New vaccination guidelines for dogs and cats

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Dr. Pat's Blog | 0 comments

In 2009, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at UC Davis changed its recommendations for vaccinating dogs and cats.  These recommendations are based on newer research on the length of vaccine protection and the findings of several taskforces charged with studying the issue.  This new protocol is based on your pet’s “lifestyle”, so when you come in with your pet, the doctor will ask you if your pet travels, who he or she comes in contact with (both animal and human) and will evaluate the age and condition of your pet to make individual vaccine recommendations.  For a link to the vaccine recommendation page on the School of Veterinary Medicine’s website, go to

At the risk of being really boring, I’ll still quickly review what vaccines do.  When you get vaccinated, your body’s immune system is taught to recognize a bad bug and destroy it before it can cause harm.  Thankfully most of us don’t remember the days before tetanus shots, measles, or polio vaccines.  Those diseases used to kill or disable many people yearly because there aren’t cures available.  It’s the same with dogs and cats-dog and cat distemper used to routinely kill many puppies and kittens as late as the 1960s, and rabid dogs were routinely shot on the street.  And as late as 1985, we were used to having 1-2 cats a week die from a Feline Leukemia (FeLV)-related disease. Routine vaccination as almost eliminated those diseases, but just as measles and whooping cough are making a comeback as fewer kids are vaccinated against them, the distempers, Parvovirus,  and FeLV are still out there.

The short version is that vaccines are being given much less frequently, a change that I whole-heartedly support.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that vaccines shouldn’t be used- they’ve virtually eliminated dog and cat distemper and rabies, and have dramatically reduced the amount of Feline Leukemia Virus disease in cats, all good things.  The older recommendations were probably based more on what the drug companies told us to do; the new recommendations are based more on facts.  Another major cause of the change was the development of tumors caused by some vaccines in cats ( feline vaccine-based sarcomas).  We know now that it’s only the leukemia virus vaccine that can rarely cause a tumor-the rabies vaccine that we use and the distemper (FVRCP) vaccine are safe.

Vaccines are broken down into core, non-core, and others.  Core vaccines mean that every pet should have them as puppies and kittens, and that they protect from serious diseases.  Non-core vaccines should be considered based on whether or not the disease exists where your pet lives or travels, and how easy it is to treat the disease if it happens.  The other category is for vaccines that either have little proof that they work, or the disease is insignificant enough that the risk and cost of using them outweighs the benefit.

When you bring your pet in for their yearly exam, the doctor will ask you questions about whether your pet is indoors or outdoors, whether you travel with them and where, do they board or go to day care, and how old they are, etc.  Vaccines will be recommended based on what’s best for your pet-it’s no longer a vaccine every year whether it’s needed or not.

Core Vaccines for Dogs

Canine Distemper, Parvo, and Adenovirus-2 (DHPP): recommended for all puppies, with a booster at one year, then every 3 years if risk factors are not high.

Rabies: This vaccine is required by State Law because of the risks to

people.  Every puppy gets vaccinated at 4 months old, boosted at 1 year, then again every 3 years.

Non-core Vaccines

Parainfluenza and Bordatella (Kennel Cough):  Used if your dog is boarding or going to doggie day care, recommended every 6 months.

Leptospirosis: We recommend this if you are walking your dogs where water contaminated with cow urine can be found (Wildcat Canyon in some years), or if you’re hunting your dog in Northern California.

Lyme Disease:  It’s pretty uncommon in our area, but can occur; most dogs show no symptoms; it can be treated with antibiotics; and using tick control can also prevent the disease.  We don’t recommend it.

Other Vaccines-not recommended.  For a discussion, go to the UC Davis website.



Rattlesnake Venom

Canine Porphyromonas

Core Feline Vaccines

Feline Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FRVCP): given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, boosted at 1 year, then re-evaluated every 3 years.

Rabies: first vaccine at 12-16 weeks, with a booster at 1 year, and then every 3 years as required by law.  We use the recombinant vaccine that doesn’t cause vaccine-induced cancer.

Non-core vaccines

Feline Leukemia (FeLV): Recommended for all cats that go outside or have contact with cats with cats that go in and out and aren’t vaccinated. First vaccine at 9-12 weeks; boosted at 1 year and every 3 years if the kitty is going outdoors. Boosters aren’t used for indoor only cats. This is the disease that can still kill cats if they get infected, and we have no cure for the disease.

Feline Immunodeficieny Virus (FIV):  Not really known to protect against a rare disease, and not at all for indoor cats.

Virulent Calicivirus:  Not known to be effective, and can use cancer at the site of injection.

Feline Chlamydophilia felis: not recommended

Feline Bordetella bronchiseptica: not recommended

Other feline vaccines that are not recommended for use:

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Feline Giardia