Annual Vaccinations

Should all dogs and cats receive booster vaccinations every year for their whole lives? I have heard people talking about so-called titre tests that vets can do to determine if a pet really needs a booster vaccination. Are these readily available in SA and what are the logistics involved?


Puppies need to be vaccinated at six weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. The six weeks vaccination protects puppies against parvovirus, distemper virus and adenoviruses that can cause hepatitis, and parainfluenza viruses that cause respiratory tract infections. We repeat that as soon as eight weeks, because the mother’s immunity might still work against the vaccine at six weeks. At 12 weeks and 14 weeks the same vaccine plus rabies are given. After the initial vaccinations we recommend boosters once a year.


Kittens need to be vaccinated at eight weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. The eight weeks injection protects kittens against rhinotracheitis, parainfluenza and panleukopaenia.

At 12 weeks we repeat the above vaccines but add rabies and a vaccine that protects the kitten against leukaemia. This is also repeated at 16 weeks.

shutterstock_230670748Why the annual boosters?

Vets in first-world countries believe that the vaccines only need to be repeated once in three years, but the risk of infections in these countries is less. We have a large number of dogs in rural areas who are not vaccinated routinely, making the risk for infections here so much higher.

What about titre tests?

Titre tests are blood tests to test whether your animal has enough immunity against a certain virus and would tell you whether another vaccination is needed or not. If clients ask us to do it, we will send blood away for those tests.  The test and the courier fees need to be paid for.

Vaccinating once a year should not cause any side effects and a once-a-year check-up by a veterinarian is highly recommended.

Text: Dr Marli Grewar, veterinarian

The full article appears in the April issue of AnimalTalk. 


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