Pet Vaccinations In Palm Desert, CA – Puppy And Kitten Shots, and Beyond

At Country Club Animal Clinic, we believe in judicious administration of vaccinations to protect the health of our beloved pets.  Our pet vaccinations policies are based on recommendations from the American Veterinary  Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, and may change from time to time.  While the details will be customized for each pet, some general guidelines are posted here:

Pet Vaccinations For Puppies & Dogs

Pet Vaccinations In Palm Desert, CA. Yellow LabDAP:  Starting at age 6-8 weeks:  “DAP” =  Distemper, Parvo, and Hepatitis (Adenovirus 1&2); repeat every 3 weeks until age 15 weeks or more.  Booster every 3 years until age 10, then every 5 years.  Given beneath the skin (subcutaneously) over the left shoulder.

Rabies at 4 months, one year later, then every 3 years.  (This is required by law.)  Given beneath the skin (subcutaneously) over the right shoulder.

Bordetella  (aka “kennel cough,” “canine cough,” “tracheobronchitis”):  twice, 3 weeks apart, then yearly.  In most cases, Bordetella is now an oral vaccine.

Pet Vaccinations For Kittens

Pet Vaccinations For KittensFVRCP:  Starting at age 6-8 weeks:  “FVRCP” – Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia, also called feline distemper.”   Repeat every 3 weeks until 14 weeks or older.  Then every 3 years, until age 10, then every 5 years in healthy cats.  Given beneath the skin (subcutaneously) over the right shoulder.

Rabies at 4 months, one year later, then optional, depending on lifestyle and owner preference.   Given beneath the skin (subcutaneously) on the outside of the hind leg, low on the meaty part.

FeLV (Feline Leukemia Vaccine) twice, 3 weeks apart, then optional depending on lifestyle and anticipated risk of infection.  Given beneath the skin (subcutaneously) on the outside of the left hind leg.  This is considered optional for kittens who are expected to remain indoors their entire lives.

Vaccines & Pet Vaccinations – How, Why, and When

Pet VaccinationsVaccines & Pet Vaccinations - How, Why, and When for once-common diseases are now the norm.   But how do they actually work?  The answer is both extremely complicated and also fairly simple.  Think of the immune system as an army, and a pathogen (virus, etc – something that causes disease) as a foreign enemy.  When the army detects an invader, it sends a scouting force to check it out, evaluate it and determine the threat level.  It then develops an appropriate defensive strategy and goes after the enemy to defeat it and eliminate the threat.  All this takes time.  In some cases, the enemy might be too fast or too powerful and the army winds up being defeated.

But if the army already knows how the enemy thinks and what its weapons are, it can be ready to attack on short notice.  The enemy might be wiped out before it ever sets foot on shore.

Vaccines work the same way.  The inoculum consists of a virus, or sometimes a bacteria or toxin, that has been deactivated, or “attenuated.”  This means it was altered so as not to cause disease, but still trigger the immune system to mount a defense.  Kind of like a mock battle trains soldiers about enemy behavior, this inactivated pathogen “trains” the body to recognize a threat, and be ready to fight quickly.

The first commonly-used vaccine in dogs was against Canine Distemper Virus and was introduced in 1950.  Prior to that, Distemper killed many dogs and rendered many more chronically ill, with seizures or chorea, a severe neurological disease.  The original vaccine was not terribly effective by modern standards, with the effects lasting around 9 months.  Therefore it was recommended that dogs be vaccinated at least once a year, and that was the standard for vaccines that followed.

Over the next couple of decades, vaccines were developed against other common viral diseases of dogs and cats.  All came with the now-traditional one-year booster recommendation after an initial series of 2 or more primary doses.  The protocol worked well, and was seldom questioned.

In 1979, the first 3-year vaccine for Rabies was introduced for both dogs and cats.  It quickly gained widespread acceptance in the US.  Because Rabies can be spread to humans through contact with infected dogs (in fact, worldwide, dogs are the most common source of Rabies in humans), and because Rabies is uniformly fatal, most if not all states now require that dogs be vaccinated on schedule.  This is not because the states care about dogs;, it’s to protect humans.  In the US, Rabies is now very rare in dogs and humans; when it is contracted, it’s almost always through contact with wild animals.

In cats and kittens, panleukopenia (so-called “Feline Distemper,” but not really related to Distemper virus of dogs), along with a host of viruses that caused severe upper respiratory disease, were combined into a very effective vaccine that extended the lives of pet cats to such an extent that cat overpopulation became a problem.  This is now known as FVRCP or feline upper respiratory disease complex – but old habits die hard, and this is still often referred to as feline distemper.

Cats can also be infected with Rabies, but are harder to regulate.  Many states have no requirement that cats receive a Rabies vaccine.  This is not because cats can’t get the disease, or pass it to humans – they certainly can!  It’s because the states can’t figure out how to enforce a law against cat owners.

In the late 1970s, a severe and highly contagious, usually-fatal gastrointestinal disease swept through the world, leaving thousands – perhaps millions – of dogs dead.  That disease was Parvo, and marked one of the first times in the history of the world that a new disease emerged, was identified, and vaccines developed within a few short years.  Today we still see cases of Parvo but thankfully vaccination is the norm and the disease is easy to prevent.  Most cases are in non-vaccinated puppies.

And finally, in the 1980s, Feline Leukemia Virus became a preventable disease when an effective vaccine was introduced.  Though many believe the near-simultaneous introduction of reliable blood tests for the disease was equally responsible for the dramatic downturn in this deadly, widespread retrovirus of cats.

So the decades passed, and veterinarians who remembered Distemper, and remembered when Parvo was new, and had cried with cat owners whose cats fell one by one to Leukemia Virus, or who lost whole litters to Panleukopenia, continued to recommend annual vaccination against these diseases, because it was the best way we knew to prevent the scourge from returning.

Bordetella (aka “kennel cough”): This is not considered “core” by many people.  However the disease is so contagious, and so common in the Coachella Valley, that virtually every vet in the area recommends vaccinating.  This disease is a rarely fatal in otherwise healthy dogs, but it can sweep through dog parks, boarding kennels, grooming shops, dog parks, and anywhere dogs meet each other.  The risk of the vaccine is extremely low, and the cost is far less than treating affected dogs.  Unfortunately, because it is a bacterium rather than a viral vaccine, the response tends to be shorter-lived, though many believe there is some cumulative increase in protection as boosters are given throughout life.

All of these diseases are still out there.  All of them still infect pets in the Coachella Valley.  But most are now so easily prevented that many pet owners have no idea why their pets need the very “shots” that prevent them!  The viruses listed above constitute the so-called “core vaccine” protocols recommended today.

As you might imagine, over the past 60-plus years, vaccine technology has improved significantly.  So have laboratory tests, and our ability to treat these terrible diseases when they occur.  Still, prevention remains far better than treatment.  We also know that unvaccinated pets of all ages are vulnerable to these infections.  We know what puppies and kittens need to optimize their protection.  What is less clear is just how often adult pets need to receive boosters.   Our recommendations are still evolving, as new products are introduced, and new studies published.

The good news is, we no longer have to vaccinate every pet, every year for every disease!  Not only does this potentially save you money, but it helps alleviate concern over possible vaccine side effects, such as anaphylaxis or vaccine-associated tumors .


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