Posted by: My Personal Vet | August 10, 2010

Adult Cat and Dog Vaccinations

A Quick Reference Guide

Clients ask us all the time, “What vaccines do my pets need?”  For each pet, we customize all aspects of their care; vaccinations included. You will be asked about each pet’s personal circumstances so Dr. Sharp can determine which vaccines are truly necessary. Because her decisions are based on your answers and your pet’s health, the answer to that question won’t be the same for everyone. What we can tell you is which diseases are in our area and what factors Dr. Sharp weighs when making her recommendations.  Keep in mind that year to year recommendations may change, too!

A Few Decision Factors:

  • How many cats do you have? Do any of them interact with outdoor cats?
  • How often has your cat become ill? Is your cat ill right now?
  • What have they been vaccinated for in the past? Any vaccine reaction?
  • Do you ever board your cat when you leave town?
  • What breed is your dog?
  • What vaccines have they had in the past? Have they ever had a vaccine reaction?
  • Where do they visit and what do they do? Do they travel? Go to the beach?
  • Are they currently healthy?

Adult Feline Vaccinations

Rabies – Legally, although strongly recommended, this vaccine is not required in California but may be required by local laws. If your cat bites anyone (including at the vet office) a 10-day isolation may be imposed. There are two versions of this vaccine: 3-year and 1-year. The 3-year version of this vaccine is a known to cause fibrosarcoma. The newer, 1-year vaccine appears to be significantly safer. Because the 1-year uses a much lower volume of the vaccine and has no adjuvant, it poses a lesser risk for cancer. Dr. Sharp uses only the 1-year injection.

  • Length of Protection: One Year

FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici, Panleukopenia) – This vaccine protects against 3 viruses. It covers throat, nose, mouth, and low white blood cell viruses. Seen frequently in kittens, these diseases can cause mouth ulcers, chronic sneezing, and eye diseases. Panleukopenia is very serious in kittens. This vaccine has been changed from every 1-year to every 3 years because it’s been found to last at least that long. This may be extended in the future.

Length of Protection: Three Years

FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) – FeLV is quite common in our area and we do often recommend vaccinating cats that have access to the outdoors. The vaccine does pose a risk for cancer at the injection site so the pros and cons need to be discussed with your vet.

Length of Protection: One Year

Other options based on exposure and illness: FIV, FIP, Chlamydophyla, Giardia, Bordetella vaccines.

Adult Canine Vaccinations

Rabies – Rabies vaccinations are required by law in California and in order to license your dog in Santa Cruz. This is true for any dog over 4-months old. You can test for antibody levels in the blood. But most, if not all, authorities will not accept the results in lieu of vaccination.

Length of Protection: Three Years

DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza) – Parvovirus (usually just called Parvo) is common in our area and is still being seen this year! Parvo is no longer a guarantee of death but is very expensive to treat and is highly contagious; even to cats! All of these diseases are important to be protected against and can be fatal. The vaccine is extremely effective and all have extremely low reaction rates. The duration of these vaccines is known to be up to 9 years and antibody levels can be tested. Titer testing (checking for antibodies) is not entirely accurate but if the levels are high, they are assumed protected from the disease.

Length of Protection: Three Years (But there are options for testing)

Leptospirosis – Carried in urine and water, this is a spirochete(image) that is contagious to other animals and humans. There are many serovars (variations); one type can quickly cause devastating kidney failure and may result in lifelong kidney disease or death. This vaccine is most frequently the cause of a vaccine reaction. Unfortunately, this disease is very frequent in the Santa Cruz area. And protection does not last very long – although it was recently extended from 6 months to 1 year. This is also should be discussed thoroughly with your veterinarian.

Length of Protection: One Year

Bordatella – Also known as Kennel Cough, this is used to protect dogs who have lots of contact with other dogs– so think about classes, boarding, veterinary hospitals. It causes coughing which is how it spreads . A current strain has developed that is much more serious and, as always, secondary pneumonia is a concern. The length of protection on this vaccine has been extended from 6 months to 1 year.

Length of Protection: One Year

Other options based on exposure and illness: Lyme, Giardia, and Snakebite.


To keep your pet healthy, have an open discussion with your veterinarian to decide what is best for your situation and their care.


About the Author: Joanna Doubleday

Joanna came on board with My Personal Vet as Practice Manager in August of 2009. She brings with her a crazy Tonkinese cat named Bella, her Catahoula puppy Dexter, and over 10 years of     experience in customer service and business management.  She has worked in a variety of settings including several years in both healthcare and hospitality.

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she’s passionate about giving back to her community. She has done work on My Personal Vet’s behalf for Second Harvest Food Bank and the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce since joining our team.  She is also continuing her education at Cabrillo College in pursuit of degrees in business and health services.

Have something you’d like her to write about? You can email her at


  1. I enjoy looking through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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