

Distemper (DHPP) — The canine distemper vaccine prevents four different deadly diseases, including Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. Given beginning at 8 weeks of age, 3 to 4 weeks apart, until the puppy is 16 weeks old.

Rabies Rabies is a deadly and preventable disease. Because it can be transmitted to humans as well, vaccination is required. This vaccine is given after 4 months of age, followed by a booster at one year; boosters are given every 3 years thereafter.

Other vaccines that your veterinarian may recommend include: 

  • Lyme disease
  • Canine flu
  • Rattlesnake vaccine
  • Bordetella
  • Leptospirosis 

While not mandatory, we highly recommend the Lyme disease vaccine and Leptospirosis vaccine. Leptospirosis is a disease that is spread through the urine of wildlife. This disease is also zoonotic, meaning humans can also contract it. Vaccination can be given as early as 6 weeks of age, boosted 2 to 4 weeks later, and boosted annually. 

In kittens, core vaccines are:

Distemper (FVRCP) — The feline distemper vaccine protects against several deadly feline diseases: Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia, and Chlamydia Psittaci. This is given as a series of one every 3 to 4 weeks, beginning at 6 weeks of age, until the kitten is 16 weeks old, and boosted annually. 

Rabies — All mammals are susceptible to rabies and, in most states, dogs and cats are required by law to be vaccinated for the disease. In kittens, it is given after 3 months of age, with a booster at one year, and then annually.

Feline leukemia — This vaccine is recommended for all kittens and cats who go outside, and cats in multi-cat households. Kittens are tested with a blood sample and vaccinated twice, given 2 to 4 weeks apart, beginning at 9 weeks of age.

Please don’t take your puppy or kitten to public places like the dog park, pet store, or the beach until they are fully vaccinated! 

If you have any questions about your pet’s health, please give us a call. Your puppy’s and kitten’s health and well-being are important to us!