Pet Vaccines: What you should know

Why is it Important to Vaccinate your pet?


Dogs and Cats require routine vaccinations to protect them from potentially deadly diseases and to protect humans from contracting some of these diseases from them. These vaccines contain antigens, which mimic disease-causing organisms in your pet and allow the animal to build up their immune systems (or antibodies) against them and thus be able to fight off the disease if they are properly infected.

A well fed, healthy pet will have a good immune system, and should easily build up the correct antibodies to fight the bacteria or virus of these particular diseases thus keeping themselves and their owners around them disease free. Kittens and puppies should begin vaccinations early, to protect them from infectious diseases while their immune systems are still developing.


What Vaccines and how often do I need to Vaccinate my Pet?


The effects of these vaccines does wear off after a while so it’s important to give them a booster in order to keep those antibodies regenerating.


Puppies 4–6 weeks of age:


DP vaccination. This vaccine starts to provide protection against canine parvovirus and distemper.

Rabies: This vaccination is required by law in South Africa. Puppies require 2 vaccinations 1 month apart.


This protocol may need to be altered depending on your puppy’s health, breed or earlier circumstances. Your vet can advise you.


Older Puppies and Adult Dogs:


DAPPV/DHPPi vaccination. Provides protection against canine parvovirus, distemper, adenovirus type 1 (hepatitis) and 2 (respiratory disease) and canine parainfluenza virus.

This vaccine is normally given 3 times in an older puppy (before age 1) 3-4 weeks apart and then annually in adult dogs.

Rabies: Dogs from age 1 should be vaccinated annually. This vaccination is required by law in South Africa.


Kittens less than 1 year of age:


HCP/HCPHC vaccination (3-in-1). Provides protection against feline rhinotracheitis virus, calici virus and panleukopenia virus (HCPHC vaccine also protects against Chlamydia). This vaccine is normally given twice 3-4 weeks apart in kittens.

Rabies. This vaccination is required by law in South Africa. Kittens require 2 vaccinations 1 month apart.


This protocol may need to be altered depending on your kitten’s health or earlier circumstances. Your vet can advise you.


Cats Over 1 year:


HCP/HCPHC vaccination (3-in-1). Provides protection against feline rhinotracheitis virus, calici virus and panleukopenia virus (HCPHC vaccine also protects against Chlamydia).

Adult cats needs to be vaccinated annually.

Rabies. Cats from age 1 should be vaccinated annually. This vaccination is required by law in South Africa.


Additional Vaccinations:


For Dogs:


Kennel Cough Vaccinations. Often required by boarding kennels. Depending on the brand of vaccine used, a booster vaccination may be required 1 month later to ensure adequate protection for the year if your dog has not had the vaccine previously.

Thereafter, the vaccine can be boosted annually. In order to provide adequate protection, the vaccine should be done at least 2 weeks prior to going into kennels.

Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that, while relatively uncommon, can cause very serious disease in dogs and humans. This vaccination is currently an optional vaccination and the decision to vaccinate is normally based on exposure risk of the pet. This vaccination may be required by specific countries if you plan on emigrating with your pet.


For Cats:


Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). This virus can cause serious illness and is not a curable disease. However, cats infected with this virus can live a normal life and often go undiagnosed until illness causes them to be tested. Vaccination against this disease is not part of the core vaccination programme but is advisable. Testing for the virus is not routinely done in kittens. However, if you want to vaccinate your adult cat against it, we do advise testing prior to vaccination. The test is a simple blood test and can be done in-house.


At the vaccination, the vet will perform an essential health check and assess if there is a need to deviate from the vaccination protocol. The health check is a good opportunity to check on your pets teeth, heart and weight and can help us detect problems earlier which obviously will greatly benefit your pet.


What are the risks?


Most pets will not experience any adverse effects after being vaccinated but some may get a slight fever and be off their food for a day. These are mild effects and should not last long. We recommend no vigorous exercise for the day following the vaccine.

In extreme cases a pet may get a severe allergic reaction which can be fatal unless seen by a vet immediately. Your vet will help and be able to recommend action going forwards.


Preventative Healthcare for Your Pet


Having your pet vaccinated regularity is not the only aspect of ensuring that they are healthy and disease free. They need to have clean coats free of ticks and fleas and just like their humans, pets also need regular exercise and a good, balanced diet in order to develop their skeletons, strong muscles and immune systems.