Ask the Vet: Why Do Puppies and Kittens Need So Many Vaccines?
Getting a new puppy or kitten is an exciting time for everyone in the family. We love seeing new puppies and kittens here at Sunset and the joy they bring to our pet parents. New puppies and kittens can be a lot of work as well. They need to be fed, provided water, potty-trained, crate-trained, socialized, and on and on. They also need medical care. Just like human babies, puppies and kittens need more frequent check-ups. Hopefully this will help clear up why we recommend so many veterinary visits and vaccines for puppies and kittens during the first few months.
A Developing Immune System
Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to learn and remember certain infectious diseases caused by viruses and bacteria. The puppy or kitten’s immune systems will respond to the vaccine much the same way they would to the actual virus or bacteria. They then produce antibodies and memory cells which will cause the immune system to respond if the pet encounters the infection later in life.
Here at Sunset we follow the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association’s guidelines for vaccines. For puppies and kittens they recommend a series of vaccines starting at 6-8 weeks of age and the last vaccine given around 16 weeks of age. The main reason has to do with maternal antibodies (or antibodies from the mother). The mother dog or cat passes on their antibodies to the puppies and kittens through the milk to help protect them until their immune system develops fully. These antibodies stay around for several weeks but start to decline around 6 weeks of age. Since maternal immunity can interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines, we repeat them to make sure they’re present when the pet’s own immune system takes over. This timeline varies between individual dogs, so we follow guidelines to protect as many puppies and kittens as possible.
A Long, Happy Life
When you bring your pet in for his or her vaccines we will also do a thorough physical exam each time to make sure your pet is developing like they should, check for intestinal parasites and de-worm appropriately, start your pet on heartworm and flea/tick prevention when they are old enough, and address any questions the pet parent may have. We want to make sure all puppies and kittens get off to healthy start, so they can live a long, happy life.
For more information about pet vaccinations, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s specific needs.