Just like humans, animals can be affected by infectious diseases, some of which can be transferred to humans (zoonotic diseases). As responsible pet owners that want to keep your animals safe and healthy, we highly recommend that you vaccinate them in line with current guidelines.

Puppies and Kittens

Puppies and kittens receive initial protection against infectious diseases from their mother’s milk as long as she has been regularly vaccinated. However this protection only lasts for a few weeks and so your new addition will need to be vaccinated from an early age. Many puppies or kittens will go to their new homes having already received their first vaccinations, but check with their former owner when you collect them. If they have not yet been vaccinated, we recommend that get their first vaccinations done as soon as possible after taking ownership of them.

As a guideline:

  • Puppies and kittens should be vaccinated initially at 6-8 weeks of age and then every 3-4 weeks until at least 16 weeks of age.
  • Booster injections should then be given 12 months from the initial vaccinations, and then every 1-3 years after.
  • We follow the AAHA Vaccination guidelines, but we also tailor your pet’s vaccinations to its lifestyle and exposures.


Your canine friend should be routinely vaccinated against the following:

  • Rabies – A virus of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that can affect any mammal.  It is widespread throughout Pennsylvania, is typically transmitted by a bite wound, and is nearly 100% fatal if treatment is not initiated after exposure. PA Rabies law says that dogs must be vaccinated for rabies between 12 and 16 weeks of age, receive their next vaccine 1 year after the initial one, and then every 3 year after (current manufacturer guidelines).
  • Leptospirosis – A bacteria-based disease usually spread by infected water. It can cause fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice in your pet. Severe infections can cause organ failure and death. It can be treated by antibiotics, but the bacteria can be carried for months afterwards and their urine will remain a health hazard to both other animals and humans. Leptospirosis in humans can be fatal.
  • Canine distemper virus – Spread by bodily fluid contact, there is no specific treatment and dogs with severe symptoms often die. Those who survive commonly have neurological difficulties later in life. Symptoms include fever, coughing, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Canine parvovirus – Spread by contact with feces from infected dogs, it mainly affects puppies, but can also be seen in dogs that have not had regular booster vaccinations. Symptoms include vomiting and bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Without treatment, most dogs with parvovirus unfortunately will not survive. Treatment has an approximately 75-80% success rate after a 5-7 day hospital stay.
  • Infectious canine hepatitis –  Infection is passed via bodily fluid contamination, and the virus can survive in the environment for prolonged periods. There are two types of the virus, a kennel cough type infection and a liver infection (hepatitis). Symptoms are almost identical to parvovirus. The symptoms can be treated rather than the main disease, but most dogs will survive.
  • Lyme disease – Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks that is very prevalent in Pennsylvania.  While many dogs will not show clinical disease, the most common visible signs are arthritis or lameness due to painful joints.  Dogs may experience fever, loss of appetite, loss of energy, or fatal kidney disease in severe cases.  Tick prevention coupled with vaccination is the best way to prevent lyme exposure.

If your dog is going to spending time in kennels they may also be vaccinated via the nostril against kennel cough, which is a combination of parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica.


Your feline friend should be routinely vaccinated against the following:

  • Feline calicivirus Commonly called ‘cat flu’ as its symptoms include sneezing, fever, discharge from the nose and eyes, and mouth ulcers. Spreads via cat to cat contact, airborne contact or contamination of the living environment. Vaccination prevents some strains but not all.
  • Feline herpes virus – Spread by the saliva or discharge from the nose and eyes in infected cats, it can also survive in its environment. Like feline calicivirus it is a type of ‘cat flu’ as its symptoms include fever, sneezing, conjunctivitis, and discharge from the eyes. Once a cat has had feline herpes it is infected for life and may suffer recurrent flare-ups that are treated with antibiotics and eye drops.
  • Feline infectious enteritis – Spread by the feces and urine of infected cats, this virus attacks their immune system leaving the animal unable to fight infection. Pregnant cats can transmit the disease to their kittens while they are in the womb. Symptoms include fever, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Feline leukemia virus – Cats dubbed ‘at risk’ should also be vaccinated against feline leukemia virus.  This disease is thought to require very close contact to infected cats to be spread, such as milk from mother to kitten or saliva.   The symptoms include poor body condition and coat, anorexia, diarrhea, and jaundice. The virus attacks the bone marrow which results in leukemia and sometimes lymphoma.
  • Rabies – Even indoor cats need Rabies vaccines due to risk of bats coming indoors and cats escaping outside.  At Susquehanna Trail Hospital, we carry PureVax vaccines, which are the safest vaccines available for your feline friends.

Click here for more information regarding vaccinations.