Vaccines Part One: Puppies and Kittens

Getting your puppy or kitten vaccinated is one of the best ways to prevent disease, and keep them healthy throughout the year. Some vaccines are given every month in kittens and puppies, from around the ages of two months to four months. In this blog post, we’ll explain why it’s so important to vaccinate puppies and kittens every month at this young age.

Kittens and puppies are born with one special advantage when it comes to fighting disease: Their mothers. No, their mothers won’t scare away disease by growling or hissing, the secret is in their blood and in their milk – it’s their antibodies. Antibodies are proteins produced by the protective cells of the body (white blood cells). Antibodies circulate in the blood, and attach to bacteria and viruses, blocking them from causing disease.

A pregnant dog or cat passes some of her antibodies on to her puppies or kittens through her placenta. The puppies and kittens also get more of her antibodies just after they are born from their mother’s milk. Young kittens and puppies are unable to make their own protective antibodies, and so they need the antibodies from their mother to protect them. However, as the puppy or kitten ages, the mother’s antibodies begin to fade. Within several months of birth, they are all gone.  Once the antibodies are all gone the puppy or kitten is susceptible to the viruses and bacteria that the antibodies were protecting against.

In order for vaccines to work, they need to meet those white blood cells that produce antibodies “face to face”. However, antibodies from the mother neutralize vaccines in puppies and kittens before the vaccine has a chance to introduce itself to the white blood cells!

When we vaccinate every month, from the ages of two to four months, we are trying to find that exact spot where the mother’s antibodies are low enough in the blood of the puppy or kitten. That way the mothers’ antibodies won’t block the vaccine, and before the mothers’ antibodies are so low that the puppy or kitten can get sick from any diseases. We never know exactly the perfect time – every puppy and kitten is different – and that’s why we vaccinate every month during this critical time.

Written by Dr. Ira Froimovitch