How Do We Vaccinate Our Pets?

Working in a mixed animal practice here in Elko, we have the pleasure to work with multiple different species of animals. As part of our job we are here to educate our clients on the importance of vaccinations and what each vaccination is for. The goal in vaccinating our pets is to prevent them from getting infectious diseases. When we think of pets that need vaccinations we mainly think of our dogs and cats, but our larger animals need vaccinations too. Also, even if your pet is mainly indoors, we still need to vaccinate them routinely.

What vaccinations are needed in my dogs and why do they need them? One of the most vital vaccinations is the DHPP vaccination, this includes Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and most importantly for our location, Parvovirus. Distemper is a contagious virus with no known cure, and is spread via air, through direct or indirect contact. The virus then attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Hepatitis is another virus that causes upper respiratory tract infections. This virus targets the liver, kidneys, eyes and blood vessel cells. This virus is shed in the feces and saliva of the infected dog, and can be shed in the urine up to 6-9 months after being treated. Parainfluenza is one of the viruses that causes “kennel cough” in our dogs. It affects the respiratory system and is spread through direct or indirect contact in the air. Parvovirus is a very important vaccination for us in Elko. Parvo is a highly contagious viral disease that can live in the soil for a very long time. The virus attacks the intestinal tract and the white blood cells of the patient, and also can damage the cardiac muscles in younger patients. Parvo is be transmitted by any person, animal, or object that comes in contact with an infected patients feces.

Rabies is the next virus we vaccinate for. It attacks the brain and spinal cord of all mammals. There is NO cure and no treatment for rabies. Also, there is not a test for Rabies in a patient that is still alive; brain tissue of the infected animal is used to diagnose this virus.

Bordetella is also a vaccine that we give here in Elko. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that is one of the most common ways dogs get respiratory infections such as tracheobronchitis. It is highly contagious and is transmitted through the air or direct contact. Even pets that do not frequently visit a boarding facility should receive this vaccine.

The puppy vaccination series should begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Puppies should initially receive the DHPP vaccine, with additional boosters given every 3 weeks until 20 weeks of age. Puppies should receive the Bordetella vaccine around 10 weeks of age, and they should receive a rabies vaccine at 12 – 16 weeks of age. These three vaccinations are the “core” vaccinations that should be given here in Elko.

Cats need vaccinated even if they are “only indoors” and never come into contact with other cats. The FRCPC vaccination includes prevention for Feline Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Chlamydia. Feline Panleukopenia, also known as Feline Distemper, which is a highly contagious viral disease. It can affect any cat at any age, but mostly affects kittens. Feline Rhinotracheitis is the most severe and widespread upper respiratory virus to which cats are susceptible. It is very contagious and is transmitted from cat to cat through sneezing and coughing. Rhinotracheitis can affect cats of any age and usually affects all cats in a household. Though Rhinotracheitis can be treated, cats can remain infective for quite a long time. Calicivirus is another serious upper respiratory infection that often occurs simultaneously with feline Rhinotracheitis. Calicivirus is resistant to disinfectants and is transmitted through other disinfected cats. Feline pneumonitis, otherwise known as “chlamydia”, affects the upper respiratory system, the eyes, and the gastrointestinal system. Chlamydia is transmitted through oral secretions such as sneezing/coughing.

The FeLV (feline leukemia) vaccination helps prevent various blood disorders and it can cause cancer. The virus is shed in very high quantities of saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, feces, and milk from infected cats.

Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord of all mammals. There is NO cure and no treatment for rabies. Also, there is not a test for Rabies in a patient that is still alive; brain tissue of the infected animal is used to diagnose this virus.

The kitten vaccination series should begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Kittens should initially receive the FRCPC vaccine, with additional boosters given every 3 – 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Kittens older than 12 weeks of age should receive an initial FRCPC vaccine, followed by one additional booster 3 – 4 weeks later. Kittens should receive a rabies vaccine at 12 – 16 weeks of age.


Written by Shannon Ward, LVT-IT