Pet Vaccinations: Vaccinations for Your Cat or Dog (cont.)

But does the fact pets might be susceptible mean they need vaccination?

No, says Schultz. "Lifestyle and location play important roles. If your dog lived on the fifth floor of an apartment building, it wouldn't have to worry about kennel cough, unless it is kenneled or taken out to be around other dogs. And your dog won't get Lyme disease in many areas of the country. Ask your vet."

Leptospira is a bacterium that causes leptospirosis, which can be life threatening. Disease outbreaks are usually caused by exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, including rats, cattle, pigs, horses, and deer, says Schultz: "If your dog doesn't go hunting, or if it's not around other animals, there's no need [for it to be vaccinated." Also, this vaccine causes more adverse reactions than many others, so it's important to weigh the risk versus benefit when deciding if you pet needs it.

Vets talk of "core" and "non-core" vaccines. What's this mean?

Core vaccines are those that are universally recommended and most commonly given. Non-core vaccines are optional, according to protocols of the major veterinary organizations. Parvovirus vaccine is core, and dogs should get a minimum of three doses between six and 16 weeks, administered at intervals of three to four weeks. The final dose should be given at 14-16 weeks. Then the dog needs a booster a year later followed by revaccination every three years.

Other core vaccines for dogs are those against rabies, distemper, and adenovirus-2. Non-core vaccines include those to ward off Bordetella, parainfluenza, Leptospira, and Lyme disease.