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Vaccines give the immune system the ammunition it needs to fight off potentially harmful or deadly viruses or bacteria. 

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are those considered vital for all pets, regardless of breed, age, or geography and therefore, are almost always administered. 

In Dogs:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Canine hepatitis
  • Rabies

In Cats:

  • Panleukopenia (feline distemper)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline herpesvirus type I
  • Rabies

Other Vaccines

Referred to as non-core vaccines, there are certain vaccines administered dependent upon exposure risk and lifestyle as determined by your veterinarian. In dogs, these can include vaccines for Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough), Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) and Leptospira bacteria. In cats, these can include vaccines for  Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.

When to Vaccinate

Puppies and Kittens: 

Both puppies and kittens receive antibodies through their mother's milk, provided that the mother has a healthy immune system. At about 6 to 8 weeks of age, a puppy or kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations, followed up with further rounds every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy or kitten reaches 16 weeks of age.

Adult Dogs and Cats: 

Some vaccinations require yearly boosters, while others are every three years.

Rabies Vaccine:      It’s the Law!

Each state has laws governing the use of the rabies vaccine. In North Carolina, all owned dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated by four months of age. Once vaccinated, your pet will need regular booster shots in order to stay current. By law, any unvaccinated or non-current pet bitten 

by an animal suspected of carrying rabies may be subject to six months quarantine or euthanization. 

Side Effects

While immunizations far outweigh the risks, there are possible side effects. These are generally a response to the vaccination stimulating the immune system and are considered mild and temporary. However, it is important to monitor your pet after vaccinations and seek medical attention if your pet exhibits:

  • High, prolonged fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sluggishness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Lameness
  • Swelling, redness, scabbing or hair loss at the injection site



Vaccinations for Your Pet


North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Rabies: Control and Prevention in North Carolina