Vaccines aren’t just a life-saving form of preventative health care for humans. They are also important for the health and well-being of your fur babies, too. In many states, it is legally mandatory to get your pets a certain number of vaccines in order to keep them healthy and to keep everyone safe from animal-to-human communicable diseases, such as rabies. It can also help protect them from catching diseases from other animals as well.

But even this basic and mandatory form of preventative care costs money. And the costs can add up more quickly than you may think. This is especially true for younger animals which need to be vaccinated more frequently due to their immature immune systems. He also may be surprised to learn that not all pet insurance plans automatically come with preventive care coverage. But if you keep reading, we can help you figure out which preventive care plan will help protect you and your pet and get them the shots that they need at an affordable price. 

The Most Common Types of Vaccines Your Pet May Need

Let’s start by making a very important clarification about vaccines for your pets. There are two types of shots you will need to consider getting: those that are legally mandatory for the health and safety of you, your pet, and any people or other pets you made live near; there are also optional ones which could prevent future costly diseases from afflicting your cats or dogs.

Failing to vaccinate your pets could potentially have legal ramifications – especially if, say, your unvaccinated dog gets rabies and then bites a neighbor. You could face fines, jail time, or both. You could even be sued if your unvaccinated animal gets sick and infects a person or a neighbor’s pet. So it’s better to avoid the risk and make sure that your animals stay up to date with all the legally mandated vaccinations.

Then there are optional vaccines. But just because there are no legal ramifications for opting out of such shots doesn’t mean you can easily skip them. There’s the health and wellness of your pets to think about. If an inexpensive jab can protect them from getting potentially debilitating or life-threatening diseases later on down the road, then it might be a good idea to make a little bit of room in your budget so that your pet can have those shots. As they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

If you own one or more dogs, the following vaccines will be required per animal: 

    • Rabies
    • Parvovirus
    • Parainfluenza
    • Hepatitis
    • Distemper

In addition to the legally required vaccines, you may want to strongly consider getting the following highly recommended vaccines for your puppy:

    • Coronavirus
    • Canine influenza
    • Lyme disease
    • Bordetella
    • Leptospirosis 
    • Adenovirus type 2 

Cats are also legally required to get a rabies shot, as well as vaccination for feline viral rhinotracheitis. After all those are taken care of, you may want to consider getting the following highly recommended vaccines for your feline friend:

    • Bordetella
    • Feline infectious peritonitis
    • Feline influenza
    • Feline leukemia
    • Chlamydia 

How And When to Get Your Pet Vaccinated

When it comes to dogs, you should start vaccinating your puppy as soon as it has been weaned off of its mother’s milk. This is because the mother dog’s antibodies will soon stop protecting the animal once it starts eating on its own. This usually happens around 6 to 8 weeks of age. 

Between 7 and 17 weeks of age, your puppy will then undergo a series of vaccinations according to your veterinarians recommended schedule. The exact regimen and number of shots will depend on your veterinarian’s discretion as well as whether you elect to receive any highly recommended optional vaccinations that can extend the longevity and quality of life of your dog. Once this regimen is complete, you’ll want to come back on a yearly basis to get boosters for the following shots:

    • Rabies
    • Leptospirosis
    • Canine influenza
    • Lyme disease
    • Bordetella
    • DA2PP (which includes distemper, adenovirus type 2, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) 

For kittens, vaccinations should start around the same time as they do for puppies: between 6 and 8 weeks of age, right as they’re weaning off of mother’s milk and eating on their own. Most veterinarians recommend repeating the vaccination regimen every 3-4 weeks until your kitten is 4 months old. The one exception is that most vets will wait to administer the first rabies vaccine until the kitten is between 12 and 16 weeks old. Then you’ll have to bring your cat back in for an annual rabies booster. Your cat’s lifestyle – such as whether or not they are an indoor or outdoor cat, for example – will then determine how often you need to come back for future shots, and which ones you should get. This will be determined by your veterinarian. 

Cost of Initial and Booster Vaccinations

Again, it’s helpful to break up the costs of getting your pets the shots they need to stay healthy between cats and dogs, because they each have different needs. For dogs, the cost for the initial round of vaccinations that they get as puppies between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks can range between $100 – $350 depending on where you live, what your veterinarian recommends, and how much they charge for services. But if you adopt your animal from a shelter, these costs are usually paid by the shelter so that all you have to worry about are annual boosters (although the cost of vaccines may be included with any adoption fees). After that, your annual cost for booster shots should average around $80 – $250. Again, costs will vary depending on state laws and your veterinarian’s advice.

The costs for cat vaccines are different because unlike dogs, it’s much easier to keep a cat as an exclusively indoor pet. Indoor pets don’t need to get as many shots because their risk of contracting certain diseases is drastically lowered. So here’s how the costs break down for cat and kitten vaccines:

    • Kitten shots will cost around $120 per kitten between the age of 8 weeks and 4 months
    • Adult cat shots for legally mandatory boosters can cost about $65 – $110 on average
    • A full regimen of shots (including those which have no legal mandate) will cost an additional $155

Preventative Care is the Best Care

Preventative medicine really is the best, especially when it comes to the health and wellness of your pets. Many of the viruses mentioned in this article come with the risk of serious complications which could require thousands of dollars in medical treatment if your pet isn’t protected. A quick, relatively inexpensive series of shots will not only help reduce your future pet care expenses by avoiding such diseases, but it’ll save your pet the pain and misery of getting severely ill. 

Vaccines are reliably safe, too. Veterinarians have been administering millions of shots for decades with almost zero complications. That being said, There’s never a non-zero risk when it comes to any type of medical treatment. If you’re unsure about whether a particular shot is safe for your pet, it’s best to follow the advice of your vet. They have extensive experience and training when it comes to pet vaccines, so they are your best option for advice and recommendations.

Not All Pet Insurance Covers Vaccinations

Despite how helpful preventative care is – and how much cheaper preventative care is compared to waiting until your pet actually gets sick – it’s not uncommon for a pet health insurance plan to omit this type of coverage. Some carriers won’t even offer it at all, leaving those costs to you. These days, though, many companies are coming around to the realization that offering preventative care services can be beneficial to their bottom line. 

Those companies are giving pet owners flexible options now, including “upgraded” plans which differ from their basic pet health insurance package by offering extra services, like preventative care. Each plan is different, though, so it’s important to shop around and compare in order to get the best bang for your buck. And we’d be more than happy to help you compare pet health insurance in your area, especially those that provide the vaccines and other preventative care that your pets need to live long, healthy lives. 

Mark Romero is the head of content for . He has been doing research in the insurance industry for the past six years and has two lovely rescued pups named Luke and Leia.
Mark Romero
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