Because maternal antibodies are soon lost after birth, to ensure they’re successfully immunised the WSAVA recommends puppies and kittens should be vaccinated first at 8-9 weeks of age, followed by a second vaccination 3-4 weeks later and a third given between 14-16 weeks, followed by a booster at one year old.
- After that, bring your pet to the vet every year for an annual health check. Discuss with your vet the most suitable vaccination regime for your pet.
- If you’re concerned that your pet may be vaccinated unnecessarily, ask to have an antibody titre testing done. It can be done for all the core viruses for dogs and cats but is not common practice in Australia yet, so ask your vet if it is available.
- To reduce the risk of tumours, feline adjuvanted vaccines should not be injected into your cat’s back.
- Don’t be shy to ask questions, and get a second opinion if in doubt.
- Report any unsatisfactory experiences to your state’s Veterinary Practitioners Board.
- If your pet has a negative reaction to any vaccination, such as a loss of apepitite or a swollen face, contact your vet immediately and report the case to the APVMA on (02) 6210 4806.
Adjuvant A substance that enhances the body’s immune response to an antigen.
Core vaccines are those that should be administered to every puppy or kitten, and should be used in adults in a manner that maintains robust protection for life. The core vaccines protect against:
- Dogs: Canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus (which causes infectious hepatitis), canine parvovirus.
- Cats: Feline parvovirus (also known as feline enteritis and feline panleucopaenia), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus.
Non-core vaccines are those that don’t need to be administered to every animal. This could be because the disease(s) they protect against are relatively mild, the animal has little chance of exposure to the disease, the vaccine causes adverse effects, making the risk-benefit ratio unattractive, or there is insufficient scientific information to allow an informed decision about the need, efficacy and/or safety of the vaccine. Non-core vaccines protect against:
- Dogs: Canine parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Leptospira interrogans.
- Cats: Feline leukaemia virus, Chlamydophila psittaci, feline immunodeficiency virus
Common “combined” vaccines for dogs:
- C3 (core): Parvovirus, distemper and infectious hepatitis
- C4: C3 + parainfluenza virus
- C5: C4 + Bordetella bronchiseptica
Common “combined” vaccines for cats:
- F3 (core): Feline parvovirus and the two viruses that cause feline respiratory disease (feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus)
- F4: F3 + leukaemia virus
- F5: F4 + immunodeficiency virus
Maternal antibodies When a puppy or kitten is born, it receives immunity-producing protein antibodies from its mother, known as maternal antibodies. The duration is directly proportional to the level of immunity of the mother. As long as the maternal antibodies are present, the puppy or kitten is protected; however, these antibodies may also prevent the vaccine from working. So it is recommended that puppies and kittens be vaccinated at various times to ensure they are successfully immunised.