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Vaccines are a preventative medicine against infectious diseases. Newborn animals receive protective antibodies from their mothers when they nurse on the first day of life. These antibodies are an important source of protection for puppies and kittens until their immune systems are mature enough to make their own. This maternal protection fades with time. Veterinarians give vaccines to puppies and kittens to stimulate immunity to life threatening infectious diseases. The diseases and schedule of vaccinations varies between cats and dogs.

A bump may develop at the vaccine site due to a normal vaccine reaction. This bump should be loose within the skin and as soft as the tip of your thumb. After time it will get smaller and harder, then eventually disappear. If a bump is felt, tell the veterinarian, who will monitor the area. If the bump is still present after 3 months, it should be removed and analyzed. Rarely, an animal may have an allergic reaction to a vaccination. Tell the hospital immediately if your pet has a swollen face or trouble breathing.


Vaccines for Cats


Kittens are vaccinated against Feline Viral RhinotracheitisCalicivirus and Panleukopenia virus (FVRCP) starting at 8 weeks of age. They are boosted every 3-4 weeks until 4 months of age, again at 1 year. Boosters are recommended every 3 years there after. 

Feline Leukemia Virus (FELV) vaccination is recommended for those kittens that will be going outdoors or live in mult-icat households where some of the cats go outdoors. An initial series of two vaccinations 3 weeks apart is given and then boosted annually using a non-adjuvenated vaccine. Kittens should be tested for feline leukemia virus prior to their initial vaccination. This vaccination is not recommended for strictly indoor cats.

Rabies vaccine is given once when kittens are over 12 weeks of age. Annual boosters are given using non-adjuvenated Purevax canary pox vectored rabies vaccine. Rabies is a disease that is transmissible to humans. Furthermore Rabies vaccination of all cats is mandated by New York State statute. For these reasons all cats should be vaccinated against rabies.
Vaccinations for Chlamydia, Bordetella, Feline Infectious Peritonitis and Ringworm are not recommended at County Animal Hospital.

An important note about feline vaccination:
Cats rarely (1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000) develop tumors associated with vaccines (Vaccine-associated Sarcomas). The Rabies and FeLV vaccines are more often associated with causing this problem. The cause of this is not entirely clear, but there is excellent scientific evidence that adjuvants added to certain vaccines since the middle 1980’s are responsible. Adjuvants are chemical agents (usually aluminum salts) that are added to make killed vaccines more effective. They work by inciting an intense local inflammatory reaction that stimulates the immune system to respond to the vaccine. It is such an adjuvant system that made the initial feline leukemia and 3 year rabies vaccine possible in cats. Recent research has shown that the inflammatory response causes localized genetic damage that predisposes some cats to develop tumors at the vaccination site. New vaccines have been developed for feline leukemia virus and for rabies that do not contain adjuvants. These vaccinations have been shown not to induce inflammation and are believed at this time to be the safer alternative. One drawback is that the rabies vaccination only has single year duration and must therefore be repeated annually. 
Questions about this topic should be directed to the veterinary staff. For additional information about vaccine associated tumors, go to the Feline Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma Task Force homepage.


Vaccines for Dogs


Puppies are vaccinated against Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (DHPP) at their first visit and then every 3-4 weeks until older than 16 weeks. This vaccination is repeated one year later and every three years thereafter. 

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs that is contagious to people. Dogs acquire the infection by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected wildlife. Cases have been reported on Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. The incidence in Rockland County appears to be very low but increasing. A vaccine is available, but at this time recommended only for those dogs a high risk of exposure (e.g., hunting dogs), however some of the leptospirosis patients have not been in the woods or exposed to wildlife other than that in their own back yards. As the incidence of this serious disease is increasing veterinarians across the county and across the country are debating the use of the available vaccinations. Traditionally leptospirosis vaccinations have been a cause of allergic type vaccine reactions. Furthermore the available vaccines do not protect against all the strains of leptospirosis found in the environment. At this moment (March 2005) Leptospirosis vaccination is not being widely recommended at County Animal Hospital, but keep an eye on this site for further information on this emerging disease. 

Rabies vaccine is given once when they are over 12 weeks old, boostered at one year and then every 3 years.

Two other vaccines are sometimes used in dogs, depending on circumstances:

Lyme vaccine offers protection against Lyme disease carried by ticks. It is given twice initially, and then boostered yearly.

The "Kennel Cough" vaccine offers protection against Bordetella and Parainflueza virus. This vaccine is administered as a nose drop. It is repeated annually.