Vaccines: What are all those letters????

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You call to ask what vaccines your pet is due for and we rattle off a series of letters and mumbo jumbo and schedule an appointment. So what are all those letters and all that mumbo jumbo? Here is a breakdown of what is included in the routine vaccines to help you understand what we are vaccinating for!


For cats, the most common vaccine is the FVRCPC. It is often called the “feline distemper” vaccine, but it is much more than that!

FVR– this stands for feline rhinotracheitis virus (feline herpes virus). This is a viral respiratory disease that causes chronic/life-long recurrences of respiratory disease. FVR is an airborne disease and can also be transmitted through infected cats or being in contact with contaminated objects.

C- Calicivirus– this is another infectious respiratory disease that can cause painful mouth sores. Calicivirus is also transmitted through infected cats and being in contact with contaminated objects. Unfortunately, this virus stays in the environment for quite some time and is not easily killed with disinfectants.

P- Panleukopenia– This is a highly contagious virus that attacks the nervous system, immune system, and gastrointestinal system. Panleukopenia is often fatal. It works by causing a dramatic decrease in white blood cells leaving the body unable to fight off disease. This disease is transmitted through contact with contaminated cats and in a contaminated environment.

C-Chlamydia– This virus attaches itself to the mucosal cells of the conjunctiva (eyes), the gastrointestinal tracts, and the genital tracts. The eyes often become red and inflamed with yellow discharge. In young kittens, this can develop into pneumonia if left untreated. Chlamydia is transmitted through nasal and ocular discharge and also transmitted to kittens in the birthing process.

The other core vaccine for cats is the FELV vaccine. This is the feline leukemia virus. It impairs the immune system and causes certain types of cancers. Cat leukemia is usually contracted from cat-to-cat transmission (bites, grooming, and sharing dishes or litter pans). It can also be transmitted to a kitten at birth or through the mother’s milk. Kittens are much more susceptible to the virus, as are males and cats that have outdoor access. There is no cure for FELV. At this time, it can only be treated symptomatically.


With dogs, the most common vaccine is the Dhlpp, which is often referred to as the “distemper” vaccine. No, the distemper vaccine will NOT help your dog’s attitude! HAHA!

D-Distemper– Canine distemper virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and nervous system. Symptoms begin with discharge from the eyes. Eventually, the dog develops a fever, nasal discharge, coughing, decreased appetite, vomiting, and lethargy. The dog may even develop muscle spasms, circling, seizures, and paralysis that may be complete or partial.

H-Hepatitis– Hepatitis in dogs is caused by the adenovirus CAV-1 which causes upper respiratory infections. It targets the liver, kidneys, eyes, and endothelial cells. In healthy dogs, the virus will clear the organs in 10-14 days, but can take 6-9 months to completely clear the kidneys. The virus will be passed from the body in the urine during that time. Symptoms are lethargy, painful abdomen, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver swelling. Since this virus also affects the eyes, corneal swelling is often another symptom. If left untreated or if the dog has a compromised immune system, this disease can be fatal.

L-Leptospirosis– Leptosprirosis is transferred by coming in contact with infected urine. If the dog walks through an area where an animal with this virus has urinated, the virus infiltrates the bloodstream through the skin. Common symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea (with and without blood), decreased appetite, shivering, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, runny nose, and cough. This is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is transferrable to humans and other species which is why this vaccine is so important. There are many strains of this virus, however the vaccine covers the most commonly seen strains.

P-Parainfluenza-Parainfluenza is an upper respiratory virus. Similar to Bordetella, this virus causes coughing, hacking, lethargy, fever, sneezing, gagging, and, if left untreated, pneumonia. This is most commonly spread between dogs in close quarters, such as boarding kennels and shelters. However, this is virus can also be spread from dogs to humans with weakened immune systems, making this a zoonotic disease as well.

P-Parvovirus– The canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus among unvaccinated dogs and puppies. There are 2 types (intestinal and cardiac), but the intestinal type is the most common. The most common symptoms of the intestinal form are vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, decreased to diminished appetite, fever, and dehydration. Certain breeds seem to be more susceptible to this virus for unknown reasons. These breeds are the American Pitbull Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, German Shephard, English Springer Spaniel, and Alaskan breeds. Puppies that have not had their vaccines should not be taken to areas where they can come into contact with other dogs until they have received their vaccine series. This virus is almost always fatal without treatment and can still be fatal with treatment if the virus is progressed.


After reading this, I hope that you check your pet’s vaccine history and make sure that your pet is up to date. These are all preventable diseases. It also costs more to treat them than it does to prevent them. As an example, to treat parvovirus, the charges can range from $200 for an early case to $1500+++ for a more advanced case based on information from other clinics in the area. As noted above, there are 2 of these viruses that can be transferred to humans. It is our responsibility as pet owners to make sure that our pets are healthy and unable to spread disease.