Cat & Dog Vaccinations

Dog vaccinations and cat vaccinations play an important role in keeping your pet healthy. Vaccines are very effective in preventing death and severe illness due to certain contagious diseases.

They have been useful in reducing several infectious diseases from spreading further and have almost eradicated some potentially fatal diseases. If the number of pets protected by vaccines drops our animal companions could be at risk from outbreaks of these serious infectious diseases again.

Vaccinations are extremely cost effective when you consider what treating a serious illness can cost you and your pet in terms of both money and distress. Whether kitten or puppy, vaccinations are vital for every new pet. Both cat vaccinations and dog vaccinations protect against infectious diseases which can be spread from one animal to another. While some diseases only cause mild illness, others may be fatal. So when it comes to a cat or dog vaccination, the old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ certainly applies. Apart from putting your pet’s health at risk, insufficient dogs’/cats’ vaccinations can also result in high costs should your pet get sick.

Baby animals are particularly susceptible to diseases while their immune systems are still developing so kitten and puppy vaccinations are especially important. Adult dogs and cats can also need vaccinations to protect against infectious diseases. Vaccination routines usually consist of an initial dose followed by a second booster vaccination to provide sufficient levels of immunity. Down the line, some types of cat vaccinations and dog vaccinations are recommended annually, while others can be done every 3 years. Our experienced VetEnt vets will recommend which cat/dog vaccination is appropriate for your pet according to age, risk of exposure and overall health.

How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines help a body’s immune system prepare in advance to fight infectious diseases.

Essentially, vaccines give the body a preview of a bacterium or a virus, allowing it to learn how to defend itself against that potential invader in advance. When your pet receives a vaccine, its immune system produces special substances called antibodies that work against the virus or bacteria that cause the disease. Later, if your pet is exposed to these viruses or bacteria, the formed antibodies will help destroy them, thus preventing your pet from becoming ill.

It is important that your pet is healthy at the time of vaccination so that the immune system can develop its protective response properly.

How often does my pet need a dog/cat vaccination?

When puppies and kittens are born they are usually protected from infections by their mother’s milk. However, this protection only lasts for some weeks, so our little pets need regular vaccinations from an early age.

Puppies and kittens need a series of 2 or 3 vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart.  After this they need a vaccine booster one year later. Once they have had these vaccines, the frequency of vaccinations varies depending on the lifestyle of the pet, the disease and vaccine type being considered as well as any kennel/boarding plans. Some vaccinations are 3-yearly while others are yearly.

Because of these varying factors, VetEnt recommends that you bring your pet in for routine annual examinations where a vaccination plan for your pet can be decided during a discussion between you and your vet.

Cat Vaccination.

For cats vaccinations are required annually to protect them from cat ‘flu’. In some cases a cat vaccination may be required only every third year. Simply ask your local VetEnt vet for advice - they can also help with flea treatments, worming and more.

Dog Vaccination.

If your dog goes to a kennel, a kennel cough dog vaccination is required on a yearly basis. Otherwise, the vaccine frequency varies depending on the type of vaccine used. Some dog vaccinations require annual boosters, others can be extended to 3 years. Your local VetEnt vet is there to help you choose a dog vaccination programme to suit your pet’s needs. Simply contact your local clinic to make an appointment. If you have recently bought a puppy, vaccinations are needed - but your local VetEnt clinic can give you some advice.

Tip for Cat and Dog Vaccinations.

Remember to check your pet’s vaccination status when the holiday season is approaching. All boarding catteries and kennels require their visitors to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Do Vaccinations Guarantee That Your Pet Will Not Get Sick? 

Unfortunately, no vaccine can guarantee complete protection from a disease. However, vaccines drastically reduce the chance of developing the disease. If your pet does become ill with a disease he or she has been vaccinated for, the vaccine is likely to reduce the symptoms and make recovery quicker.

Are There Any Side Effects to Vaccines? 

Any vaccine can cause side effects. However, side effects/adverse reactions are rare events.

Side effects are usually mild reactions such as fever, soreness at the injection site or loss of appetite. These minor reactions usually resolve within 24 hours. In a very few cases a pet can get an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Your VetEnt vet will discuss with you which symptoms to look for in these cases. Other adverse reactions can also occur, but are extremely rare.

The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks of any potential side effects.

Diseases to Vaccinate Against.

Making sure your animals are vaccinated against common diseases is an important part of owning pets, it can save their lives from these potentially fatal diseases found in New Zealand.

Dog Diseases

Core Vaccines:

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a serious disease affecting primarily young dogs (6 weeks to 6 months of age) although dogs of any age can be affected. The virus is highly resistant and can remain in the environment for many months. Dogs contract the disease through exposure to infected dogs or infected stools. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing loss of appetite, lethargy, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease is highly contagious and can be fatal if not treated promptly. Vaccinations have proven to be very successful in preventing this disease.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is another serious viral disease affecting primarily young, unvaccinated dogs. The disease affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, and also often the nervous system. Symptoms include discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, weight loss, vomiting, loss of appetite, hardening of the foot pads, or neurological symptoms such as seizures. Distemper is a highly contagious disease. The virus is spread by contact with secretions such as discharges from the eyes and nose, vomit, diarrhoea, or urine. The disease is often fatal. If a dog survives the disease, it can have permanent damage to its nervous system, sense of smell, sight, and sound. Prevention of the disease by vaccinating is therefore extremely important.

Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Canine Adenovirus type 1 causes a disease called Infectious Canine Hepatitis. This viral disease affects the liver and other organ systems, causing illness which can be fatal. Symptoms may include respiratory tract abnormalities (discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing) or evidence of liver and/or kidney disease (jaundice, loss of appetite, vomiting, change in drinking or urination behaviour). Occasionally an affected dog develops a “blue eye” (corneal oedema). The disease is transmitted by contact with secretions such as saliva, infected urine, or faeces. 

Canine Adenovirus type 2 causes respiratory illness and can be involved in the development of kennel cough. Vaccination against Canine Adenovirus type 2 protects against both adenovirus types 1 and 2.


Canine parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is frequently confused with kennel cough. While the symptoms are very similar, canine parainfluenza is actually a major factor that can cause kennel cough, which is an acute inflammation of the upper airways. The disease can progress to pneumonia in puppies or chronic bronchitis in older dogs.

Puppies are routinely vaccinated for parainfluenza when they get their “puppy shots.” In adulthood t is included in the kennel cough vaccination.

The virus is transmitted through contact with the nasal secretions of dogs that are infected with the disease. There are a few factors that can increase the risk of a dog contracting the virus such as high humidity and exposure to drafts.

Symptoms include an unproductive, but persistent cough, runny nasal discharge, trouble breathing, lethargic and can have a low-grade fever. The cough and laboured breathing can be worsened with physical activity and excitement.

Alone, the canine parainfluenza virus is usually not a serious problem. However, when it teams up with other pathogens, it can turn into a serious case of kennel cough. Pneumonia can develop but only in a small percentage of dogs.

Good hygiene is one way to avoid both diseases. Don’t let your dog frequent places such as public parks or dog parks where they may be exposed to dogs that have not been vaccinated for the canine parainfluenza virus.

Non-Core Vaccines:

Kennel Cough (Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis)

Kennel cough is caused by various airborne viruses and bacteria, including canine parainfluenza virus, canine Adenovirus type 2 and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Symptoms include a dry, hacking cough and sometimes nasal discharge, sneezing and loss of appetite. Kennel cough is highly contagious and is spread through sneezing, coughing and contact with infected nasal secretions. Kennel cough is most commonly transmitted when dogs are in close proximity to each other, such as at dog shows, in kennels, at dog parks etc. In most cases kennel cough lasts 1-2 weeks, but can last longer. Dogs usually recover fully from this disease. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects several organs including the kidneys and liver. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhoea and seizures. The symptoms may vary in severity, and the disease can be fatal. Wild and domestic animals (pigs, cattle, and dogs) may act as reservoirs for infection. The disease is transmitted by contact with the urine of infected animals. Leptospirosis is only a risk in certain geographic locations.  This should be considered a core vaccine in the North Island.  

Cat Diseases

Core Vaccines:

Feline Viral Rhinothracheitis (“Cat Flu”)

Feline herpesvirus causes upper respiratory-tract infections in cats. The virus is widespread and easily transmitted. Symptoms are flu-like such as fever, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing or coughing, and range from mild to severe. A high percentage of cats that recover from the disease will remain life-long carriers of the virus. These carrier cats can intermittently shed the virus and have flare-ups of symptoms, especially in periods with stress.

Feline Calicivirus

This virus is the other main virus that causes upper respiratory-tract infections (“cat flu”) in cats. Like the feline herpesvirus this virus is also widespread and easily transmitted.

Feline Panleukopenia

This disease is sometimes called feline infectious enteritis or feline distemper. It is a viral disease that causes fever, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease can be fatal, especially in younger cats. The virus can survive for long times in the environment, and the disease is highly contagious. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is now uncommon.

Non-Core Vaccines:

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus can lead to feline AIDS, a potentially fatal disease that interferes with the cat’s immune system. The virus is spread primarily through bite wounds.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

This virus can cause a variety of severe conditions in cats, including cancer, anaemia, and suppression of the immune system. The virus is transmitted between cats through bite wounds, mutual grooming, and (though rarely) shared use of feeding dishes and litter boxes. Kittens are more susceptible to infection than adult cats.

Feline Chlamydiosis

This is a bacterial disease that can cause conjunctivitis and respiratory disease. It is mostly seen in multi-cat environments, and kittens are most susceptible.

Rabbit Diseases.

It is recommended for pet rabbits to be vaccinated against Rabbit Calicivirus (RCD) also known as viral haemorrhagic disease caused by rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (rhdv). This disease affects wild and domestic rabbits. It is highly contagious and often fatal.