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Why is it so important to give puppies and kittens vaccines at certain ages AND certain intervals?

By Dr. WittkeMarch 19th, 2012

Puppy and kitten wellness examinations are performed every 3-4 weeks to evaluate the growth and overall health of the animal.  At each visit, we will also be giving booster vaccinations which generally start at 6-8 weeks of age and continue to approximately 16 weeks of age.

Why is this necessary?

Natural Immunity

Puppies and kittens are born with a natural immunity that they receive from their mother in utero. This natural immunity occurs because the mother passes some of her antibodies (immunity) through the placenta to the babies.  When the animals are finally born, they continue to receive some antibodies from the mother’s milk, on top of the antibodies that they’ve already received.

Levels of Immunity Vary

We start vaccinations at an early age because some puppies or kittens don’t receive any or as many antibodies from the mother, and those puppies or kittens need to be protected.

The boosters must continue for a minimum of 12 weeks because some puppies or kittens retain their mother’s antibodies for a longer period of time, and vaccinations will not be viable in them. (Their natural immunity protects them from our own vaccinations as well as certain viruses.)

Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which category a particular puppy or kitten fits into. Thus, to be certain that each one is protected, we vaccinate all of them in the same manner.

Photo courtesy of Jim Mead on Flickr

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