Pet vaccinations: what’s in them?

Pet vaccinations cover the most serious viral diseases and some bacterial diseases. It is not possible to vaccinate animals against all diseases, thus the most common and/or serious diseases are included in the vaccines. These vaccines are divided into core and non-core vaccines.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has a group of experts, The Vaccination Guideline Group, that comes together to decide which vaccines are core and which are non-core. They also decide on best practice vaccination schedules based on scientific research.

“We vaccinate because it saves lives. Vaccines are preventative, not curative,” Dr Esmaré van der Walt of EberVet Pet Clinic explains. “They work by strengthening the immune system of your pet so that when they are exposed to a certain disease their body is able to fend off the infection or lessen the severity of the disease.”

Vaccines come in the form of single vaccines or combinations. You will often hear your vet talk about a 5-in-1 or 3-in-1 vaccine. The combined vaccines usually contain most of the core vaccines and some of the non-core. They were developed to make the vaccination more practical, i.e.: giving your pet one injection instead of five.

Pet vaccinations: dogs

  1. Canine parvo-virus (CPV2)

This is a deadly, highly infectious virus affecting mostly puppies. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and fever…s-levels-in-cape/.

  1. Canine distemper virus (CDV)

This is another highly contagious killer disease causing gastrointestinal, respiratory and neurological signs. The most common symptoms are eye and nose discharge, coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea, seizures and muscle twitches.

  1. Canine infectious hepatitis (Canine adenovirus 1)

The virus affects the liver causing loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, abdominal pain and jaundice.

  1. Canine adenovirus 2

This virus affects the respiratory system and is one of the causes of kennel cough.

Non-core vaccines for dogs

  1. Canine parainfluenza virus (CPI)

CPI affects the lungs, causing coughing and a nasal discharge.

  1. Bordetella bronchiseptica

A very infectious bacterium that affects the trachea and lungs causing coughing and gagging. The common name is kennel cough and dogs going to kennels or day care should be vaccinated against this. The vaccine comes in an injectable and intra-nasal form.

  1. Leptospira

This is a bacterium that affects the kidneys causing depression, fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and muscle stiffness.

  1. Corona virus

Not the human version. This one affects only dogs. It causes gastrointestinal signs like vomiting diarrhoea, dehydration, fever, loss of appetite.

Pet vaccinations: cats 

  1. Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV)

It’s a similar virus to parvovirus in dogs causing vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and depression and mostly affects kittens.

  1. Feline rhinotracheitus virus (Feline herpes 1)

This virus affect the eyes and respiratory tract. It causes sneezing, a nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, fever, loss of appetite, ulcers on the cornea and mouth. This is one of the viruses that causes snuffles in cats.

  1. Feline calici virus (FCV)

Also one of the viruses that causes snuffles, its common symptoms are ulcers in the mouth, discharge from the nose and eyes, loss of appetite, salivation, conjunctivitis, fever, depression and lameness.

Non-core vaccines for cats

  1. Chlamydiosis

Causes severe conjunctivitis, excessive tearing and discharge from the eyes.

  1. Feline leukemia (FeLV)

The virus causes fever, malaise, enlarged lymph nodes, anaemia, immunosuppression, and neurological dysfunction. Cats with FeLV are at risk of a host of other potentially fatal diseases due to their suppressed immunity…rus-felv-in-cats/.

  1. Bordetella bronchiseptica

The bacterium causes snuffle-like symptoms. Cats that go to a cattery or live in a multi-cat household should be vaccinated. This is an intra-nasal vaccine.



Rabies is endemic in certain areas of South Africa…ed-to-be-alarmed/.

It is required by law that all dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies.

It is a zoonosis – the virus affects all mammals and it  can be transferred from infected animals to humans.

The virus  affects the nervous system and causes abnormalities in behaviour, changes in temperament (wild animals become tame, domestic animals may show aggression), excessive salivation, loss  of co-ordination and hydrophobia (fear of water).

Article by Dr Esmaré van der Walt, EberVet Pet Clinic









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