Vaccinations are an important part of any pet’s healthcare routine. The majority of vaccines, of course, are given when dogs and cats are very young, but there’s a lot more to pet vaccines than meets the eye.

dog vaccination

Did you know, for example, that some cats get vaccinated against chlamydia?

Your pet might not be a candidate for that vaccine, but it’s important to be informed. Here’s what experienced vets want you to know about which vaccines your pets should get…and how often.

Core Vaccines vs. Non-Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are any vaccines that are recommended for all dogs and cats, regardless of health history. Some states actually have laws regarding which core vaccines pets must be given.

Non-core vaccines are optional and may be recommended by your vet depending on your dog or cat’s lifestyle, health history, or other risk factors for disease.

Core Vaccines for Dogs


There are currently four core vaccines for dogs. They are:

  • Parvovirus (CPV)
  • Canine distemper virus (CDV)
  • Canine adenovirus (CAV)
  • Rabies

Almost all states require dogs to have rabies vaccines, but not all require the vaccine to be administered the same way. Also varying from state-to-state are requirements surrounding the specific frequency with which rabies vaccines must be administered.

Non-Core Vaccines for Dogs


There are a number of non-core vaccines available for dogs. They are given at the suggestion of a trained veterinarian and include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
  • Leptospira spp.
  • Giardia
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
  • Canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV)
  • Distemper/Measles combination


Core Vaccines for Cats

Cats also have four core vaccines. They include:

  • Feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV1)
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)
  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)
  • Rabies

State requirements for rabies vaccines also apply to cats (and even ferrets!) The feline panleukopenia virus is life-threatening and extremely contagious within the cat population.

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

Cats are subject to a number of important non-core vaccines, most of which are given based on a variety of lifestyle factors. Outdoor cats are far more likely to need non-core vaccines than indoor cats. Popular non-core feline vaccines include:

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila Felis
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • Giardia
  • Ringworm 


How Often Does My Pet Need Vaccines?

cat vaccination

People are sometimes under the misconception that pet vaccines last a lifetime; that’s not the case. In fact, most pet vaccines last between one and three years, but their lifespan is really a function of each dog or cat’s unique immune system.

Your pet’s lifestyle factors will also influence how often he or she needs booster vaccines. A dog who frequently stays at the kennel, for example, will need his Bordetella shot more often than one who doesn’t.

For dogs, rabies vaccines come in one-year and three-year versions. Distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus as well as most non-core vaccines require a booster dose at least once every three years. Some non-core dog vaccines such as the flu vaccine require yearly administration.

For cats, rabies vaccines are required every one or three years, depending on the vaccine used. Herpesvirus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus all require re-administration once every three years.

Remember that initially, each vaccine may require several doses spaced relatively close-together. When your dog or cat is receiving his or her initial dosages of each vaccine, ask your vet how often he or she will need to be seen over the next few weeks or months to complete the vaccine course.

Ensuring your pet receives all recommended vaccines in a timely manner is the best thing you can do to protect your dog or cat’s health. Vaccines save lives. Be sure to talk to your vet if you still have any questions about vaccinations, schedules, and optional treatments.

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