Wellness Care

Your Pet Should Receive an Annual Examination and Vaccinations

Because most animals age faster than humans, with some having a relatively short lifespan, we generally recommend that they have a full examination at least once a year.

A lot can change in a few months and the sooner we find any problems, the greater the chances of fixing that problem are.

The more you can tell us about what you’ve seen, the more help you are in finding the problem. Please read the article, Responsible Pet Care, for more details on the part you play in helping your animal companion.

Physical Examination

After, or sometimes as we ask you questions, we will examine your pet. The physical exam involves using our hands, eyes, ears and sometime our sense of smell to evaluate your pet.

If you haven’t seen any problems with your pet and our physical examination doesn’t turn up any problems, vaccines might be indicated may be indicated if your pet is a dog or cat.


Vaccines help reduce your pet’s risk of contracting specific infectious diseases. I often refer to them as “A seatbelt against disease.” They might not prevent contracting an infectious disease, but they generally reduce the problems associated with a disease.

Generally, our recommendations for vaccines are based on your pet’s risk. Core vaccines are ones that are recommended for most animals. These help protect them against the more common diseases.

The one exception is a rabies vaccine which is required by law for all dogs and cats.

Non-care vaccines are generally only recommended if a dog or cat is at risk of exposure.

Read more about how vaccines actually work at the bottom of this page.

Feline Vaccines


A core vaccine and required by law. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal.

Distemper/Panleukopenia, Calici, Rhinotracheitis, Chlamydia

A core vaccine. This is a combination vaccine that includes four vaccines in one. Feline distemper causes panleukopenia, a very serious viral infection that can be fatal. It’s caused by direct contact with an infected cat or with anything an infected cat comes in contact with, like clothing, bedding, toys or hands.

Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis virus and Chlamydia can all cause upper respiratory infections in cats.

Feline Leukemia

A non-core vaccine. This vaccine is recommended for any cat that goes outside or comes in contact with cats that go outside, and we also recommend it for kittens even if you plan to keep them as inside-only cats if there is any risk of exposure.

Feline leukemia is contagious and can be passed in saliva. It can take years from time of exposure for any signs of infection to show.

Canine Vaccines


A core vaccine and required by law. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal.

Distemper/Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, Parvo

Distemper is a viral infection that is most common in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated puppies. It causes severe respiratory problems and is typically fatal.

Adenovirus causes liver problems (hepatitis).

Parainfluenza is a viral infection causing respiratory problems. It is one of the things that can cause kennel cough.

Parvo is a viral infection that causes gastrointestinal problems. It is most common in puppies and can be fatal even with treatment.


A non-core vaccine. Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that causes kennel cough. It can be very serious in very young or very old dogs. Vaccination might not stop the disease but symptoms are generally reduced by getting the vaccine.

It is recommended for all dogs that are boarded, go to a groomer or dog parks. Like most respiratory infections it is very contagious.


A non-core vaccine. This infection is typically mild and usually resolves on its own but has some potential to be severe. Most signs are gastrointestinal. Some boarding facilities require this vaccine.


A non-core vaccine.This is a bacterial infection that can be acquired from contaminated water or soil. Some boarding facilities require it.

It is typically recommended for dogs that go in lakes and ponds, hunting dogs or areas where raccoons are common as they can carry the disease. The infection can cause severe kidney disease and can be fatal. It can also be transmitted to humans.


A non-core vaccine. Named after Old Lyme, Connecticut where the disease was first discovered. This is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borellia burgdorferi and is transmitted by ticks. It is most common in the north eastern United States and is generally recommended for dogs that travel north of Georgia.

Canine flu

A non-core vaccine. Canine influenza is caused by two different flu viruses (H3N8 & H3N2). Some boarding and grooming facilities require this vaccine. It is also suggested for dogs that travel with their owners.

The symptoms of this disease are similar to but more severe than kennel cough. Most dogs recover in a few weeks with symptomatic treatment. Most vaccines protect against both viruses.

How Do Vaccines Work?

Many of my clients assume that the vaccine itself is what protects their animal companions and once we give the vaccine, their pets are protected. In actuality, it is how their immune system reacts to the vaccine that protects them and not the vaccine itself.

Let’s look at the rabies vaccine as an example as it was one of the first vaccines developed. It is made from rabies virus that has been killed. It is purified and sterilized so that it is not able to cause rabies.

When that solution is injected into your dog or cat, their body treats it as if it were a live virus and begins to make antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) against that virus. It takes a few weeks for their body to build up high enough levels of antibodies to protect them and those levels of antibodies can last for a year or more.

If they are exposed to rabies, the antibodies that are already in their body from the vaccine will start to attack the live virus to neutralize it. Although there are different types of viruses, all vaccines work the same way.

Ready to schedule your pet's annual checkup?