Vaccination can be a bit of a hot button issue for some people. At Young’s Animal Hospital, we consider the protection from diseases with the use of appropriate vaccines a critical part of your pet’s overall healthcare. We also recognize that there is a chance with any vaccine to have an adverse effect. Vaccine reactions are very rare, but can occur. Typically, the reaction is relatively minor (mild soreness at the injection site), but very, very rarely can be life-threatening. Due to that very small risk, we consider it prudent to only vaccinate when the risks of the disease outweigh the risk of a vaccine reaction. This has resulted in our clinic revisiting and restructuring our vaccine protocols.

There is considerable evidence that pets retain protection from the viral diseases distemper, parvovirus and panleukopenia (feline parvo) for much longer than the 3-year interval that we have been vaccinating. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends boostering these vaccines at intervals of 3 years or longer. Because of this, we will begin boostering these vaccines at longer intervals. To make sure your pets are protected by the vaccines they have received, we will be testing pets to make sure they are still protected (titres) The bacterial vaccines will still need to be boostered yearly and the need for them is based on your pet’s lifestyle. Puppies and kittens will still need to undergo a series of vaccines to make sure they become adequately protected. This series is necessary because the puppies and kittens are born with immunity from the mother, but that immunity wears off over time. What we don’t know is exactly when that immunity wears off, thus, a vaccine series. Between 8 and 16 weeks, we recommend they be vaccinated for distemper every 4 weeks. When you visit us for your wellness visit, please expect to discuss the various vaccines and your pet’s individual risk factors with your doctor and don’t hesitate to ask any questions about the diseases and your pet’s risk of exposure. Below is a list of the vaccines we carry.

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies – We have not changed our rabies vaccination protocol, because FL state law requires every dog, cat and ferret to be vaccinated. Dogs and cats every 3 years after the first 1-year vaccine, ferrets are vaccinated yearly.


DHPP (distemper/hepatitis/parvovirus/parainfluenza) – AAHA considers this a core vaccine and recommends all dogs be vaccinated against these viruses. Once the initial series is complete, we recommend running titres to check immunity or vaccinate every 5 years.

Bordetella (kennel cough) and Canine Influenza – all dogs that visit boarding or grooming facilities, or frequent dog parks is considered very high risk and should be vaccinated. The most recent flu strain is particularly contagious, and can result in pneumonia if not treated. These vaccines must be given yearly.

Leptospirosis – Lepto is a truly heinous disease. This is currently considered a lifestyle vaccine, but that may be changing due to the severity and life-threatening nature of the liver and kidney disease that it causes. Additionally, it is zoonotic (contagious to people). Even with appropriate treatment, the damage caused by this bacterium can be life-long. The older lepto vaccines were associated with a fairly high risk of vaccine reactions, but the current vaccines are much safer and have a very low rate of negative reactions. The bacterium is carried by wildlife. Therefore, in the past it was mostly outdoor and hunting dogs that were vaccinated against it. However, the largest group of infected dogs recently are small breed dogs like Yorkies in urban areas. This actually makes sense, since we all know that areas of high density and dumpsters attract rats, racoons, etc. The bacteria live/thrive in wet environments. The state of Florida is essentially a swamp. Therefore, virtually any dog who walks outdoors can be at risk. This vaccine needs to be administered yearly.

Leptospirosis Vaccine

Lyme – Lyme disease is pretty rare in central Florida. However, many of our clients are “snowbirds” and spend half of the year or more in areas where the disease is prevalent. Like other bacterial diseases, this vaccine must be given yearly if your pet is at risk


FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis/calicivirus/panleukopenia) – like the canine distemper vaccine, AAHA considers this a core vaccine and recommends all cats be vaccinated against this. After the initial series, we recommend running a titre, or vaccinating indoor cats every 5 years. For outdoor kitties, we recommend vaccinating every 3 years, because we know that only the panleukopenia lasts longer than 3 years, so we want to keep our outdoor cats protected against the other diseases since they will be exposed to other cats when outdoors.

Leukemia – We recommend this vaccine for outdoor cats, since they are at risk from contracting the disease from other cats. This must be boostered yearly if your pet is at risk.

Again, if you have any questions, please ask your doctor. We want to work with you to make the best possible decisions for you and your pets. Vaccination is a large part of that. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 321-260-3841 or click Request an Appointment

Angela Bockelman, DVM, PhD