The Importance Of Vaccines For Cats and Dogs

Debra Soth
June 7, 2021

Mandatory Dog & Cat Vaccinations in Germany

Even though vaccines are a very controversial topic amongst humans there is a good reason why they are around. While they do not only protect you from illnesses such as the flu, they can also help prevent diseases from your furry friends. If you want to find out more about the process of vaccinating your pets and which ones are necessary and aren't, keep reading!

While no law in Germany states that your pet has to be vaccinated, it is still crucial to ensure your dog or cat is protected from infections such as distemper or rabies. Moreover, there is a rabies regulation (Tollwut-Verordnung) in Germany that requires a rabies-infected animal to be killed unless it has been vaccinated against the disease. So, vaccination is a simple way to protect the animal and save treatment costs for worse health conditions. If your vaccinated pet does get sick, the vaccine will benefit in easing the course of the disease and help your pet get better soon and live a longer and healthier life!

How pets get infected

There are different ways for an animal to get infected with a disease. The main reason that happens is when your pet is allowed to roam around freely outside. A direct infection can occur when your pet sniffs other pets or plays or gets into fights with them. An indirect infection usually happens through sniffing excretions (yikes...) from sick counterparts or transmission of bacteria through hands, shoes, or utensils such as food bowls. Though infected animals aren't always automatically sick, healthy animals can also harbor and excrete pathogens without becoming ill themselves. Pathogens are usually host-specific - meaning that either only cats or dogs get infected. However, there are some exceptions, like rabies, that can get passed on to humans too.

What vaccines and when?

Generally, your pet should only get vaccinated if it's necessary.

In the first few weeks of life, cats and dogs are protected against various pathogens by antibodies absorbed through their mother's milk. These antibodies, however, are broken down again over time, so your pet can be exposed to pathogens again. Therefore, it is recommended to vaccinate your pets at the age of eight weeks. This is called basic immunization.

Dogs should be protected against the most serious diseases such as:

  • leptospirosis (transmitted through infected rodent urine which your dog can pick up through drinking from stagnant water or puddles)
  • parvovirus (can cause massive vomiting and diarrhea)
  • distemper (similar to the measles virus)
  • kennel cough (a respiratory disease)
  • rabies

In cats, this applies to:

  • cat flu
  • cat disease
  • FIP (feline infectious peritonitis aka feline coronavirus)
  • FeLV (feline leukemia virus)
  • rabies

Young cats and dogs should be revaccinated after four weeks.

If there is a higher risk of infection caused by traveling, animal boarding, or cats running freely, vaccinations against fungal infections, amongst others, are also available.

Nevertheless, you should always consult with your veterinarian first! Your vet needs to check your pet's health before vaccinating because the side effects can cause serious health damage. The vet also knows which vaccination makes sense for which animal and when exactly it is needed. There are a lot of factors that determine the type of vaccine(s) your pet is getting. For example: Is your pet frequently exposed to nature and other animals? What diseases are widespread in your area? Or does your animal have any pre-existing illnesses? Even vaccines nowadays can cause negative reactions in individual cases. A weakened immune system, poor nutrition, stress, or illness can all affect the vaccination effectiveness. So make sure the vet thoroughly examines your pet before vaccinating!

How often should I get my pet vaccinated?

Again, the answer to this question depends on where you live and how high the risk of infection is. Traveling or exposure to other animals also plays a role in the frequency of the vaccines.

Your vet should be informed about the health of your pet, the current epidemic situation, and new recommendations from the StIko Vet (the standing committee on vaccination in Germany) and can thereby advise you on which vaccinations are necessary for your animal.

Some vaccines require an annual fresh-up, others every two or three years. While rabies, parvovirus, and distemper usually need a fresh-up every three years, vaccines against leptospirosis should be redone annually.

Costs

You will have to spend the most money during basic immunization since your pet has to be revaccinated after a few weeks. Expect 30 to 40 euros per vaccine and around 50 to 70 euros for the rabies vaccine. A popular method for dogs is the combination vaccination (Kombi-Impfung) which is a mix of vaccines against six diseases in one shot (distemper, parvovirus, rabies, leptospirosis, kennel cough, and canine hepatitis). This vaccine also costs between 50 - 70 euros.

To sum up this blog post in a sentence: Vaccines are important to the health of your pet, but you should ALWAYS consult a trusted veterinarian first! Catch up with us on our next blog post (or previous ones) and until then stay happy and healthy ☺️.

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