Which vaccines does my dog or cat need and how often?

 Vaccines are essential to protect your pet from potentially life-threatening diseases, but many pet owners are equally concerned about over-vaccination.  It can be quite confusing to decide how best to protect your cat or dog with appropriate vaccinations as vaccine protocols can even vary among veterinarians.  Well, Dr. Lori Germon with Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic is here to help!

At Pets Premier, Dr. Lori follows the recently published 2017 AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) Canine Vaccination Guidelines for Dogs and the 2013 AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) Feline Vaccination Guidelines.  Essentially, these guidelines were written by a large panel of veterinarians, many of them boarded veterinary specialists, in an attempt to provide a consensus for veterinarians to follow regarding vaccination recommendations.

So, what does this mean for your pet?

Basically, there are vaccines that are considered ‘core’ vaccines for each age group of dogs and cats and ‘non-core’ vaccines that are determined to be necessary by your pet’s lifestyle/exposure risk.  Your puppy or kitten will receive more vaccines and receive these vaccines more often than your young adult or senior dog or cat.  Equally important, a physical examination of your pet before each vaccination and subsequent booster, will allow your veterinarian to determine if your pet is healthy enough for vaccination and expected to achieve an appropriate immune response.   


Here’s a summary of the 2017 AAHA Vaccine Guidelines for Dogs:

Core Vaccines:


All puppies should be vaccinated for Parvovirus, Distemper, Adenovirus (Type 2) and Parainfluenza using a modified-live or recombinant vaccine beginning as early as 6 weeks old and then revaccinated every 2 to 4 weeks until at least 16 weeks of age.  Puppies in high-risk/contaminated environments or with significant exposure to other dogs may benefit from a final vaccine at 18 to 20 weeks old.  Revaccination should occur 1 year after the last puppy booster and then every 3 years.  Infection with Parvovirus and Distemper virus can be fatal, even with treatment.

Why all the initial puppy boosters?  Because puppies’ immature immune systems need repeated vaccine exposure to create lasting antibodies to protect them against these 4 preventable diseases.  Plus, since each puppy will lose protection from maternal antibodies (received during nursing) anytime between 6-14 weeks (or sometimes have insufficient antibody levels), frequent vaccine boosters ensure that they have immune stimulation when maternal antibodies are no longer present or deficient.

For more information about Parvovirus and Distemper:




 Rabies vaccines

Since Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic is located in Georgia, we’ll discuss Georgia Rabies vaccine requirements.  According to Georgia law, all puppies should receive a Rabies vaccine the first year of their life.  Generally, this vaccine is given between 12 and 16 weeks of age.  Another Rabies vaccine should be re-administered 1 year from the initial vaccination and then given every 1 or 3 years, depending on the vaccine manufacturer label.  Rabies is a contagious, fatal disease for both you and your pet, so this vaccine is extremely important.

Check out:

https://dph.georgia.gov/rabies for Rabies Virus information and the Georgia Rabies Control Manual.


Non-Core Vaccines:

These are the vaccines against diseases that are recommended based on your individual dog’s lifestyle/exposure risk.

 Bordetella Vaccine

Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic and Dr. Lori recommend a single Bordetella vaccine administered at 8-10 weeks old for all puppies.  This initial vaccine lasts for 1 year and prevents the bacterial form of kennel cough from nose-to-nose contact with other dogs, shared toys, food bowls, etc. or airborne transmission at doggie daycares, grooming and boarding facilities.  The Bordetella vaccine should be re-administered 1 year after the initial vaccine is given.  Also, revaccination every 6 months with the Bordetella vaccine has no established value (2017 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines).  Thus, we revaccinate annually and may eliminate this vaccine by 2 years old if your pup’s lifestyle no longer includes high exposure risk.  We can always booster the Bordetella vaccine again should that change in years to come!


Leptospirosis Vaccine

If your dog is an avid outdoors-loving pup who may come into contact with/swims in lakes, creeks and streams, goes with you hiking or camping, drinks from puddles and/or if you have wildlife frequenting your yard, your dog should be vaccinated against Leptospirosis.  Leptospirosis is a disease caused by Leptospira bacteria and causes liver and kidney failure.  Plus, it can be contagious to people.  The current recommendation for Leptospirosis vaccination is 2 initial vaccines administered 2-4 weeks apart, and then annual vaccination thereafter.  This vaccine has been associated with a higher risk of vaccine reactions, especially in some breeds, so the risks of exposure have to be weighed against the risks of adverse reactions in each individual dog.


Of course, there are other non-core vaccines to consider such as the Lyme Vaccine (Borrelia Burgdorferi) and Canine Influenza vaccine, but these vaccines are also life-style dependent.  Dr. Lori generally recommends vaccinating for Lyme disease for hunting dogs and those traveling to Lyme endemic areas.  Veterinary approved tick control products used appropriately can also prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses by killing ticks before they can attach long enough to transmit the disease-causing bacteria to your dog.  For more information on Canine Lyme disease visit: https://www.vin.com/apputil/project/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=19239&SAId=1&id=4952009

Canine influenza vaccination is required by some kennels and boarding facilities as the canine influenza virus is highly contagious and often transmitted by healthy-appearing dogs before they show clinical signs.  Dr. Lori will administer an Influenza vaccine if it’s required for boarding, if your dog frequently attends dog shows/competitions or will be traveling to areas where a known outbreak has occurred.  Again, the decision to vaccinate for Canine influenza is based on the risk of exposure and the risk of disease severity in each individual dog.  For more information on Canine Influenza virus, please visit: https://www.vin.com/apputil/project/defaultadv1.aspx?pId=19239&SAId=1&id=6726102


And finally, we come to a brief discussion regarding Vaccine Titers:

Antibody Titers

After the initial puppy series for Parvovirus and Distemper and subsequent annual adult booster, blood testing for your dog’s antibody levels can be measured to determine if revaccination is appropriate.  We assume that high blood antibody levels confer protection against these diseases, but this has not been studied enough to be accepted as a scientific fact.  There still is some risk that your dog will not have adequate protection against Distemper or Parvo without further boosters despite having high antibody titers.  Annual Vaccine Titers are a good option for those dogs who have severe vaccine reactions to the DHPP/DAPP/D2APP vaccine to screen for antibody levels dropping below a certain level.  Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic offers Distemper/Parvovirus vaccine titer testing in lieu of vaccination.  Georgia ordinances do not accept Rabies antibody titers testing as an alternative to Rabies vaccination. 


More references:



  •     What if my dog is overdue for vaccines?



Here’s a summary of the 2013 AAFP Vaccine Guidelines for Household Cats:

Core Vaccines:

FVRCP Vaccine

All kittens should be vaccinated against Feline Panleukopenia Virus, Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus using a modified-live vaccine beginning as early as 6 weeks old and then revaccinated every 3-4 weeks until 16 to 20 weeks of age.  Revaccination should occur 1 year after the last kitten booster and then every 3 years.  Pets Premier uses the Purevax, modified-live FVCRP vaccine for cats.  Remember, even if your cat is exclusively indoors, they could be susceptible to these diseases if not appropriately vaccinated and escape outdoors or require hospitalization.


Rabies Vaccine

According to Georgia law, all kittens should receive a Rabies vaccine the first year of their life.  Generally, this vaccine is given between 12 and 16 weeks of age.  Another Rabies vaccine should be re-administered 1 year from the initial vaccination and then given every 1 or 3 years, depending on the vaccine manufacturer label.  Rabies is a contagious, fatal disease for both you and your pet, so this vaccine is extremely important!!  An indoors only cat is not as likely to be exposed to rabid wildlife as often as one who is allowed outside, BUT, bats have been known to make their way inside our homes and they are a known carrier of Rabies.  Furthermore, you may not ever see a bat in your home and your cat may dispatch of it unbeknownst to you.  If you have a cat that may bite or scratch visitors, you could be held liable or risk your animal being quarantined by the county if not appropriately vaccinated for Rabies.  Better to vaccinate!  Dr. Lori uses the Purevax, Recombinant, non-adjuvanted, 1 yr or 3 yr Rabies vaccine for cats.

Check out:

https://dph.georgia.gov/rabies for Rabies Virus information and the Georgia Rabies Control Manual.


Non-core Vaccines:

FELV Vaccine

The FELV vaccine should be administered to all kittens as early as 8 weeks old and then again 3-4 weeks later.  Another dose should be administered 1 year following the last kitten dose and then every 1-2 years for all cats who go outside, indoor exclusive cats who attempt to escape outdoors, or all cats in a multi-cat household where at least one cat is indoor/outdoor.  It is recommended to test all cats/kittens for previous exposure to Feline Leukemia before vaccination.  Feline Leukemia is a fatal disease caused by a virus that causes death in about 85% of cats infected within 3 years of the diagnosis.  It attacks the bone marrow and leads to severe anemia and immunosuppression.  The Feline leukemia virus can also cause cancer (lymphoma).  The virus is transmitted through shared food/water dishes, mutual-grooming, bites and passing infected blood to non-infected cats and from pregnant cats to their developing kittens in the womb.


A note about Vaccine related injection site Sarcomas in Cats:

Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic uses modified-live and non-adjuvanted FVRCP vaccines and Recombinant Rabies and FELV vaccines (Purevax) designed to significantly reduce the incidence of Vaccine-associated Fibrosarcomas in cats.  We believe the risk of potentially fatal diseases occurring without vaccination far outweighs the risk of this tumor developing in your cat.  For more information on this rare cancer in cats, visit:



More references:

  •    What if my cat is overdue for vaccines? 
  •     Are there additional vaccines for cats?

 https://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/feline-vaccination-guidelines for the 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines


We hope that this information has been helpful in understanding why we vaccinate our cats and dogs and when to vaccinate our pets.  Remember, appropriate vaccination may save your pet’s life.  Feel free to discuss any further concerns during your next house call visit with Dr. Lori.  Here at Pets Premier Mobile Veterinary Clinic, we love to educate!