What you should know about vaccination

Vaccinations protect your pet from several highly contagious diseases such as canine distemper, parvovirus infection and respiratory tract infections. It also protects against transmissible diseases such as rabies that also pose a risk to humans. Vaccination will not cure a pet that is already sick. Only healthy pets should be vaccinated. A veterinarian or a veterinary nurse administers vaccines.

Are there any risks?

The majority of pets experience no adverse effects following vaccination. A small number of animals may become feverish and have a reduced appetite. These reactions are mild and of short duration. In extremely rare cases, an animal may experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Such an animal can be treated successfully if attended to immediately. The possibility of such an event occurring does not justify considering not to vaccinate your pets, however, as that will leave them susceptible to a range of life-threatening infectious diseases.

Against what diseases should I have my pet vaccinated?

Vaccines used for the protection of pets are currently divided into core vaccines and non-core vaccines. The former are vaccines that should be given to all pets in all regions because they protect against diseases that are widespread and have serious effects. Non-core vaccines are only given strategically when a particular disease is prevalent in an area or when circumstances predispose to the appearance of the disease. Non-core vaccines are only administered after discussion with your veterinarian to evaluate the risks.

Core vaccines for dogs                     Non-core vaccines for dogs

Canine distemper                                 Leptospirosis

Canine adenovirus infections                 Kennel cough

Canine parvovirus infection                   Canine coronavirus

Rabies                                                Canine herpesvirus

Core vaccines for cats                      None-core vaccines for cats

Feline panleukopenia                            Chlamydiosis

Feline herpesvirus infection                   Feline leukaemia

Feline calicivirus infection                      Feline immunodeficiency virus

Rabies

Basic vaccination programme for dogs

  • First vaccination at 8–9 weeks
  • Second vaccination at 11–12 weeks; includes the first rabies vaccination
  • Re-vaccinate at 14–16 weeks; includes the second rabies vaccination
  • Re-vaccinate at one year of age
  • Re-vaccinate every 3 years, including rabies

Basic vaccination programme for cats

  • First vaccination at 8 weeks of age
  • Re-vaccinate at 12 weeks of age; includes rabies vaccination
  • Re-vaccinate at 16 weeks in environments with high infection pressure or in breeding catteries. If not applicable, only give the second rabies vaccination
  • Re-vaccinate at one year of age
  • Repeat every 3 years, including rabies

 Origin of Annual Vaccination 

Historically, annual vaccination had been recommended. There were two reasons. The most important was that vaccine manufacturers had proof that the core vaccines provided immunity for at least a year.

The second reason used to justify annual vaccination was that pets benefit from an annual health check – usually given at the time of vaccination. This check facilitates the early detection of heart disease, renal disease and tumours and is an ideal opportunity to remind owners about parasite control, discuss management of skin disease, neutering and the like.

There are challenge studies showing that some canine and feline core vaccines can protect the majority of vaccinated animals for 3 years. The efficacy of vaccines is likely to differ between manufacturers.

What is also stressed again and again is that there cannot be a universally applicable vaccination policy. Rather, the protocol should be adapted for each particular individual’s situation.

Approved by Prof Moritz van Vuuren (who is an expert in this field)