Have you ever wondered who the vaccine police are?  


In human medicine, we have the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  The CDC has an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).   The ACIP Committee develops written recommendations for the routine administration of vaccines to children and adults in the civilian population. 

These recommendations are considered the gold standard, and they change frequently to reflect our best current understanding of the science of vaccination.  Pediatricians get the current copy of the ACIP report, and that's that.  You can see examples here.



Each practitioner did his or her own thing when it came to vaccinating dogs and cats, and to make matters worse there wasn't much in the way of scientific research to base these judgments on.  There is no veterinary ACIP, and the only guidelines came from the vaccine manufacturers.  When you think about this, the manufacturers are probably not the best source of unbiased fact on how dogs and cats should be vaccinated.  So, Veterinarians have been designing their own vaccination protocols for decades.


SOME UNBIASED RESEARCH HAS BEEN published in the last 10 years

It turns out that there are better and safer ways to vaccinate dogs and cats than we have been using.  Based on this research, two professional organizations have published veterinary vaccination guidelines. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP for short) is a nationally-recognized association of veterinarians who specialize in cats only.  The AAFP vaccination guidelines are considered the standard of practice for cats.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA for short) is an organization that accredits veterinary hospitals and clinics.  The AAHA dog vaccination guidelines are considered the standard of practice for dogs.  


Vaccinations for Puppies and Kittens

For Puppies and Kittens, not much has changed.  Puppies and kittens both need a series of vaccinations every three to four weeks starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age and not ending until at least 16 weeks of age.  8 weeks is a good time to start in most cases, 6 weeks in high-risk cases. Both puppies and kittens need a full set of boosters one year after the first series.


Vaccinations for Mature Dogs

For mature dogs, it is now clear that yearly vaccination for certain diseases is unnecessary.  Recent research has shown that immunity will last at least three years to these certain diseases, which include parvo, distemper and rabies.  

However, it is important to note that there are still diseases that your dog will still need to be vaccinated for on a yearly basis.  Bordetella, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and leptospirosis  will still need to be done on a yearly basis. 

Another new thing is that for bordetella and parainfluenza, the intranasal vaccines are much more effective than the injected versions.  The vaccine is not injected, rather it is squirted up the dog's nose.  This mimics natural exposure, and stimulates both circulating and surface immunity to these diseases.


Vaccinations for Mature Cats

For mature cats as well, immunity for certain diseases lasts longer than one year.  In particular, distemper, viral rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus need only be boosted every three years rather than yearly as previously believed. 

And more importantly, certain types of vaccines themselves have been tied to a deadly form of cancer called Feline Injection-Site Sarcomas in cats.  While uncommon, (the incidence is estimated at somewhere between 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000), the tumors are very malignant and are often fatal.  This is a complicated topic and the discussion is continued here.  The bottom line is that at our clinic, non-adjuvanted rabies and feline leukemia are given annually while the non-adjuvanted Distemper and upper respiratory viral vaccine is given every three years.



Dogs age seven dog years to every one people year, and the veterinarian's annual examination can be a real blessing to your dog by allowing us to identify and treat problems early.  I'm terrible about going to the doctor myself, but even I see my physician once every seven years!  Cats too age seven cat years for every people year, and the annual exam can really help cats live longer, happier lives.


The New Protocols are a little too complicated to explain concisely on a webpage. 

The AAHA guidelines, for instance, are 28 pages long.  If you like, we can discuss the particulars during the vaccination visit.



  • There has been some new research that shows that we need to start using different vaccines at different intervals in our dogs and cats.  
  • We now have written guidelines, established by the AAFP and AAHA which  are widely considered to be the new standard of practice.  
  • The annual physical exam remains the most important instrument in the veterinarian's hands for helping your pet line a long and healthy life.