PD Insurance: When Should You Vaccinate Your Pet?

Just like COVID jabs, cat and dog vaccinations are there to keep our animals safe from potentially deadly viruses and bacteria. So, when do you need to vaccinate your pet?

Dogs and cats each have different recommended schedules for pet vaccinations, but there are some similarities in their healthcare. For example, although you mostly hear about parvo in relation to dogs there’s also a cat parvo, known as Feline Panleukopenia.

Most pet jab programs start when puppies and kittens are around six weeks old. They’re usually being weaned by this time, so the antibodies they get from their mother are beginning to wear off.

The maternal immunity puppies and kittens get in the womb and from suckling help the babies to grow up strong and healthy. But then they need to start a pet jab schedule to let their immune system support them into – and throughout – adulthood.

Here’s roughly what a pet vaccination schedule would look like, for dogs and then for cats.

Vaccinations for dogs

Dog vaccinations start at six weeks, then you’ll have to take them in for a few boosters in the first year. After that though, your vet trips will become fewer as you’ll only need vaccinations once yearly in most cases.

Dog vaccinations for puppies are divided into core and non-core vaccines. Core jabs are needed for all dogs whereas non-core vaccinations are optional. If you’re unsure about what’s what, your vet will recommend the most appropriate ones depending on what your puppy is most likely to be exposed to.

Here’s a guide as to the usual vaccination schedule for dogs:

Core dog vaccinations:

Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. The following are core vaccinations that your dog must receive.

1. Canine distemper virus

Distemper (which has now been essentially eradicated in New Zealand due to high vaccination rates) is a highly contagious airborne virus that attacks the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems. In severe cases, it can be fatal. There are a wide range of symptoms that include vomiting, fever, sneezing, coughing and paralysis.

2. Canine hepatitis

Canine hepatitis. Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver. It can be contracted when a dog comes into contact with saliva, mucous, urine, or stool from an infected dog. Symptoms include coughing, fever, congestion and discharge from the eyes. It can be fatal.

3. Canine parvovirus

Parvo is a very serious, life-threatening virus. It’s highly contagious. Dogs can contract it through coming into contact with an infected dog or surfaces an infected dog has touched. Parvo symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss.

Non-core dog vaccinations

Non-core puppy vaccinations aren’t necessary for all dogs. However, some dogs might be at risk due to where you live, the lifestyle they lead, and other risk factors. Your vet will help you decide which non-core pet vaccinations are needed.

These include Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza (a respiratory virus).

If you do opt for non-core vaccinations, they’re usually given with the booster round of core vaccinations.

Vaccinations for cats

Like puppies, kittens have initial maternal immunity that wears off once they become weaned and start going out into the big wide world. Cats have a series of core pet jabs alongside non-core vaccinations.

Here’s what most cats’ vaccination schedule will look like:

Core cat vaccinations

1. Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1)

This potentially fatal virus causes upper-respiratory tract infections and can result in pneumonia. They can get it through direct contact with discharge from an infected cat’s eyes, mouth or nose or through sharing surfaces with an infected cat.

2. Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)

Also known as feline parvo or sometimes feline distemper, FPV is very serious and often fatal. The virus is usually caught through contact with infected faeces from an infected cat. Once infected, a cat will “shed” the virus through secretions for up to six weeks. Symptoms include loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, tiredness and diarrhoea.

3. Feline calicivirus (FCV)

This is a life-threatening contagious virus. It can be spread through virus particles, just like feline herpes. Your cat will likely display cold-like symptoms like sneezing, congestion, a stuffy nose and fever.

Non-core cat vaccinations

In addition to the core vaccines, some non-core pet vaccinations will often be recommended by your vet, specific to your cat’s needs. For example, they might suggest vaccinations against feline chlamydiosis, Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV), or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). FIV can develop into feline Aids, which is a growing problem in New Zealand.


Do older dogs need a parvo vaccination?

Yes, older dogs may still need a parvo vaccination, although the frequency and necessity of it can vary based on their age, health condition, jab history, and how common diseases are in your area.

Can you vaccinate a pregnant dog/cat?

Vaccination of pregnant dogs or cats is a topic that should be discussed with a vet. Generally, the decision to vaccinate a pregnant animal depends on several factors, including the stage of pregnancy, the health of the mother, the jabs in question, and the risks that come with the diseases being vaccinated against.

How much do pet vaccinations cost?

Costs can vary depending on the region, vet clinic, type of vaccine, extra services added, and the overall healthcare package you’re getting. Generally, a basic vaccination package for dogs or cats typically includes core jabs such as those for parvo, distemper and kennel cough and can range from about $50 to $100 per vaccine.

Is it too late to vaccinate my cat/dog?

It’s never too late to vaccinate your cat or dog, regardless of their age! If they haven’t been previously vaccinated or if their jab status is unknown, it’s recommended you schedule an appointment with a vet. They’ll assess your pet’s health and make recommendations on their specific needs.

About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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