Cat & Dog Vaccination Guidelines

Chances are, if your pet spends any time outside, he or she is regularly exposed to diseases such as leptospirosis (a bacterial infection passed through urine) or rabies (passed through contact with a rabid animal). Your pet can receive animal bites or get into contaminated blood or raw meat from wild animals such as birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and rabbits.

Socializing with other animals also can increase the chance of disease, even if your pet stays indoors. Vaccinations help keep your pet healthy and happy by fighting off diseases. At Mt. Nittany Veterinary Hospital, we recommend vaccinations for your pet on an individual basis depending on your pet’s age, lifestyle, and risk of exposure. Some vaccines are administered annually, while other vaccines are recommended every six months or every three years depending upon the vaccine type.

We typically recommend the following vaccines and preventives:


  • Distemper/adenovirus/parainfluenza/parvovirus—Distemper is a highly contagious and a potentially fatal viral disease; adenovirus can cause liver and kidney damage; parainfluenza is a virus that causes an upper respiratory infection; parvovirus is a virus that attacks the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Vaccines are recommended every three years after initial series.
  • Rabies—Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including dogs and humans. Vaccination is recommended every three years after the initial vaccine in dogs, and is required by law.
  • Leptospirosis—This is a bacterial infection that can damage the liver, kidneys, and other major organs. Vaccination is recommended every year.
  • Bordetella—Bordetella is a bacterial infection that can cause respiratory disease also known as kennel cough. Vaccines are recommended every six months, depending on exposure in boarding kennels, dog parks, obedience school, veterinary hospitals, or grooming facilities.
  • Heartworm—Heartworm is a mosquito-borne illness. Dogs as young as six weeks of age and older should be given a heartworm preventive (which is not a vaccination, but an oral medication) and should be tested annually for heartworms. This test also includes a screening for tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. For dogs receiving oral heartworm preventive year-round, we recommend testing every three years.
  • Lyme disease—This disease is caused by infected deer ticks and is dangerous to both dogs and humans. Vaccines are recommended every year, depending on risk of exposure.


  • FVRCP—Feline distemper is a highly contagious virus that is potentially fatal if left untreated. Vaccines are recommended every three years following initial vaccine series.
  • Rabies—Rabies is a fatal disease that can infect all warm-blooded animals including cats and humans. Vaccines are required by law every three years, but the three-year vaccines contain an additive called an adjuvant; we recommend an annual vaccination with a non-adjuvant type of vaccine, which is safer for your cat. An adjuvant is a compound that is added to the vaccine to trigger a stronger inflammatory reaction at the location of the injection than a non-adjuvant vaccine does, unfortunately increasing the discomfort of the vaccination. Furthermore, deadly cancers, called feline vaccine-associated sarcomas, have been more commonly observed since rabies vaccines began to contain adjuvants. For these reasons, we recommend a non-adjuvant type vaccine.
  • Feline leukemia—This virus suppresses a cat’s immune system and can cause serious illness and death. Vaccines are now recommended for all kittens and very young cats, and then are recommended for all cats with ongoing risk of exposure.
  • Feline AIDS—This is a viral infection that attacks the immune system of cats. Only in rare, specific situations are vaccinations recommended.

Mt. Nittany Veterinary Hospital encourages pet adoptions from local animal shelters. If you choose to get a pet from a humane society or animal shelter, take in a stray, or in some other way inherit a pet, it should be brought in for a full physical exam as soon as possible. We will want to evaluate the current health of your pet and determine a health care regimen that best suits you and your new pet’s needs.