Vaccinations & Heartworm

Our vaccination protocols are based on recommendations of the Vaccination Guideline Group (VGG) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). Lifelong annual health checks, vaccinations, and preventative health care are all a central parts of our commitment to keeping your pet in great health, and enjoying a fabulous quality of life from infancy to old age. At the time of vaccination, our vets will give your cat or dog a thorough physical exam, and be able to discuss any health care concerns you have. 

A little bit about immunology: Why our pets need vaccination?

When a puppy or a kitten is born and first suckles, protective “antibodies” are transferred from mother to baby through the placenta and through the first milk. The puppy or kitten gets a short term ‘snap shot’ of the mother’s immune system. For a short period, it will have immunity to all the viruses and bacteria that she has been exposed to and built resistance to. So long as the mother has been properly vaccinated, the immunity she transfers will include resistance to deadly PARVO VIRUS in puppies, and the array of CAT FLU viruses in kittens.

Maternal immunity fades when the antibodies disappear from the puppy or kitten’s system over the first couple of months of life. Research shows that in the vast majority, maternal immunity is no longer protective by 12 weeks old.

Our vaccination protocols for puppies and kittens are designed to provide a safety net for early failure of the transferred maternal immunity and are timed to ensure that the baby’s maturing immune system responds appropriately to the vaccines,  and builds its own artillery of protective antibodies. The antibodies produced will not only be strongly protective within 2 weeks of the last vaccination, but they will continue to be produced so that the puppy or kitten will be able to protect itself when exposed even many months later.

It is important to protect puppies and kittens from potential exposure to viruses and bacteria until 2 weeks after the last vaccine is given, hence dog parks and footpaths are out, and trips to kennels or catteries need to be carefully planned. Talk to us about strategies to safely socialise your new baby in this vulnerable time.

Puppy Vaccinations

What vaccinations does my puppy need? 

Our puppy vaccination protocol at Maroochy District Animal Hospital:

Puppy's Age Vaccine
1st Vaccination 6-8 Weeks Old C3
2nd Vaccination 9-11 Weeks Old C5
3rd Vaccination 12-14 Weeks Old C4 OR C5 (vet will advise based on age of 2nd vac)

It can be confusing to know what the terms ‘C3, C4 or C5’ mean….

The C simply is short for CANINE! Easy!

The number refers to how many diseases the vaccine is designed to protect against:

Number 1 is  the deadly PARVO virus, which is exquisitely contagious and causes explosive bloody diarrhoea and vomiting. Think doggy EBOLA! A puppy could pick up parvo from soil where an infected dog defecated up to 18 months previously! Treating a parvo puppy takes intensive care around the clock and quarantine strategies like a nuclear spill.

Number 2 and 3 are canine distemper and canine hepatitis. Fortunately, these diseases are less common than they were 30 years ago. We still vaccinate against them, as doing so has a benefit toward the strength of the immunity to parvo, and if we stop, we will see them sneak back into our canine community.

Numbers 4 and 5 refer to the most common and viruses and bacteria that cause canine cough (formerly known as kennel cough or KC). The VIRUS is parainfluenza virus, which is very similar to the human flu, and the bacteria is Bordatella bronchiseptica, which is the doggy version of Whooping Cough. Both cause infection and inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, with symptoms that can include coughing, rhinitis, and sneezing. In puppies, with their tiny immature airways and lungs, Canine cough can escalate to life threatening pneumonia. It is heartbreaking to see and requires intensive care to treat. Canine cough is very common in our coastal doggy population, and extremely contagious, just like the flu.

All dogs need to be protected, not just those who go to day care, groomers or kennels.

Adult Dog Vaccinations

How often does my adult dog need vaccinations?

Dog's Age Vaccine
1 Year Old C5 (triennial C3 plus KC)
2 Year Old KC
3 Year Old KC
4 Year Old C5 (triennial C3 plus KC)
5 Year Old KC

At 12-14 months old, dogs are due for their first ‘yearly’ C5 vaccination.

In an adult dog, the immune response to vaccination against parvo, distemper and hepatitis viruses is quite strong and long lasting. We use a triennial vaccine protocol for our patients. This means that this part of the vaccine (the C3 part) only needs to be given every 3 years. The immune response to parainfluenza virus and bordatella bacteria, like in humans, is not as long lasting. This part of the vaccination needs to be repeated yearly (KC vaccine).

An adult dog who is overdue for vaccination, or is being vaccinated for the first time, may need a C5 vaccine as a once off, or with a booster 3-4 weeks later.

One size doesn’t fit all! Our vets are happy to discuss and decide with you what is the correct protocol for your dog.

Heartworm Prevention for Dogs

Heartworm prevention comes in 2 forms;

  • YEARLY - A protective injection given by the vet at the same time as your dog’s vaccination OR
  • MONTHLY - In the form of a tablet, a chewy treat, or a spot on given my you at home.

Both methods of protecting your dog against heartworm are very effective, but strict compliance is necessary. If you have concerns about remembering monthly dosing or your dog is hard to treat, then the yearly injection is a great risk management strategy!

Heartworm disease describes the condition where a large worm, looking like a thin piece of spaghetti, grows within a dog’s blood vessels. When a cluster of worms develop together, they migrate to the heart and cause heart failure, hence the name. The worms start their life as tiny larvae, transferred from an infected dog to your dog by a mosquito. The larvae take 6 months to develop into an adult.

Until 20 years ago, heartworm was difficult to prevent and worse to treat, and countless dogs died from the disease. Modern medicine means that it is now easy to prevent, although still rife in the tropics with infected mozzies becoming less concentrated the further we go south. Monitoring of pet dogs, wild dogs and dingos up and down the Fraser coast highlight an alarming depot of infection that poses a constant threat to our Sunshine Coast dog population.

We caution dog owners to be diligent and choose the least risk strategy to protect their pet for life!

Kitten Vaccinations

What vaccinations does my kitten need?

Our kitten vaccination protocol at Maroochy District Animal Hospital:

Kitten's Age Vaccine
1st Vaccination 6-8 Weeks Old F3
2nd Vaccination 9-11 Weeks Old F3 +/- FIV
3rd Vaccination 12-14 Weeks Old F3 +/- FIV
15-18 Weeks Old +/- FIV

Every kitten needs to have a course of F3 vaccines in the first couple of months of life.

There are 3 elements to the vaccine which protect against 3 highly contagious viruses that are very common in our pet cat population.

  • 1/ Feline Rhinotracheitis (herpes virus) + 2/ Calicivirus = These are the main CAT FLU viruses.
  • 3/ Feline panleukopaenia (parvovirus) = Like parvo in dogs, this virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

Due to the contagious nature of these viruses, boarding catteries are very vigilant about ensuring cats who stay with them have their vaccinations up to date. 

Kittens who are going to be allowed outside should also be vaccinated against FIV, with a course of 3 vaccines. (The first is usually given at the time of the second vaccine).

Feline immunodeficiency virus is very similar to the Human HIV virus and can cause an AIDS like disease status in cats. It is not contagious to any other species, but is easily transferred between cats when they fight, mate, or share food and water bowls.

Recently at Maroochy District Animal Hospital, we ran a ‘mini’ local research project and tested 20 sick and well cats who came in to the hospital. We found 2 positives. 10%!! Alarmingly, one of the positives was a stray tom cat who had been a bit of a street thug. He had been hit by a car and was adopted by a lovely gentleman. This handsome fellow is now kept inside, to minimise the threat to other cats, and his disease is managed. He lives with FIV, but has fortunately not developed full blown AIDS.

We recommend that any kitten or cat, who has access to outdoors and the potential to get into a fight, or associate with other cats, should be vaccinated against FIV.

Adult Cat Vaccinations

What vaccination does my adult cat need? 

Adult cats who are kept wholly inside should have an F3 vaccination each year. Adult cats who have access to outside, and hence the potential to get into a fight, or interact with other cats, should have a FIV vaccine each year also.

When Vaccine
Yearly Adult Cat Vaccination F3 (+/- FIV)