Do Older Dogs and Cats Still Need Vaccinations?

Many pet owners want to know whether their senior pets still require vaccinations. As with many things in vet medicine, this is not a yes or no situation. Pet owners should take their pets for vaccination several times throughout their lives. 


Vaccinations help keep dogs and cats healthy with little risk of developing infectious diseases. It is vital to realize that the risk may be small, but it does exist, even for older pets. You can find out whether older dogs and cats still need vaccinations.  



Vaccinating Older Pets



Many pet owners fear that it is not safe to vaccinate older dogs and cats. But there is no evidence to suggest that vaccinating older pets can increase their risk of developing disorders. 

One reason to space out vaccinations as pets get older is that immunity duration is longer with their repeated use. Initial doses can offer protection for three weeks up to a year, depending on the vaccine. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends vaccinations based on evidence.



Core Vaccinations 



The AAHA recommends core vaccinations for adenovirus, distemper, and parvo, among other diseases. The recommended vaccines offer pets protection from common viral diseases. 

The initial series of vaccines is followed by a booster, administered within a year. Studies show that the vaccinations retain their protective antibodies for three years. The rabies vaccine is also core, and the certificate indicates the date for the booster. The vaccine works for three years. 



Non-core Vaccinations



Unlike core vaccinations, non-core vaccines are administered based on factors such as location and lifestyle. The vaccines are ideal only if your pet is at risk. Examples of these vaccines include leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme. The vaccines help protect dogs from bacterial diseases. 


The duration of immunity is not as long for these vaccines, and they usually need annual administration. Your vet will talk to you about the vaccinations that your pet may require based on the risk factors. 



Reduced Immune Function 



Elderly pets tend to have lower immune function than younger pets. This means that booster vaccines may be essential for older dogs and cats. Some animals do not develop immune responses to some diseases. 


There is no evidence showing any benefits of withholding vaccines from senior cats and dogs. It is vital to follow your veterinarian’s advice concerning vaccinations. Your vet knows your pet’s health condition and will make recommendations based on the information. 



Genetics and Vaccinations



Genetics plays a vital role in whether an older dog or cat will require vaccinations. Research shows that about one in 1,000 dogs will not develop parvo immunity even after being vaccinated. One in 5,000 will not develop distemper immunity. 


So, some older pets may still be at risk of developing diseases. The type of vaccine administered is a factor when determining whether older pets need vaccinations. Keeping the senior pets immunized will help protect them from certain diseases. 


For more on whether older dogs and cats still need vaccinations, visit Circle of Life Animal Hospital at our office in Tampa, Florida. You can call (813) 850-0600 today to schedule an appointment.

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