Don't procrastinate - vaccinate! A vets's guide to vaccinating your pets

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
Don't procrastinate - vaccinate! A vets's guide to vaccinating your pets

Vaccinations are essential for all dogs and cats, young and old, to keep them in the best possible health.

As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your furkids are always up to date on their vaccinations, and that also goes for any new pets introduced into the family. Sometimes an animal will be vaccinated before being handed over to his or her new family, but this isn’t always the case.

When you first adopt a pet into your family, it’s vital that you find out his or her vaccination status.

Why is it important to vaccinate my pet?

Many of the diseases that your pets are vaccinated against can be life-threatening, which is why vaccinating your furkids is so critical. And in South Africa, the risk of disease is real! At our practice, we see parvovirus (katgriep/cat flu) on an almost daily basis, and distemper outbreaks occur regularly. Rabies, too, is on the rise.

If you research pet vaccinations online, you could come across anti-vaccination articles and blogs that may imply that vaccinating your pets could harm them. However, given the very real threat of disease in South Africa, the risk of not vaccinating your pet far outweighs any risk of vaccinating them.

Also bear in mind that many of these articles are written in Europe or the United States – countries that experience a very low or no incidence of some of these diseases.

In private practice, vaccine reactions and/or side effects are incredibly rare, and when side effects do occur, they’re easily managed. Most dogs experience no side effects to their vaccinations.

Essential pet vaccinations for puppies and kittens

All puppies and kittens need to be vaccinated to help prevent disease. The absolute minimum puppy vaccinations are at six weeks, nine weeks, and 12 weeks, followed by a booster within nine months.

For kittens, the absolute minimum vaccinations are at eight weeks and 12 weeks, with boosters within nine months.

What diseases do pet vaccinations protect against?

Here’s a quick guide to the core pet vaccinations that your cat or dog requires and the diseases they protect against:


Parvovirus (katgriep/cat flu)

Distemper (hond siekte)

Type 2 parainfluenza virus

Adenovirus (type 1 and 2 )

Canine infectious hepatitis



Feline calicivirus

Feline rhinotracheitis virus

Feline panleukopenia virus


Optional vaccines are also available, such as kennel cough and leptospirosis for dogs, and leukemia virus for cats. Vaccination protocols can be discussed with your vet.

A minimum of three rounds of vaccinations for dogs and two for cats is required for your pet’s body to build up sufficient immunity against disease.

How often do I need to vaccinate my pet?

It’s critical to remember that adult and older pets need vaccinations and boosters, too!

Depending on which vaccination is administered, boosters need to be given either annually or every three years. Your vet will be able to guide you in this regard. However, whether it’s once a year or once every three years, it’s essential you stick to the correct timeframes. If vaccinations are skipped for too long, your pet’s immunity towards diseases, particularly serious illnesses like distemper and rabies, may wane, leaving your animal vulnerable to infection.

If you’re serious about keeping your pet in the best possible health, you’ll make sure you stick to a regular vaccination protocol. If you’re in doubt, chat to your vet for more information – this is always more reliable than turning to online resources or hearsay.

Here’s to a long, happy and illness-free life for your furbaby!

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