Vaccinations are an important part of keeping your pet happy and healthy. Not only do they prevent potentially life-threatening illnesses, but they can save you from costly treatments for preventable diseases. They also protect you and your family, as some diseases can be transmitted from animals to humans. There are several recommended core vaccines for dogs and cats. Depending on what your veterinarian recommends, some vaccinations are given to pets as young as 6 weeks old and require multiple shots over a period of weeks or months, whereas others are administered at 12 weeks. Most will require boosters every one to three years. Canine Vaccinations The American Animal Hospital Association recommends the following core vaccines for dogs. • Canine distemper is a serious, highly contagious disease with no cure. It can be fatal and affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. It’s spread through the air when a dog sneezes or coughs and through shared food and water bowls. • Adenovirus causes infectious canine hepatitis and damages the liver and kidneys. This life-threatening disease is typically spread by the infected dog’s bodily fluids, especially urine. It can also be transmitted through contaminated bedding, bowls, human hands, and clothing. • Parvovirus is another highly contagious, life-threatening illness. It causes vomiting, fever, bloody diarrhea, and sepsis. It’s spread by coming in direct contact with an infected dog or the infected dog’s stool. • Rabies is a deadly disease that affects the central nervous system and causes neurological disorders. It has no cure and is transmitted through an animal bite, usually from a wild animal. Both animals and humans can be infected. Pet owners are legally required to have their dogs vaccinated against rabies. A veterinarian might also recommend non-core vaccines depending on your dog’s age, lifestyle, and geographic location. These include vaccinations for Bordetella, leptospirosis, and parainfluenza virus. Feline Vaccinations According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, three core vaccines are recommended for cats. • Calicivirus causes respiratory infections, oral ulcers, fever, and malaise. It’s highly contagious and common in houses with multiple cats. • Herpesvirus-1, also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, causes upper respiratory disease, conjunctivitis, fever, and runny eyes and nose. It’s highly contagious and usually transmitted through discharge from the eyes and nose. • Panleukopenia, or feline distemper, is a life-threatening disease. It causes low white blood cell count, anemia, vomiting, and dehydration. It’s transmitted by coming in contact with bodily fluids from an infected cat, a person who has handled an infected cat, or unwashed bedding. Rabies is not considered a core feline vaccine by the American Association of Feline Practitioners, but it’s required by law in many states. A veterinarian might also recommend non-core vaccines for feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Bordetella, and other illnesses. Protect Your Pet Puppies and kittens are the most susceptible to these diseases, so it’s important to make sure they have all the necessary vaccinations. And make sure to stay up-to-date on boosters throughout your pet’s life!