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A guide to pet vaccinations

Dog with red noseHaving your pet vaccinated and checked by a vet at least once a year means it has the best chance of a long and healthy life.

Thankfully most responsible pet owners consider vaccinations a routine part of looking after their pet and they do make sure they’re properly protected.

But looking after an animal’s health can be time-consuming and not everyone realises just how important it is.

What do vaccines protect against?

Dogs and cats can be protected from many diseases, which can cause very serious symptoms or be fatal. These include cat leukaemia and distemper in dogs.

It’s worth remembering that some of the most serious diseases have not been completely eradicated from animals in the UK.

That means, that although the majority of animals have been vaccinated and are healthy, owners can’t be complacent. An unvaccinated cat or dog can still fall ill with these diseases and needs to be protected.

Having your pet regularly vaccinated can make a difference to the cost of your pet insurance, as some pet insurance providers use this as a rating factor.

How often does my cat need to be vaccinated?

Cats need to be vaccinated by the time they’re eight weeks old, and then again at 12 weeks old. A further vaccination may be required at 16 weeks, depending on the cat but your vet can advise you about this. A kitten needs to be kept inside until 10 days after its last injection and don’t forget that adult cats need booster injections every year.

What about dog vaccinations?

Puppies need to be vaccinated when they’re between six and eight weeks old, followed by another one at 12 weeks. Only after this can they race around and explore the neighbourhood. Until they’re vaccinated, they must stay indoors.

Here are the main vaccines that your pet needs:


  • Feline Leukaemia Virus – this particularly applies to young cats, and is one of the biggest causes of death in kittens.
  • Feline enteritis – a viral infection that can cause acute vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Cat flu – it’s rarely fatal but it’s serious and can leave cats with life-long respiratory problems.
  • Feline chlamydia – this can cause conjunctivitis in cats but it’s not considered necessary for all cats to have this vaccination. Usually just cats from breeders and boarding catteries are offered this one.


  • Leptospirosis – this causes very serious symptoms including kidney and liver damage
  • Distemper – can cause serious neurological symptoms and can be fatal.
  • Parvovirus – causes acute vomiting and diarrhoea and is often fatal, especially in puppies.
  • Hepatitis – a liver infection; it’s not common in dogs but when they get it, it can be serious.
  • Para-influenza virus – one of the viruses that causes kennel cough.
  • Bordatella – a bacterial infection that also causes kennel cough.
  • Rabies – your dog will need this only if you’re planning on taking it overseas. In which case, a rabies vaccine is required under the Pets Travel Scheme.

Keeping track of your pets vaccination history

Accurate records of the vaccinations your pet has been given should be stored on computer at your vets, so the information is easily accessible. As well as monitoring your pet’s health, a vaccination history is necessary if you take your pet abroad, or if for whatever reason, your pet should need to transfer owner.

What is the cost of vaccinations?

An initial course of vaccinations for a puppy or kitten typically costs from around £30 to £60. Some pet insurance policies will cover part or all of the price, so check the terms and conditions when you are comparing plans.

photo: nao-cha

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