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What You Need to Know about Pet Vaccinations

Rabies shots are one way of protecting dogs and cats from disease, but what about the other vaccinations your vet has to offer? Here’s a guide to guarding your four-legged friends against all manner of infections.

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A Guide to Pet Vaccinations

Like humans, cats and dogs rely on herd immunity to protect against nasty diseases. Nevertheless, vaccination is a hot topic among owners, some of whom blame shots for ailments like skin conditions and leukemia. (Some animals do experience side effects, including swelling and, in rare cases, the development of a tumour at the injection site.) The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association recommends a regime tailored to your pet’s needs. 

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Vaccinations for Dogs

“Pups can easily pick up infections from poop in the neighbourhood or getting up-close-and-personal at the dog park,” says Dr. Margaret Brown-Bury of St. John’s Veterinary Hospital in Newfoundland. A single shot, the DA2P-CPV, vaccinates against parvovirus, which can be fatal for young animals; parainfluenza; distemper, which can cause nerve damage; and infectious hepatitis. By four months, puppies should have received three doses; boosters are administered a year after the first set of shots, then once every three years. Brown-Bury and her colleagues charge $78 (plus taxes) for an exam and a set of combo shots, but costs vary by clinic. 

Your vet can advise you about other vaccines, based on where you live and your pet’s age, lifestyle and health. There are individual shots that guard against various canine conditions, including leptospirosis, which “can be transmitted to humans and cause kidney problems,” says BrownBury; bordetellosis, a cause of kennel cough; Lyme disease; giardiasis, a gut parasite that can lead to bloating and diarrhea; and coronavirus, which, if contracted with parvovirus, can wreak havoc on the digestive system.

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Vaccinations for Cats

The core feline combo vaccine, Felocell CVR, protects against panleukopenia, which can result in gastric issues, as well as the flu-like rhinotracheitis and calicivirus, which cause respiratory problems and mouth ulcers. Brown-Bury recommends Felocell for all cats, whether they go outside or not, because owners can transmit these diseases to their own pets by simply stroking an infected animal. Kittens receive core shots on the same schedule as puppies do, and prices are comparable to those of dog vaccines at most clinics. 

Unspayed outdoor cats can catch chlamydia, while kittens and their geriatric counterparts are at risk of contracting peritonitis, an infectious virus that can lead to fatal organ failure. You may want to ask about vaccinating against these diseases, as well as feline leukemia virus, which can cause tumours and bone marrow suppression. 

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Rabies vaccinations

In some provinces, rabies shots are mandatory; Canadian pets crossing the U.S. border must show evidence of vaccination, as well. If you’re planning to take your furry friend on a trip, get the shots and pack the papers to prove it. 


For more pet health tips, check out:

* 7 Easy Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy
* Things Your Vet Won’t Tell You
* How to Help Your Pet Lose Weight