Pet Vaccinations in Singapore – what Pet Owners should know

Vaccinations in Pets

Whether you are a brand new or seasoned pet owner, you want nothing but the best for your fur babies. This means putting your pet’s health first! One of the first things that come to mind is preventative healthcare and that includes regular vaccinations for our cats and dogs.

Just as they do in children, vaccinations play a vital role in preventing serious illnesses in our pets.

So what are these vaccinations our pets need? Does my dog or cat really need these vaccinations? Why isn’t one vaccination dose enough? Are pet vaccinations required yearly? Are pet vaccinations safe?

We hope this article will help you understand more about pet vaccinations and how they are an essential part of your pet’s basic healthcare needs.

What vaccines do my cat & dog need?

Raising a pet is certainly not an easy feat and the last thing we want is for our pets to be sick. The vaccinations we give to our pets protect them from contagious viral and bacterial diseases that are common with either serious or fatal consequences if infected.

According to the World Small Animal Association (WSAVA), there are 2 types of vaccines: Core & Non-Core.

Core vaccines are mandatory vaccines every pet should receive as the diseases are too deadly to risk not having immunity against. Non-Core vaccines are administered based on the pet’s lifestyle and exposure to certain diseases.

Here are the core and non-core vaccinations required for our dogs and cats:

Core vaccine combinations vary from country to country.

Here in Singapore, our core vaccine includes:

  • For dogs: Parvovirus, Distemper virus, Adenovirus (causing Canine hepatitis), parainfluenza virus and Leptospirosis (bacteria)
  • For cats: Panleuopaenia virus, Cat flu (herpesvirus -1, calicivirus) and Chlamydia psittaci bacteria.

Optional vaccines are Bordetella bronchiseptica (bacteria) and Feline Leukaemia virus.

Rabies vaccines for both dogs and cats are generally administered for export purposes as Singapore is rabies-free and pets residing here permanently are not at risk of contracting rabies.

Does my pet really need these vaccines? 

YES! Prevention is better than cure!

When administered at the correct frequency, these vaccines give an almost 100% protection against the highly contagious Canine Parvovirus and Canine distemper virus in dogs, and the highly contagious Feline panleucopaenia in cats.

In Dogs:

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper virus is transmitted through body fluids and saliva produced during coughing and sneezing, contaminated food and water bowls, and also from mum to puppies. Symptoms include fever, respiratory disease, neurological signs and loss of appetite. Without vaccination, this disease has a high mortality rate. Dogs that survive often have permanent neurological damage.

Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that affects the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include severe bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Dogs and puppies contract the virus through contact with faeces of an infected animal, an infected environment or sometimes through humans who have been in contact with an infected dog. It has a very high mortality rate (>80%) especially in unvaccinated dogs and puppies.

More on Distemper and Parvovirus

In Cats:

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus caused by feline parvovirus. It affects the gastrointestinal system as well as the brain of cats and kittens. Symptoms include severe vomiting, diarrhoea, low white blood cell counts, lethargy and loss of appetite. Like its canine counterpart, the virus spreads through contact with faeces of an infected animal, an infected environment or sometimes through humans who have been in contact with an infected animal. It too has a very high mortality rate in unvaccinated cats and kittens.

Learn more about Feline Panleukopenia

Protecting your pet against these diseases not only protects their lives but also those of other animals around them!

Vaccinating our pets also protects us humans too!

We now know that vaccinations are great protection for our pets, but did you know, it serves as protection for us too?

Some diseases are zoonotic, which means they can be passed from animals to humans, for example Leptospirosis and Rabies (in countries exposed to rabies). In 2016, Singapore had a leptospirosis outbreak in our companion dogs which resulted in some pet owners contracting the disease too.

Therefore, vaccinating our pets reduces the risk of leptospirosis from being passed on to humans from animals. This is especially important if you have at-risk family members such as young children/elderly or immunosuppressed individuals.

Thankfully, Singapore is a rabies-free country and thus our dogs and cats do not need Rabies vaccination routinely.

Are pet vaccinations safe? 

Allergic reactions to vaccines can occur but these are rare. Reactions range from mild symptoms such as lethargy and being “off colour” to uncommon hives and more rarely anaphylactic shock and collapse. Allergic reactions can occur at the first vaccine or even after several yearly vaccinations.

For dogs and cats with certain medical conditions, your vet can help to assess the risk factors for your pet first before deciding if vaccination is beneficial for them.

Why isn’t one vaccine dose enough? How often do we need to vaccinate our pets?

Vaccines are products made out of deactivated or modified parts of the virus or bacteria that causes those diseases we mentioned earlier. They do not cause the actual disease. Instead, when injected into the animal, it stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against the virus/bacteria in response to the vaccine. It is as if the animal has been exposed to the actual disease.

However, one single injection does not produce enough antibodies to fight the virus/bacteria when we get exposed to it. In puppies and kittens, they also have their own maternal antibodies which interferes with the body’s own immune system to mount a sufficient antibody protection level. Therefore repeated vaccinations are needed to enhance the pet’s immune system to produce sufficient antibodies to protect the animal. Vaccines also need a minimum of 2 weeks to work!

With the production of antibodies comes immunity, which protects our pets from the disease!

Image source: Mayo Clinic Health System

So… how often should I vaccinate my pet?

PUPPIES AND KITTENS:

Need a minimum of 2 vaccinations, 3-4 weeks apart, usually up to 3 vaccinations in total.

Puppies/kittens need to be at least 6-8 weeks of age at the first vaccination and then given booster vaccines until 16 weeks of age or older when they receive their last vaccination booster. Then another vaccination booster 1 year after their last puppy/kitten vaccination.

UNVACCINATED ADULT DOGS AND CATS > 1 year old:

Need just 2 vaccinations, 3-4 weeks apart. Then another vaccination booster 1 year after.

According to WSAVA vaccination guidelines, it was found that the duration of immunity for Canine Parvovirus, Distemper virus and Adenovirus can last for 3 years or longer in some dogs so yearly boosters of these components may not be required in low risk dogs.

However, the duration of immunity for Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza virus (the other 2 components in our core vaccinations in Singapore) only last for one year and in addition, manufacturer’s instructions indicate annual vaccination boosters are required for their vaccines.

So in Singapore, yearly vaccinations are still recommended. There is now a separate Leptospirosis vaccine as well as separate parainfluenza vaccine available.

Similar to dogs, according to WSAVA vaccination guidelines, it was found that the duration of immunity for Feline panleucopaenia virus, Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus can last for 3 years or longer in some cats, so yearly boosters of these component may not be required in low risk cats. However, yearly vaccination is required for the chlamydia vaccine component for at-risk cats. Unfortunately, for cats, there is no separate chlamydia vaccine available.

Tailoring to individual pet’s lifestyle needs

We recognize that every pet’s lifestyle is different.

There is now a simple blood test called VacciCheck titre test that tests for circulating antibodies against the Canine parvovirus, distemper virus and adenovirus in dogs and Feline Panleucopaenia, herpesvirus and calicivirus in cats. If antibodies are present, the dog/cat is immune to those viruses and revaccination against those viruses is not required.

For pet owners who would like to tailor their pet’s vaccination protocol to their pet’s individual lifestyle needs, please do speak to your vet for advice.

In summary…

  • Prevention is better than cure! Vaccinations protect your pets before they acquire potentially fatal diseases.
  • Core vaccines are mandatory while non-core vaccines are administered based on the pet’s lifestyle & exposure to certain diseases.
  • Vaccinations for pets also help to prevent zoonotic diseases from passing on (from animal to human).
  • Vaccinations need time to take effect, don’t wait until the last minute!
  • The frequency of vaccination depends on different factors. Speak to your vet in more detail regarding a personalised plan for each individual pet.

In-home vaccinations with Vetpal

Whether you have a busy work schedule, multiple pets, pets that are easily stressed at the clinic, or pets that have mobility and transport issues, everyone can benefit from Vetpal’s range of housecall vet services.

Our housecall pet vaccinations include a full physical checkup to ensure your pet is fit for vaccination.

Vaccinations are offered as part of our annual care plans too! These care plans deliver the same convenience our clients love, at even greater value.

View our full price list here, or simply visit our website to find out more about us!