Do Senior Dogs and Cats Need Vaccinations?
Well, the simple answer is, it depends. The need for vaccination greatly depends on the current health and vaccination history of your pet. Dogs older than seven years of age are considered senior pets, and cats are considered elderly by the time they are about 11 years old. Typically, by the time our pets are reaching their golden years, they should have received all of their vaccinations multiple times throughout their lives.
Puppies and kittens typically get their first vaccinations within weeks of birth and then will receive booster shots about every three years throughout their lives. Consult your veterinarian for a vaccination schedule based upon your cat or dog’s specific health. Schedule an exam at least once a year, although visiting the veterinarian every 6 months is recommended for geriatric pets.
Why Vaccinations Are Important For Older Animals
Senior cat and dog immune systems are much weaker than a puppy or kitten’s immune system. An older pet’s immune system effectiveness weakens with age as the body begins to deteriorate. This increases the chances for illness and disease, which is why it is so important to protect your pet early.
Vaccinating your older dog or cat can help protect them from potentially fatal and severe diseases such as Canine Parvovirus or Feline Panleukopenia, while also keeping them happy and healthy. However, just like any medical procedure, there are risks and side effects that may occur. If your pet has a medical condition or chronic disease, ask your vet if immunizations are safe in your pet’s specific case. Common side effects that can impact animals at any age include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and swelling. All of these side effects can be exacerbated in elderly animals.
If you are worried about the potential negative side effects of vaccines, inquire about a titer test for core vaccines such as Parvo and Distemper for your pet. A titer test will check the immune response of your animal and will check for the presence of certain antibodies in the bloodstream. If there are high levels of the antibodies for a specific disease, your pet is considered immune and does not need a booster. If there are not enough detectable antibodies, your pet should be re-vaccinated if there are not any health concerns. This testing can be done every three years when a booster may be needed.
There are several vaccinations considered “core vaccines.” For dogs, these include Parvo, Distemper, Adenovirus, and Rabies. For cats, core vaccines include Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Calicivirus, Feline Rhinotracheitis (also known as feline herpesvirus), and Rabies.
It is important to keep your senior cat or senior dog up to date with their vaccines, and your veterinarian will determine the best schedule for your senior pet’s lifestyle. Usually, boosters are required every three years, however, there are some vaccines with a shorter duration of immunity such as Lyme disease that need to be administered more frequently.
Other Vaccinations That May Be Recommended By Your Vet
- Feline leukemia
- Feline AIDS
- Feline infectious peritonitis
- Chlamydophila felis
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Borrelia burgdorferi
- Leptospira bacteria.