Vaccinations in dogs and cats

What are vaccinations?

Vaccines are specially prepared biological products that activate your pet’s immune system to fight certain diseases. When the animal is then challenged by the disease the immune system will recognise it and stop it developing.

Vaccines are normally against viral diseases that have no cure. Most of these diseases are life-threatening.

 Diseases that we vaccinate against in dogs

 Parvovirus: also known as ‘cat flu’ or ‘kat-griep’

It is very contagious and normally attacks young puppies. The virus can live in the environment for 6 months and is very hard to get rid of. It causes loss of appetite, continual vomiting, pain and bloody diarrhoea. Puppies can die within 24 hours. They need intensive medical treatment to keep them alive.

Distemper: also known as ‘honde-siekte’

This affects dogs of all ages. It is airborne and spreads easily. The disease has two stages. The dog first gets a very high fever, pus in the eyes and nose, a cough and vomiting or diarrhoea. They can recover from this only to develop brain signs such as muscle twitches and convulsions. Dogs with these symptoms cannot be cured.

Canine Hepatitis:

This causes fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, severe pain and jaundice. Dogs with hepatitis die very easily.


It is actually law in South Africa to have all dogs and cats regularly vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a disease that people can get and it is very serious. Rabies is carried by dogs and in Port Elizabeth the mongoose can carry it.


Kennel Cough:

This is not a life-threatening disease but it is highly contagious. Dogs get a dry hacking cough for 7-10 days and the cough spreads through all the dogs in the household. If dogs are going to the kennels then they need this extra vaccination.

Age of Vaccination

1st:            6-8 weeks of age

2nd:           10-12 weeks of age

3rd:           14-16 weeks of age

Thereafter an annual booster.

 It is very important that a puppy gets all 3 initial vaccinations and then their annual booster.

It is very important to keep puppies away from public areas until 10 days after their 3rd vaccination as until then they are not fully protected.


Vaccinations in cats

Cats are equally susceptible to contagious diseases. These diseases are mostly different to dog diseases with the exception of rabies. Cat diseases often spread easily as they are transferred by fighting and biting or through food bowls and litter trays.

Feline Panleukopaenia virus:

This mostly affects young cats and spreads very easily. It causes severe vomiting, depression, pain and bloody diarrhoea. Cats can die easily.

Cat ‘Snuffles’:

‘Snuffles’ consists of a few diseases that cause similar symptoms. The diseases include Herpes virus, Calici virus, Chlamydia and Bordetella.

Sneezing, coughing and runny eyes are the main symptoms. The cats can become very depressed and stop eating and drinking. ‘Snuffles’ is highly contagious and can recur throughout the cat’s life.

 Feline Leukaemia virus:

This is a viral disease that can cause a variety of symptoms. It can be transmitted from a mother cat during pregnancy. It is also transmitted through fighting and biting and through shared bowls and litter trays. Outdoor cats are at an increased risk to this disease.

Leukaemia virus can cause loss of appetite, high fever, weight loss, anaemia and can develop into various forms of cancer. There is no cure for feline Leukaemia virus.

Feline Immunodeficiency virus: ‘Cat Aids

This is a viral disease that causes a suppression of the cat’s immune system and thus makes the cat susceptible to a large variety of diseases. It is also a fatal disease and is transmitted through fighting and biting.

Age of vaccination

1st:            8-10 weeks of age

2nd:           12-14 weeks of age

3rd:           16-18 weeks of age

Thereafter an annual booster maintains their immunity.

Remember: Prevention is better than cure and sometimes there is no cure!