The question of vaccinations in recent years has sparked a remarkable amount of debate and controversy. This is across both the human and animal worlds. During the last year, vaccinations have received much wider attention, with the pandemic causing a large shift in our daily lives. Things that were once simple, such as taking your pet for their annual veterinary visit, are now complicated or impossible.

In the pet world, with veterinary practices limiting their services to urgent cases only, one of the questions that has been raised over the last year is: what happens if my pet’s booster is overdue?

By definition, vaccinations are a substance injected to stimulate the production of antibodies by the recipient’s immune system. Thereby inducing immunity from a particular disease. In our small domestic pets, there are several diseases that we consider mandatory worldwide to protect against. In this post, these will be known as ‘core vaccinations.’ The additional ‘non-core vaccinations’ are location and lifestyle dependent. 

Pets do not receive the same blanket vaccination every year

Non-core vaccinations are largely dependent on lifestyle and environmental factors. This might include whether your animal social with others, do they need to be put into kennels or catteries, is the disease endemic in your country? However, every animal must receive the ‘core’ vaccinations.

In dogs, their ‘core’ or ‘trivalent’ vaccination will be given every three years. With their non-core (leptospirosis and kennel cough) licensed annually (although in some countries, including the UK, Lepto is considered a Core vaccine – Editor.). In cats, they will be given their core vaccination either annually or trianually (depending on the vaccine), and their non-core vaccine (feline leukaemia virus) every two to three years. 

Core Parvovirus, Distemper, Adenovirus Parvovirus/enteritis, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus 
Non-core Kennel Cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica), Leptospirosis, Rabies, Parainfluenza Feline Leukemia virus/Feline immunodeficiency virus, Rabies, Chlamydia 

Yet just how important is it that the vaccinations are on time? 

You’ve got the date for your pet’s jabs circled on your calendar and set as a reminder in your phone. But with the world in upheaval, it shouldn’t matter if you push these boosters back, right? At what point does protection from the vaccinations lapse?

In current time, veterinarians are now listening to the overarching lockdown guidelines, and are taking it into their own stride as to whether or not they should be open for non-urgent and routine cases. You may be slightly confused as to where your local veterinary practice stands with the current lockdown guidelines, which are changing month to month depending on government advice. So if in doubt, it is always best to call your regular clinic and receive advice directly. 

How much leeway is there in delaying booster jabs?

According to WSAVA (The World Small Animal Veterinary Association) there is currently a three-month leeway period. In which any adult animal, with their full course of immunisations as a puppy or kitten, will be considered ‘protected’ for three months after their annual booster is due. If they have surpassed this three-month period, then they will need to start a part of their course again, and will need to have a second vaccination 2-4 weeks later. In these times, if your pet is considered overdue and you are uncertain whether they will be completely ‘covered,’ it is always best to be cautious. This might include avoiding risks such as cross-country free roam walking and socialisation with other pets. 

However, it remains different for puppies and kittens

If they are receiving their first course of immunisations, appropriate timing of these vaccinations is key. Missing the ‘booster’ at this time can mean that your new pet isn’t covered for these diseases. So it is of utmost importance that – before introducing your new pet to the outside world- you vaccinate them. This usually involves two vaccinations 2-4 weeks apart from 8 weeks of age. In higher risk areas, where parvovirus or distemper is endemic, a third vaccination at 16 weeks or older will be required. As always, however, phone the veterinary clinic in your area for local advice.

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