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    Vaccinating Cats and Dogs

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Animal biologicals are products designed to stimulate the immune system of a dog or cat in response to an invasion of viruses or bacteria. Make sure to read product labels and avoid off-label use of products.

    Biologicals include vaccines, bacterins, toxoids and anti-serums.


    An antibiotic is a drug that controls or kills bacteria in the animal’s body. Antibiotics only work against bacteria and not against viruses. The numbers that appear in the names of injectable antibiotics refer to the amount (in milligrams) of drug in each milliliter of the product. Long- vs. Short-Acting Penicillin –Benzathine is an ingredient added to penicillin to make it last longer in an animal’s system. Any penicillin product containing Benzathine will be a long-acting product and so will have a longer withdrawal time.

    There are two varieties of antibiotics:

    • Broad spectrum – These antibiotics control a wide variety of bacteria. Examples: Liquamycin LA-200, Duramycin 72 200.
    • Narrow spectrum – These antibiotics control a narrower range of bacteria. Examples: Pen Aqueous, Combi-pen 48, and Tylan.

    Antibiotics can be administered in a variety of ways:

    • Injectable – Injected with a syringe.
    • Topical – Rubbed on the skin, as on a wound.
    • Oral – Taken through the mouth.

    Using needles for injections

    There are three types of injection:

    • Intramuscular (IM) - deep in the muscle
    • Subcutaneous (SQ or SubQ) - under the skin
    • Intravenous (IV) - in the vein

    The following points are important to keep in mind whenever giving injections to animals:

    • Don’t use disinfectants when cleaning modified live vaccine syringes. The disinfectant could destroy modified live vaccines that you later put in the syringe.
    • Don’t mix products. If traces of bacterin are left in a syringe that is later used for a modified live product, the bacterin could destroy the modified live vaccine.
    • Mark and separate syringes. Use different syringes for modified live vaccines and for bacterin or killed products. It helps to mark the modified live syringes with red paint or tape and keep them separate.
    • Clean the infection site. Injecting into a spot that is damp, muddy, or covered with manure greatly increases the risk of infection.
    • Don’t spread infection by going back into the vaccine bottle with the same needle you use to vaccinate. If the needle is contaminated from an infected animal, you will also contaminate the vaccine - and possibly the animals you vaccinate next.
    • Change needle frequently, every ten to 15 head or every syringeful of vaccine. It might seem expensive at the time, but the alternative could be much more costly. Also, if a needle develops a bend or burr, discard it immediately as it will tear the tissue.

    Needle sizes

    Needles are measured two ways: length and gauge (diameter). When determining the correct gauge, remember that the higher the number, the smaller the diameter. For example, an 18-gauge needle is smaller than a 16-gauge needle.

    Longer needles are used for intramuscular injections (1 1/2”) and shorter needles (1/2” to 1 “) for subcutaneous injections.

    • Dogs and cats – 20 or 22 gauge with 1/2” to 1” length.

    Animal Diseases
    While it isn’t possible to cover the full range of animal diseases and conditions, it is useful to know something about the ones that are among the most common. 

    Cat and Dog Diseases
    The major cat diseases for which vaccinations are available to include the following:

    • Panleukopenia, also called feline distemper, includes loss of appetite, vomiting, depression, and high fever. It is a highly contagious viral disease that is often fatal.
    • Rhinotracheitis (or FVR) attacks the upper respiratory tract causing sneezing and coughing. Another common symptom is a mucous discharge from the eyes and nose. Recovery is slow and the disease is often fatal.
    • Calicivirus (Calici) attacks the lungs and lower respiratory tract causing pneumonia. Ulcers may be seen on the tongue and lips. Calici is often complicated by other infections and can be fatal.
    • Chlamydia psittaci (pneumonitis) characteristically produces conjunctivitis (eye infections.) Infected cats sneeze occasionally and fever may occur. It is believed to be transmitted to both cattle and humans.
    • Feline Leukemia is the virus commonly accepted as the basic cause of many unidentified feline diseases and is eventually fatal.
    • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FlP) is a contagious viral infection that can affect cats of all ages but most commonly at six months to two years. Signs include low-grade upper respiratory infection, anorexia, depression, anemia, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. FIP is usually fatal.

    The major dog diseases for which vaccinations are available to include the following:

    • Distemper is a widespread, highly contagious disease. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, nasal discharge, coughing, and convulsions. Distemper often results in death and survivors are usually impaired for life.
    • Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV 2) is one of the viruses involved in kennel cough (a complex of infections that can lead to a hacking cough). It is seldom fatal but can be a nuisance. Protection against CAV 2 provides cross-protection for Hepatitis (CAV 1).
    • Leptospirosis (Lepto) causes kidney and liver damage. This disease may also be transmitted to humans.
    • Parainfluenza (CPI) is an important virus in kennel cough. Many kennels require vaccination for CPI before boarding your dog.
    • Parvovirus symptoms include profuse diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration. It is usually fatal.
    • Corona Virus has symptoms similar to Parvovirus and only a laboratory test can tell the difference.
    • Bordetella Bronchiseptica is the principal bacteria involved in kennel cough.
    • Lyme Disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi) is a tickborn disease spread to dogs, humans, horses, and other warmblooded animals mainly by the deer tick. Other ticks, flies, and biting insects have also been known to transmit Lyme Disease. Symptoms include fever, lameness, lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss, seizures, and behavioral changes. It can be fatal.
    • Rabies can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans. It attacks the central nervous system, causing death. Rabies vaccinations are only available from a veterinarian