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Vaccines are  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 Dogs: Puppies are vaccinated against Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (DHPPV) 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 and is recommended. 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.

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

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 or can be given as an injection. It is repeated annually.

Canine Influenza: This is a relatively new disease of dogs caused by the H3N8 strain of Influenza. It is not to be confused with canine parainfluenza described above.  It started out as a mutation of equine influenza and was first discovered in the Greyhound race tracks in Florida during the mid 2000's. At that time no dogs had been exposed to this highly contagious virus. The virus spread quickly across the country and caused disease and death in boarding kennels, animal shelters and veterinary hospitals. Most dogs became ill with respiratory tract signs, but some died. 30% of greyhounds infected died. Today the virus pops up sporadically and then seems to die out relatively quickly because many dogs are either vaccinated or were previously exposed. Influenza vaccine is recommended for dogs who frequent dog parks, go to doggy day care or frequently board in kennels. 

Vaccines for Cats: Kittens are vaccinated against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus 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 multi-cat 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. 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. https://www.avma.org/About/AlliedOrganizations/Pages/vafstf.aspx.

Vaccinations for Ferrets: Ferrets are vaccinated for canine distemper and rabies in a similar frequency to that described for dogs.