Congratulations on the newest family member! Welcoming a new puppy or kitten into the home is wonderful and exciting. There’s nothing quite like watching puppies and kittens getting to explore the world for the first time. This wonder can present challenges for their owners, especially if it has been a while or you are new to such activity. It is important that they be provided a safe and healthy environment where they can explore, learn, socialize, and mature. At the Animal Hospital by the Sea, we believe in partnering with our clients to ensure that all our dog and cat patients have everything they need for a lifetime of health and happiness.


Often clients have questions about how to care for their new puppies or kittens. The following is a list of answers to some frequently asked questions to help get you started.



This combination vaccination protects against canine distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis,) and parvovirus. These diseases have a high fatality rate, and parvovirus in particular has become a major problem in the last few decades as the virus will survive and remain infective in the environment for many years. Puppies receive these shots in a series, starting when they are 7–8 weeks old, repeated every 3–4 weeks until they are at least 15 weeks old for maximum immunity. After a repeat booster in a year from their last puppy series vaccination, we recommend adult dogs be revaccinated every 3 years.


Rabies vaccination is now required for all dogs in Washington State by law. The first shot they receive is a 1-year rabies vaccine given after they are 12 weeks old. The next year’s booster and all adult boosters will then protect them for 3 years.


While it has been called “kennel cough,” infectious tracheobronchitis (bronchitis) can actually be spread airborne anywhere, just as colds and strep throat are in people. Dogs and puppies that visit the dog groomer, kennels, or dog parks regularly or are routinely exposed to other neighborhood dogs should receive this vaccination. We recommend an initial intranasal vaccine to build up antibodies on your dog’s nasal membranes followed by a regular injectable version.


Whidbey Island’s pastoral settings and abundant wildlife, while admittedly presenting an ideal world in which to enjoy our pets, do bring about certain exposure risks. Leptospirosis, transmitted through exposure to wildlife urine, is an especially dangerous bacterial disease as it may be transmitted to humans. It causes very serious illness through kidney damage and is sometimes fatal. The leptospirosis vaccination is recommended for dogs that are at risk of exposure to the urine of wildlife including rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and deer, all of which can carry the bacteria without getting sick. Dogs are especially at risk if their exposure includes a water source such as a pond, creek, pool, or wetland.

Lyme disease is caused by an infection of Borrelia burgdoferi, a bacteria transmitted by bites from certain types of ticks. In our area it can be transmitted by the bite of western lack-legged ticks that pick up the bacteria after feeding on infected rodents. These ticks live in forested or brushy areas of western Washington, which pretty much covers all of Whidbey Island. Though possible, a Lyme vaccine is not routinely required for dogs that stay in Western Washington as our tick numbers, and therefore risk of exposure, are low. However, we may recommend it in certain situations, such as when a canine is traveling east of the Cascades or south out of the area, and especially to those traveling to the Midwest or east coast between Virginia and Maine, where there is a high risk of exposure to this disease.



Kittens and cats with no history of vaccination should receive two vaccinations 3–4 weeks apart, starting after 8 weeks of age. The next year they receive a booster shot that will protect them for 3 years. Regular combination booster vaccinations are then recommended every 3 years.


Here on Whidbey Island we appreciate that outdoor cats are at significant risk of exposure to the fatal feline leukemia virus and recommend this vaccination for all Whidbey cats. We strongly suggest that all cats be tested prior to receiving this vaccine. Kittens over 10 weeks of age and adult cats with no history of vaccination should receive two vaccinations 3–4 weeks apart. Annual booster vaccinations are repeated starting 1 year later. Cats that go outdoors, as well as those who may come into contact with other cats that go outdoors, should receive annual boosters. If a cat remains exclusively indoors and isn’t exposed to other cats at risk, he or she may not require the vaccine after the second booster unless a subsequent change in lifestyle takes place.


Kittens over 14 weeks of age and cats of unknown vaccination history should receive a 1-year rabies vaccination. The following year they will be boostered with a 3-year vaccine. A rabies vaccine is required for all cats in Washington State by law.

The materials offered on this website are intended for educational purposes only. The Animal Hospital by the Sea does not provide veterinary medical services or guidance via the internet. Please consult your pet’s veterinarian in matters regarding the care of your animals.

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