Vaccination in Dogs and Cats
Vaccinations can be divided into core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines should be given to all animals, and protect against diseases which have a global distribution. In dogs, these diseases include canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV), and variants of canine parvovirus (CPV-2). In a vaccine, these three components can be collectively referred to as a C3. In cats, the core vaccines protect against feline parvovirus (FPV), feline herpesvirus (FHV-1), and feline calicivirus (FCV).
Non-core vaccines can be considered for animals where there may be regional distribution of a disease, or if the lifestyle of the animal may put them at risk of contracting a certain disease. The common non-core vaccinations in dogs include Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Leptospirosis. Dogs are protected against Parainfluenza and Bordetella with a vaccine given directly into the nose – the site at which they are infected and thereby enabling them to mount a strong immune response in the face of exposure to infection. In cats, the main non-core vaccine targes Feline Leukaemia Virus and Feline Immune Deficiency (FIV) .
Maternally derived antibodies (MDA) are antibodies conferred from a bitch to offspring through the placenta and milk, and function to protect them from disease while young. However, the action of MDA can interfere with efficacy of vaccines given to young animals, and for this reason, have a role in the dictating the juvenile vaccination schedule. The effect of MDA generally wanes by the time the offspring are 16 weeks of age which is why several boosters are generally required, before and around this age. Some young animals may have lots of MDA; meaning they may be less capable of responding to vaccination, and some may have little, meaning they could be vulnerable to disease, but also competent at mounting a sufficient immune response to a vaccine!
At Epsom Avenue Veterinary Clinic, we recommend three vaccinations for puppies, given 2-4 weeks apart; beginning at 6-8 weeks. A C3 (CDV, DAV, CPV-2) vaccination is given at the first two appointments, which is registered for ‘early finish’ at 10 weeks of age. At the final puppy vaccination, the intranasal vaccine for Bordetella and Parainfluenza is given. This is known as a C5 – as we have then vaccinated against 5 components.
For kittens, the schedule is somewhat similar, with vaccinations being administered, at 8, 10 and 12 weeks. The F5 vaccine for cats can afford protection against FPV, the components of cat flu, and FeLV. This is given at the 8- and 12-week vaccinations. At all three appointments, vaccination is provided against FIV, which requires several boosters to provide adequate protection.
Once the puppy or kitten has had their initial course of vaccinations, a booster is required to uphold the immunity. The theory behind the ‘booster’ vaccine, is to evoke an immune response in any animal that may have failed to respond to any of the three vaccinations given in the initial juvenile course. Commonly, this is be performed at around 12 months. More recently, there is discussion of bringing forward the booster to around 6 months of age, to capture any animals that may be ‘non-responders’, such as the action of MDA, or inadequate evocation of immune response. Use this appointment to tie in with a general health check, or ask your veterinarian about any questions you may have in relation to your pet!
Adult dogs can then be vaccinated every 3 years after the first booster at 12 months, because the vaccine has a substantially long duration of immunity, of 3 or more years. Because of this extended duration of immunity, it may not always be necessary to vaccinate the dog at the 3 year time point – instead, testing is available to assess the existing immunity – this is called titre testing, and is another method of ensuring your pet is protected from infectious disease without having to vaccinate unnecessarily.
Cats, however, are vaccinated with an F5 + FIV annually, as the cat vaccines do not seem to evoke such a robust and long-lived immune response.
See you and your furry friend soon!