Reasons to Vaccinate Pets

Vaccinations are important for all your pets and help maintain an overall healthy life. While core vaccinations are recommended for all pets, various vaccines may be suggested for your pet based on their lifestyle and risk level for certain diseases. Our Stanwood vets explain more here.

Why Vaccinating Your Pet Is Important

Just like the vaccinations that have been designed for humans, vaccines for pets can protect your cat or dog from a range of serious, potentially life-threatening diseases and illnesses throughout their life.

While you may think it's an unnecessary expense to vaccinate your pet, these shots typically cost less than the actual fees of treating your pet from the specific illness the vaccine could have protected them from. 

How Vaccinations For Pets Work

Vaccines provide your cat or dog with a defensive level of antibodies, that let their body build immunity against specific serious, highly contagious diseases. After your pet has received its vaccinations, its body gets a disease-enabling organism to stimulate the immune system and tell the body how it should fight those diseases in the future.

While pet vaccines aren't 100% effective, they can help your furry friend fight off illnesses or recover from them much faster if they do get infected.

All Pets Don't Need All Vaccines

Not every cat or dog has to get all of the vaccines your vet has available. Ask your veterinarian about your pet's lifestyle to find out which vaccines they recommend for your cat or dog. Your vet will tell you which ones they think will benefit your pet the best, based on various factors like their lifestyle, age, and where you live.  Rabies vaccines for pets over 6 months of age are required by law in most places across the US and Canada. This vaccination has to be kept up to date and you will be given a certificate after your pet has received its vaccine.

Why You Should Have Your Pet Vaccinated

By being proactive and vaccinating your cat or dog and staying up-to-date with their booster shots, you will be able to protect and preserve their health against dangerous, possibly fatal diseases.

Lots of vaccinations are mandated across the United States, such as rabies for both dogs and cats. Residents require vaccination records in many areas to obtain a pet license.

If you travel with your pet, stay in pet-friendly hotels, go to dog parks or have your pet groomed, vaccinations may be required and can prevent your furry friend from contracting contagious diseases from other animals, in addition to inadvertently spreading infection. This is also true for pet-sitting services, doggy daycares, and other businesses.


Even if you always keep your pooch on its leash when you go outside, they are still at risk of getting sick. Lots of bacteria and viruses can survive for long periods on surfaces, so your pup doesn't even have to come into close contact with another dog to get a serious disease. Other conditions are airborne and are easily contracted by pets who encounter infected dogs while out walking.


While it may seem obvious that outdoor cats face an increased risk of contracting serious diseases, lots of owners believe their indoor cats don't have to be vaccinated. However, it only takes one second for your kitty to escape out of an open door or window. Lots of feline viruses can remain on surfaces or the ground for a long time. Therefore, even if you manage to bring your escaped cat back inside quickly, there is still a risk of exposure. Not only that, but there is also a risk of mice and other wildlife sneaking into your home, and posing a health risk to your pet.

Core Pet Vaccines

Core vaccines can help protect your pet by preventing diseases that are common in your area and are recommended for most cats and dogs in the United States. These diseases can easily spread among animals (and sometimes, from animals to humans) and have a high fatality rate.

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 musculoskeletal system. This illness is highly contagious in unvaccinated cats and is often seen in multi-cat households or shelters. This respiratory illness can be very hard to get rid of after it has been contracted. Vaccinating your cat against feline calicivirus is highly recommended.

  • Feline Herpesvirus Type I (Rhinotracheitis)

    Feline Herpesvirus (also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis -VFR) 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 VFR it becomes a carrier of the virus. While most carriers will remain latent for long periods, stress and illness may reactivate the virus and make it infectious.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is typically transmitted through bites from infected animals and is one of the few diseases that people can get 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, rabies shots are mandatory for pets.

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 spreads when a dog comes into contact with an infected dog's feces or urine. You can protect your dog against canine hepatitis by having them vaccinated.

  • Rabies

    As stated above, rabies is often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and will gradually infect the entire nervous system of the animal or person resulting in death. In most states, rabies shots are mandatory for dogs, cats, and ferrets.

Lifestyle Vaccinations

Cat and dog lifestyle vaccines, help protect pets from diseases they might be exposed to if they live particular lifestyles. For example, dogs that spend time with other dogs in doggie daycares or cats that spend a fair amount of time outdoors. We have listed some lifestyle vaccines below, that you might want to consider getting for your furry companion.

Cat Lifestyle Vaccines:

  • 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 sharing litter boxes.

    This disease is the leading viral killer of cats and kittens. While it can remain hidden without being detected for long periods, it weakens an infected cat's immune system, increases its 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 when they are between 9 and 12 weeks of age. This vaccine requires booster shots to maintain its effectiveness. Cats that live in multi-cat households, or spend time outdoors should be vaccinated regularly against this disease.

  • Chlamydia (Chlamydophila felis)

    In cats, chlamydia can result in respiratory disease and conjunctivitis (eye infection) and spreads easily among cats that come into close contact with each other. We recommend vaccinating all cats living in catteries, breeders, and shelters against this illness. Talk to your veterinarian to find out if your cat is susceptible to this condition.

Dog Lifestyle Vaccines:

  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

    Bordetella bronchoseptica is a bacteria that can cause a respiratory disease called “kennel cough.” This respiratory illness earned the name kennel cough because it is easily transmitted when dogs share indoor spaces, such as kennels. That said, dogs that attend dog parks or doggie daycares could also be at risk of contracting this disease. As with the human flu vaccine, the bordetella vaccination will not prevent your dog from getting sick but can help reduce the severity and length of symptoms. Ask your vet about the Bordatella vaccine if your pup spends time with other dogs.

  • Leptospirosis

    Leptospirosis is a bacteria that spreads 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 can even suffer from kidney failure. In some cases, Leptospirosis can be transmitted from animals to people. If your dog is fond of drinking from puddles, ponds, or rivers in your neighborhood, speak to your vet about vaccinating your pooch 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. Two strains of dog flu are widely spread throughout the country. Ask your vet 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 disease vaccine is considered a core vaccination because of the high prevalence of this illness 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 keeping your dog on tick-preventive medications all year. The Lyme disease vaccination is given to pets who spend time in wooded areas, parks, or farmlands. Talk to your vet to find out if the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog.

Booster Shots

Depending on the vaccine, adult dogs and cats should be given their booster shots either once a year or every three years. Your vet will let you know when your pet should be receiving its booster shots. Booster shots are important for maintaining your pet's immunity.

Vaccine Protection

It's essential to note that your puppy or kitten won't be fully protected by their vaccines until they have been given all of their vaccinations - when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old. After your vet has administered all of their initial vaccinations, your young pet will be protected against the conditions or diseases covered by the vaccines.

We suggest keeping your puppy or kitten confined to low-risk areas (such as your backyard) if you plan on letting them outside before they are fully vaccinated against the diseases listed above.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If it's time for your pet's vaccinations, please contact our Stanwood vets today to schedule an appointment.