Pet vaccinations against deadly viruses in dogs and cats

Our pets form an integral part of our lives. As a pet owner, I’d do anything within my means to ensure my precious dog or cat is always content and healthy. This of course brings up the question of vaccinations: what pet vaccinations are mandatory? Are booster shots required? What are the possible side effects of vaccinating my pet?

These are not simple questions and the answer depends on a variety of factors such as when the dog or cat received the first vaccine, the breed, proximity to woodlands that risks the exposure to feral animals such as raccoons, age (usually, vaccinations done earlier tend to have longer immunities), was the pet neutered or not?

In the United States, most apartment communities that allow pets require the pet parent to provide vaccination certificates. Even pet grooming salons such require that the pet’s rabies vaccination be up to date.

Here is a list of the most common and mandatory vaccinations for dogs and cats respectively as listed at the site of the ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), these are called CORE vaccines:



Rabies is especially notorious because the virus can pass from an infected animal to a human being. Hundreds of people die every year on account of being bitten by strays. Thankfully, mandatory rabies vaccinations have achieved a zero percent fatality rate in the United States.


Distemper affects wolves, fox, skunks and even pet ferrets. This is a highly infectious viral disease and can affect respiratory tracts, spinal cord and other vital organs rendering the animal a lot of suffering. It’s important to remember that there is no cure for Canine Distemper and hence, vaccination is not an option.


CPV2 is a highly contagious virus that can be transmitted through direct or indirect contact with an infected dog’s feces; untreated, this can spell death for most dogs. Again, early vaccinations for this virus are mandatory since puppies are especially susceptible. If the animal was not vaccinated, a CPV test can be done to detect this virus.

Canine Hepatitis

This virus results in sore throat, pneumonia and coughing and affect eyes, liver and kidneys. In severe cases, death can occur in two hours after infection. Fortunately, there are two vaccines available for prevention: CAV1 and CAV2.



As in dogs, rabies affects cats as well. In most States of America, rabies vaccinations are mandatory. After the first shot, additional boosters might be required as suggested by the veterinarian.

Feline Distemper

This virus causes a decrease in the cat’s white blood cells and thus affects the immune system. Death can occur within 24 hours and more than 90% of kittens affected by this virus do not survive. Vaccination against this is mandatory for all cats.

Feline Calcivirus

An outbreak of FCN in a humane center in Missouri in 2007, led to 200 cats being euthanized. Sources of contagion include air and fomites-germs and parasites like fleas. The only vaccination available for VS-FCV is CaliciVax.

These are only the core vaccines recommended by most veterinarians. To care for the well being of our four legged friends, it’s imperative we are well informed and up to date on the most common vaccinations and to also monitor our pets closely for symptoms of infection.

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