Pet vaccinations explained

Making sure your pet gets all the vaccinations they need is vital to keeping them fit and healthy.

Having your dog or cat regularly vaccinated can also make a difference to the cost of your pet insurance. Some pet insurance providers take this into account when working out your costs.

Most responsible pet owners consider vaccinations a routine part of looking after their pets, to ensure they’re properly protected. Here's what you need to know

kitten having a vaccination

Why does my pet need to be vaccinated?

Vaccines are vital for protecting your cat, dog or rabbit from contracting dangerous diseases and illnesses. Some of these can be infectious so you should always make sure your pet's protected.

Kittens and puppies are more at risk than adult pets because their immune systems haven’t yet had the chance to strengthen and develop. Therefore, they can be more prone to developing illnesses during the first few months.

Many pedigrees, whether a kitten or a puppy, should already have been vaccinated by the time they get to you. But it's always important to check what jabs your pet has had before you take it home.

It's a good idea to get advice from the vet so you know exactly what vaccines your pet may need. Your vet can help you set up a pet vaccination clinic schedule so you know when the booster injections are due.

Cat and kitten vaccinations

Vaccinations can protect your cat or kitten against diseases such as:

  • Feline infectious enteritis (FIE) – a severe gut infection and a vaccination must.
  • Cat flu – it's essential to protect your cat against the 2 common types of cat flu.
  • Feline chlamydophilosis – causes conjunctivitis in cats and is only necessary in certain circumstances. Typically affects multi-cat households and kittens.
  • Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) – a must vaccine for outdoor cats. FeLV is a lifelong infection that's fatal and gets passed on through direct contact between cats.

How much are vaccinations for cats and kittens?

You should expect to pay about £65 for your kitten’s first set of vaccinations.

Annual cat booster vaccines cost around £45.

Kitten vaccination schedule

Kittens should be vaccinated:

  • Brfore they're 9 weeks old
  • At 12 weeks

Cat Vaccination schedule

Cat vaccinations are due every year as an adult.

Remember, it's never too late for your adult cat to have its primary course of vaccinations. To find out more, read this advice from Blue Cross for pets.

Can kitten vaccinations make them sick?

If a kitten vaccination causes vomiting or diarrhoea then you should contact the vet immediately. Vomiting and diarrhoea could be a sign your kitten or cat is having a severe allergic reaction to a vaccination.

You should also keep a lookout for breathing difficulties, pale gums and weakness after kitten vaccinations.

Dog and puppy vaccinations

Vaccinations for dogs and puppies tend to include cover for a combination of diseases such as:

  • Leptospirosis – this causes very serious symptoms, including kidney and liver damage
  • Distemper – causes serious neurological symptoms and can be fatal
  • Parvovirus – causes acute vomiting and diarrhoea and is often fatal, especially in puppies
  • Hepatitis – a liver infection that, although not common, 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 needs this only if you’re planning on taking it overseas

How much are dog and puppy vaccinations?

You should expect to pay about £80 for a set of puppy vaccinations.

Your dog’s annual booster vaccination typically costs about £65 on average.

Puppy vaccine schedule

Puppy vaccinations are needed at:

  • Between 6 and 8 weeks old
  • At 12 weeks

Make sure your new puppy doesn’t mix with other dogs or go on walks until they’re vaccinated. You can ask your vet about anything you're unsure of, or visit the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) website for more information.

Dog vaccination schedule

Adult dogs need a vaccination once a year, at least for Leptospirosis. A regular booster for kennel cough is also recommended.

Boosters for parvovirus and distemper are usually given every 3 years.

Do puppy vaccines cause vomiting?

If your puppy vomits or has diarrhoea after vaccination, then this could be a sign that they’re having an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Other worrying signs include hives and swelling.

If any of these symptoms occur following a dog or puppy vaccination, you should contact your vet immediately.

How long after the second puppy vaccination can they go out?

Your puppy can go out on walks with you a week after their second vaccination.

Take your puppy out too early, and there’s a risk he could be exposed to a virus that his body can’t yet handle.

Can I carry my puppy outside before vaccinations?

It should be fine to carry your puppy outside before vaccinations, but you need to take care.

Don’t put them down on the ground or allow them to get close to other dogs. At this stage, their immunity to disease is low, so they’re highly vulnerable.

Rabbit vaccinations

You should get your rabbit vaccinated from when they’re 7 weeks old and take them for a booster shot once a year.

You need to vaccinate your rabbit against:

Myxomatosis - often spread by insect bites, myxomatosis is a highly contagious disease affecting rabbits and usually causes death.

Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD and R(V)HD2 - there are two strains of haemorrhagic disease, both of which can prove fatal for your rabbit. These diseases cause internal bleeding to organs and are spread by insects as well as contact between rabbits.

Does pet insurance cover vaccinations?

Pet insurance can be used to cover vet bills for illness and injury, but it might not cover vaccinations.

However, many vets offer health care plans to help you better manage the cost of vaccinations as well as:

  • Routine health checks
  • Flea prevention
  • Worm treatment

If you get benefits such as Universal Credit, you could also get help with vet bills from certain charities, including PDSA or Blue Cross.

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Keeping track of your pet’s vaccination history

It’s important to have an accurate record of your pet’s vaccination history.

Your vet should give you a physical document, recording all the vaccinations your pet's had to date and when the next one is due. The vet should also keep accurate digital records of your pet’s vaccinations.

Keeping an accurate record to hand should help you make sure your pet gets all the vaccinations they need at the right time. It’s something to keep an eye on, as your vet might not remind you when it’s time to head to the pet vaccination clinic.

Vaccination history is also important if you take your pet abroad, or if for whatever reason, your pet should need to transfer owner.