The purpose of National Immunization Awareness Month is to increase the general public’s understanding of immunization and its many benefits.  Pet owners are usually aware of the fact that their pet’s veterinarian recommends certain pet vaccines in order to help them keep their pet healthy, but they may not understand why.

Understanding Vaccines

Pet vaccines are essentially antigens that are designed to mimic specific, disease-causing organisms.  They don’t actually cause diseases to occur in the body, but they stimulate the immune system into responding to their presence.  This makes the immune system stronger so that if the pet is then exposed to the disease they were vaccinated against, it can successfully recognize and fight off the disease.

Just as not all vaccines are necessary for all humans to receive, not all pet vaccines are necessary for all pets to receive.  The vaccination protocol that your veterinarian recommends for your pet is based on their age, medical history, environment, travel habits and overall lifestyle.  However, there are some vaccines that are considered essential for all pets, and these include the parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and rabies vaccines for dogs as well as the panleukopenia, calicivirus, herpesvirus type 1 and rabies vaccines for cats.  The one pet vaccine that is actually governed by state law is the rabies vaccine.  Each state in our nation has its own specific law regarding the rabies vaccine–with some states requiring annual rabies vaccinations while others require three-year rabies vaccinations.  In addition to the rabies vaccination schedule required by law, almost every state requires proof of a pet’s current rabies vaccination.

Puppies and kittens normally begin to receive their vaccinations when they are between six to eight weeks old.  Puppies normally receive three vaccinations every three to four weeks until they are sixteen weeks of age, while kittens normally receive a series of vaccinations every three to four weeks until they are sixteen weeks of age.  After that, dogs receive some vaccinations every year and others every three to five years, while cats receive some vaccinations every year and others every three years.  Your pet’s veterinarian will be able to tell you, after examining your pet, which vaccinations are appropriate for them and why.  As with any other health issue, you have both the right and the responsibility to make sure you thoroughly understand how vaccines can promote your pet’s wellness–so ask any and all questions of your veterinarian as needed.