Journal Scan: New guidelines reduce risks and adverse effects for puppy and kitten vaccinations


An overview of the importance of timing and risk assessment when developing vaccine protocols for pediatric patients.

Why they did it

Unlike vaccination in adult dogs and cats, vaccinating puppies and kittens poses a unique challenge with developing immunity and interference from maternal antibodies. This article's author provides an overview of basic immunology and discusses the importance of timing and risk assessment when developing vaccine protocols for pediatric patients.


Similar to adult vaccination guidelines already established-the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Canine Vaccination Guidelines ( and the 2013 American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report ( recommendations provide guidance on vaccines that should be considered for the majority of pediatric patients (core vaccines) versus those that should only be considered in select circumstances (noncore vaccines).

Similar to the 2011 AAHA guidelines, the author recommends canine distemper virus, adenovirus type 2, and parvovirus vaccines be considered as core vaccines for dogs beginning between 6 and 9 weeks of age. Vaccines should be administered every three to four weeks until 16 weeks of age.

For feline pediatric patients, the author recommends core vaccination protocols include administering feline herspesvirus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus vaccinations beginning between 6 and 9 weeks of age. Vaccines should be repeated every three to four weeks until 12 weeks of age. The minimum age for rabies vaccination in either group is 12 weeks of age, but this will depend on local, provincial, and state regulations.

Considering kittens are more vulnerable to a feline leukemia virus infection than adult cats, these guidelines recommend vaccinating against it for all kittens older than 8 weeks of age after confirmating negative viral status. Although the leukemia vaccination is considered a noncore vaccine, it is highly recommended for all kittens. AAFP feline vaccination guidelines recommend a similar protocol.

Noncore vaccines for pediatric canine patients include leptospirosis, bordetellosis, Lyme disease, and influenza. Vaccination against these infections depends on level of risk, lifestyle, and geographic location. Canine coronavirus and adenovirus type 1 vaccines are not recommended.

In regard to kittens, these guidelines recommend use of chlamydiosis and bordetellosis vaccines only in high-risk environments. Feline immunodeficiency virus and feline infectious peritonitis virus vaccines are not recommended.

Because of the risk of feline injection-site sarcomas, the author also discusses recommended sites for kitten vaccinations. In addition to careful vaccine selection based on risk assessment and use of nonadjuvanted vaccines, subcutaneous vaccination in the distal aspect of the peripheral limbs is recommended:

• Feline leukemia virus in the left pelvic limb

• Rabies in the right pelvic limb

• Multivalent herpesvirus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus in the right thoracic limb

Take-home message

The use of appropriate and individualized vaccine protocols will help reduce the risk of disease while minimizing possible adverse effects.

Davis-Wurzler GM. 2013 update on current vaccination strategies in puppies and kittens. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2014;44(2):235-263.

Link to abstract:

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