Vaccinating Your Pet - Core Vaccines vs Lifestyle Vaccines

Vaccinations can help to protect your pet from serious, sometimes deadly conditions, but do all pets face the same amount of risk of contracting these conditions? Today our Flat Rock vets explain the differences between essential, core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines.


Vaccinations for Your Pet

Vaccines and the need for vaccinating our pets is certainly a contentious topic. Our Flat Rock vets believe vaccinations are safe for pets and that providing cats and dogs with their core vaccinations can help to protect your furry friend against a number of very serious conditions that can be costly to treat and/or potentially deadly.

That said, it isn't necessary for all pets to receive every vaccine available. While Core Vaccines are strongly recommended for all pets, and the Rabies vaccine is required by law in many states, there are Lifestyle Vaccines which may not be necessary for your pet. 

Core Vaccines for Pets

Core vaccines are designed to help protect your pet by preventing diseases that are commonly found in your area, spread easily between animals (and in some cases from animals to people), and have a high fatality rate. Below are the core vaccines recommended for most cats and dogs living in the United States.

Core Vaccinations for Cats

  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper or Feline Parvo)

    Panleukopenia is an extremely contagious viral disease that is closely related to the canine parvovirus. Caused by the feline parvovirus this disease is life-threatening to cats. This virus attacks the rapidly dividing blood cells in the body, including the cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow, skin or developing fetus. Panleukopenia is spread through the urine, stool, and nasal secretions of infected cats, or from the fleas of an infected cat.

  • Feline Calicivirus

    Feline calicivirus is a common respiratory disease in cats and kittens. This illness attacks the cat's respiratory tract including the nasal passages and lungs, as well as the mouth, intestines and the cat's musculoskeletal system. This illness is highly contagious in unvaccinated cats, and is often found in multi-cat homes, or shelters. This respiratory illness can be very difficult to get rid of once it has been contracted, and vaccinating your cat against feline calicivirus is strongly recommended.

  • Feline Herpesvirus Type I (Rhinotracheitis)

    Feline Herpesvirus (also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis -FVR) is a major cause of upper respiratory disease in cats, as well as inflammation of the tissues surrounding the cat's eyes. Once a cat has been infected with FVR it becomes a carriers of the virus. While most carriers will remain latent for long periods of time, stress and illness may cause the virus to become reactivated and infectious.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is typically transmitted through a bite from the infected animal and is one of the few diseases that can be transmitted to people from their pets. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and will gradually infect the entire nervous system of the animal or person causing death. In many states, including North Carolina, rabies shots are mandatory for dogs, cats and ferrets, without exception.

Core Vaccinations for Dogs

  • Canine Parvovirus

    Canine parvovirus is an extremely contagious viral disease that can be life-threatening. Parvovirus can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces. Dogs that are not vaccinated are at risk of contracting the virus. Vaccinating your puppy or dog against parvovirus could save their life.

  • Distemper

    Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and central nervous system, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eyes. Distemper is spread through contact with the fresh urine of an infected animal. This virus can travel to the brain, causing seizures, shaking and trembling. Protect your dog against distemper by having them vaccinated.

  • Canine Hepatitis

    Dogs suffering from canine hepatitis experience swelling and cell damage in the liver, which may result in hemorrhage and death. This virus is spread through contact with the feces and urine of infected dogs. Simply by having your dog vaccinated you can protect your dog against canine hepatitis.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is typically transmitted through a bite from the infected animal and is one of the few diseases that can be transmitted to people from their pets. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and will gradually infect the entire nervous system of the animal or person causing death.

    In many states, including North Carolina, rabies shots are mandatory for dogs, cats and ferrets, without exception.

Lifestyle Vaccinations 

This category of vaccines protects pets against diseases they may be exposed to if they lead particular lifestyles, such as dogs that spend time with other dogs in doggie daycares or cats that spend a great deal of time outdoors. The following are lifestyle vaccines that you may want to consider for your fur baby.

Lifestyle Vaccines for Cats:

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

    Feline leukemia is spread by saliva and can be transmitted from cat to cat through mutual grooming, bite wounds, mother's milk to kittens or through shared litter box use.

    This disease is the leading viral killer of cats and kittens. While it can hide undetected for long periods of time it weakens the cat's immune system, increases their susceptibility to other diseases, and is the most common cause of cancer in cats.

    Kittens are at high risk for contracting this disease and should be vaccinated against Feline leukemia starting at 9 - 12 weeks of age. This vaccine requires booster shots to maintain its effectiveness. Cats that live in multi-cat households, or that spend time outdoors should be regularly vaccinated against this disease.

  • Chlamydia (Chlamydophila felis)

    Chlamydia can cause respiratory disease and conjuntivitis (eye infection) in cats, and is easily spread between cats that are in close contact with each other. We recommend that all cats living in catteries, breeders and shelters be vaccinated against this illness. Speak to your vet to learn whether your cat is susceptible to this condition.

Lifestyle Vaccines for Dogs:

  • Bordatella (Kennel Cough)

    Bordatella bronchoseptica is the bacteria which can lead to the respiratory disease known as “kennel cough.” This respiratory illness earned the name kennel cough because it is easily transmitted when dogs share indoor space, such as kennels. That said, dogs that attend dog parks or doggie daycares may also be at risk of contracting this disease. As with the human flu vaccine, the bordatella vaccination will not prevent your dog from getting sick, but it will help to decrease the severity and length of symptoms. Speak to your vet about the Bordatella vaccine if your dogs spends time with other dogs.

  • Leptospirosis

    Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is spread in water contaminated with urine from infected wildlife. While most cases of leptospirosis are mild and easily treated with antibiotics, some dogs get very sick and may even suffer kidney failure. Leptospirosis can also be transmitted from animals to people in some cases. If your dog is fond of drinking from puddles, ponds or rivers in your neighborhood, speak to your vet about vaccinating your canine companion against leptospirosis.

  • Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)

    Symptoms of the dog flu often begin as kennel cough then become increasingly more severe, and in some cases require hospitalization. There are two strains of dog flu that are widely spread throughout the country. Speak to your vet to find out if this vaccination is right for your pooch. If your dog spends time with other dogs in daycares, kennels or dog parks you may wish to vaccinate them against dog flu. Short-faced dogs with an increased risk of respiratory illness should also be vaccinated against this condition.

  • Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)

    In some regions of the US, the Lyme vaccine is considered a core vaccine because of the high prevalence of the disease in that area. If you live in an area where the black-legged tick (deer tick) is present in large numbers, our vets may suggest tick preventive medications be given to your dog year round, and the Lyme disease vaccination be given to pets who spend time in wooded areas, parks, or farmlands. Speak to your vet to learn whether the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog.

Vaccines are an easy way to help protect your pet from illnesses that can be fatal or costly to treat. To find out which vaccines are right for your pet, contact our office to book an appointment with one of our Flat Rock vets.

Vaccinating your pet. Core vaccines vs lifestyle vaccines, Flat Rock Vet

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