Pet vaccinations are a crucial part of keeping your pet healthy and protected from the many different illnesses and diseases that could threaten his ability to enjoy a long, happy and active life with you and your family.

What are vaccinations?

Vaccinations are a form of preventative healthcare that has saved the lives of countless humans and animals throughout the years. They work exactly in the same way for animals as they do humans, acting like a training course for your pet’s immune system. An artificial, safe version of the virus that the vaccine is designed to prevent against is introduced to your pet’s body, triggering his immune system to develop antibodies to fight it. His body will then remember key characteristics of the virus so that it can fight it in the future if it comes into contact with the real version. Often this means that the real virus or disease will have absolutely no effect at all, although in some cases, your pet may experience a muted version of it instead.

Once your pet has been vaccinated, exactly how long he will immune to the disease or virus will depend on his immune system and the effectiveness of the vaccine. Most are only able to protect animals for a set period of time before further doses are necessary. However, as a general rule, vaccines that protect against diseases caused by viruses such as canine distemper or feline panleukopenia, often protect for a longer period than vaccines which are designed to protect our animals from bacteria-based diseases such as Lyme disease or feline chlamydia.

What are the benefits of pet vaccinations?

In addition to keeping your pet safe from the debilitating effects of some serious and potentially deadly diseases, there are some other benefits of sticking to a robust schedule of vaccinations as part of your pet’s preventative care. These include:

  • Not breaking the law. Some states have very specific laws about vaccination requirements for pets. Failure to meet them can lead you to be fined and potentially having your pet destroyed.

  • Protecting your family from any viruses or diseases that are zoonotic, which means that they can be passed from animals to humans, such as Lyme disease and rabies.

  • Being able to put your pet in kennels/boarding if required. Since animals living in boarding are in very close proximity to one another, most facilities have strict entry requirements including being able to prove that your pet has had the necessary vaccinations. This can also apply to some grooming facilities and doggy day-care centers.

  • Strengthening your pet’s overall immune system.

How do I know what vaccinations my pet needs?

Pet vaccinations tend to be divided into two groups. These are known as ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vaccines. Core vaccines are those which are recommended for all animals of the species irrespective of their age, breed or where they live. Non-core vaccines tend to be given if a pet is at greater risk of developing a specific disease. For example, there is a vaccine that can protect dogs from Lyme Disease, but it tends to only be recommended to pets living in areas where the risk of a tick bite is considerable.

Some of the most common ‘core’ vaccines include:

Canine distemper

This protects your dog from several severe and very contagious diseases including parvovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza and distemper.

Feline distemper

This protects your cat from a number of serious feline diseases including calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and the feline version of distemper.


Rabies is an incredibly serious virus that nearly always proves fatal. It is also zoonotic and can be passed between animals and humans. The severity of this virus means that vaccination against rabies is required by law.

If you would like more information about the importance of pet vaccinations, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s vaccination requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable and dedicated veterinary team at our offices in Lakeville, MN.