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Why It's Important to Vaccinate Your Pet

Our Liberty Lake vets believe that vaccinations play an essential role in keeping your pet healthy throughout their lifetime. While we recommend core vaccinations for all dogs and cats there are a number of lifestyle vaccines that are only given to specific animals based on their level of risk for contracting particular conditions.

The Importance of Vaccinating Your Pet

As with the vaccinations that have been designed for people, pet vaccines protect your companion animal against a variety of serious conditions that could threaten the overall health or longevity of your pet.

While getting your dog or cat vaccinated may appear to be an unnecessary expense at the time, especially if money is tight, your pet's shots are likely to cost far less than treatment for the illnesses against which vaccines protect.

How Pet Vaccines Work

Vaccines provide your pet with a defensive level of antibodies, allowing their body to develop immunity to specific highly contagious, serious diseases. When your dog or cat is vaccinated, the body receives a disease-enabling organism that stimulates the immune system and instructs the body on how to fight those diseases in the future.

Although pet vaccines aren't 100% effective, they can help your pet fight off illnesses or recover much more quickly if they do become infected.

Not All Pets Need All Vaccines

Not all of the available vaccines will be required for all pets. Speak with your veterinarian about your pet's lifestyle to determine which vaccines are best for your dog or cat. Your veterinarian can advise you on which ones will be most beneficial to your pet based on factors such as their age, lifestyle, and where you live. Rabies vaccinations for pets over the age of six months are required by law in most parts of the United States and Canada. This vaccination must be kept up to date, and pet owners will receive a certificate once their dog or cat has been vaccinated.

Why should I vaccinate my pet?

By proactively vaccinating your pet and keeping your pet up-to-date on its booster shots, you can preserve and protect your pet's health from dangerous, deadly diseases. 

Many vaccinations are mandated across the United States, such as rabies for both dogs and cats. Residents require vaccination records in many areas to obtain a pet license.

Vaccinations may be required if you travel with your pet, stay in pet-friendly hotels, visit dog parks, or have your pet groomed. These vaccinations can protect your pet from contracting contagious diseases from other animals as well as inadvertently spreading infection. This also applies to pet sitting services, doggie daycares, and other businesses.


Even if your dog is always on a leash when outside, he is still at risk of becoming ill. Many bacteria and viruses can survive for long periods of time on surfaces, so your dog could contract a serious disease without even coming into contact with another dog. Other diseases are airborne and can be easily contracted by pets who come into contact with infected dogs while out walking.


While it may appear obvious that outdoor cats are more likely to contract serious diseases, it is all too easy to dismiss the need for indoor cats to be vaccinated. But don't be fooled; it only takes a split second for your cat to escape through an open window or door. Many cat viruses can survive for long periods of time on the ground or on surfaces. That is, even if you quickly bring your escaped kitty back into the house, there is still a risk of exposure. Not only that but there is also the risk of wildlife infiltrating your home and endangering your pet's health.

Core Vaccines for Pets

Core vaccines are recommended for most cats and dogs in the United States and are designed to help protect your pet by preventing diseases that are common in your area. These diseases are easily transmitted between animals (and, in some cases, between animals and humans) and have a high fatality rate.

Core Vaccinations for Cats

  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper or Feline Parvo)

    Panleukopenia is a highly contagious viral disease related to the canine parvovirus. This disease, caused by the feline parvovirus, is fatal to cats. This virus attacks the body's rapidly dividing blood cells, including those in the intestine, bone marrow, skin, and developing fetus. Panleukopenia is spread by infected cats' urine, stool, and nasal secretions, as well as by infected cats' fleas.

  • Feline Calicivirus

    Feline calicivirus is a common respiratory disease in cats and kittens. This illness attacks the cat's respiratory tract including the nasal passages and lungs, as well as the mouth, intestines, and the cat's musculoskeletal system. This illness is highly contagious in unvaccinated cats and is often found in multi-cat homes or shelters. This respiratory illness can be very difficult to get rid of once it has been contracted, and vaccinating your cat against feline calicivirus is strongly recommended.

  • Feline Herpesvirus Type I (Rhinotracheitis)

    Feline Herpesvirus (also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis -FVR) is a major cause of upper respiratory disease in cats, as well as inflammation of the tissues surrounding the cat's eyes. Once a cat has been infected with FVR it becomes a carrier of the virus. While most carriers will remain latent for long periods of time, stress and illness may cause the virus to become reactivated and infectious.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is typically transmitted through a bite from the infected animal and is one of the few diseases that can be transmitted to people from their pets. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and will gradually infect the entire nervous system of the animal or person causing death. In many states, including New York, rabies shots are mandatory for dogs, cats, and ferrets, without exception.

Core Vaccinations for Dogs

  • Canine Parvovirus

    Canine parvovirus is an extremely contagious viral disease that can be life-threatening. Parvovirus can be transmitted by any person, animal, or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces. Dogs that are not vaccinated are at risk of contracting the virus. Vaccinating your puppy or dog against parvovirus could save their life.

  • Distemper

    Canine distemper is caused by a virus that affects a dog's respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, and conjunctival membranes. Contact with fresh urine from an infected animal spreads distemper. This virus has the ability to enter the brain and cause seizures, shaking, and trembling. Having your dog vaccinated will protect them from distemper.

  • Canine Hepatitis

    Dogs suffering from canine hepatitis experience swelling and cell damage in the liver, which may result in hemorrhage and death. This virus is spread through contact with the feces and urine of infected dogs. Simply by having your dog vaccinated you can protect your dog against canine hepatitis.

  • Rabies

    Rabies is typically transmitted through a bite from the infected animal and is one of the few diseases that can be transmitted to people from their pets. The rabies virus causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and will gradually infect the entire nervous system of the animal or person causing death.

    In many states, including New York, rabies shots are mandatory for dogs, cats, and ferrets, without exception.

Lifestyle Vaccinations 

Lifestyle vaccines for cats and dogs protect pets from diseases that they may be exposed to if they live certain lifestyles, such as dogs who go to doggie daycares or cats who spend a lot of time outside. The following are some lifestyle vaccines to consider for your four-legged friend.

Lifestyle Vaccines for Cats:

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

    Feline leukemia is spread by saliva and can be transmitted from cat to cat through mutual grooming, bite wounds, mother's milk to kittens, or through shared litter box use.

    This disease is the leading viral killer of cats and kittens. While it can hide undetected for long periods of time it weakens the cat's immune system, increases their susceptibility to other diseases, and is the most common cause of cancer in cats.

    Kittens are at high risk for contracting this disease and should be vaccinated against Feline leukemia starting at 9 - 12 weeks of age. This vaccine requires booster shots to maintain its effectiveness. Cats that live in multi-cat households, or that spend time outdoors should be regularly vaccinated against this disease.

  • Chlamydia (Chlamydophila felis)

    Chlamydia can cause respiratory disease and conjunctivitis (eye infection) in cats and is easily transmitted between cats in close contact. All cats in catteries, breeders, and shelters should be vaccinated against this illness. Consult your veterinarian to determine whether your cat is susceptible to this condition.

Lifestyle Vaccines for Dogs:

  • Bordetella (Kennel Cough)

    Bordetella bronchoseptica is the bacteria that causes "kennel cough," a respiratory disease that is easily transmitted when dogs share indoor spaces like kennels. Dogs who go to dog parks or doggie daycares, on the other hand, may be at risk of contracting this disease. The bordetella vaccination, like the human flu vaccine, will not prevent your dog from becoming ill, but it will help to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. If your dog interacts with other dogs, consult your veterinarian about the Bordatella vaccine.

  • Leptospirosis

    Leptospirosis is a bacteria that is spread in water contaminated with urine from infected wildlife. While most cases of leptospirosis are mild and easily treated with antibiotics, some dogs get very sick and may even suffer kidney failure. Leptospirosis can also be transmitted from animals to people in some cases. If your dog is fond of drinking from puddles, ponds, or rivers in your neighborhood, speak to your vet about vaccinating your canine companion against leptospirosis.

  • Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)

    Symptoms of the dog flu often begin as kennel cough then become increasingly more severe, and in some cases require hospitalization. There are two strains of dog flu that are widely spread throughout the country. Speak to your vet to find out if this vaccination is right for your pooch. If your dog spends time with other dogs in daycares, kennels, or dog parks you may wish to vaccinate them against dog flu. Short-faced dogs with an increased risk of respiratory illness should also be vaccinated against this condition.

  • Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi)

    In some regions of the US, the Lyme vaccine is considered a core vaccine because of the high prevalence of the disease in that area. If you live in an area where the black-legged tick (deer tick) is present in large numbers, our vets may suggest tick preventive medications be given to your dog year-round, and the Lyme disease vaccination is given to pets who spend time in wooded areas, parks, or farmlands. Speak to your vet to learn whether the Lyme disease vaccine is right for your dog.

Booster Shots

Adult dogs and cats should receive booster shots either annually or every three years, depending on the vaccine. Your veterinarian will notify you when it is time for your pet to receive booster shots. Booster shots are required to keep your pet's immunity up to date.

Vaccine Protection

It's important to note that your puppy or kitten will not be fully protected by their vaccines until they’ve received all of their vaccinations - when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old. After your vet has administered all of their initial vaccinations, your young pet will be protected against the conditions or diseases covered by the vaccines.

We recommend keeping your puppy or kitten be restricted to low-risk areas (such as your own backyard) if you plan to allow them outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against the diseases listed above.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time to have your pet vaccinated? Contact our Liberty Lake vets today to book an appointment for your pet. Our vets would love to explain more about preventive care, and how vaccines can help your pet to live a long and healthy life.

New Patients Welcome

At Legacy Animal Medical Center, we are always accepting new patients! Our veterinary team's experience and passion make all the difference to the patients at our animal medical center in Liberty Lake. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

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