Senior Pet Vaccinations - Our Questions Answered


Taking our senior pets to the vet to get their immunisations is a daunting and sometimes emotional event in our pet care calendars - and with certain risks for our senior pets and a lot of questions about, it's important to have open dialogue with your vet to understand what's right for your pets.

As our pets get older, we're all aware that they become more prone to illnesses and infections as their immune systems weaken, and with that - their vaccination requirements may change! That's where our questions came in.

One of our team's senior dog (Dexter, a 14 year old Maltese Shitzu) was due for some vaccinations - so we headed to the vet to get our answers.


Q: Are there signs our senior pets need a vaccination? What should we look out for?

A: Behavioural changes, changes in appetite or mobility, and any sign of illness indicate a need for prompt visit to a vet. In addition, regular check-ups are also essential for monitoring our senior pets' health and for seeking guidance regarding vaccinations and any adjustments to their care. It's best to contact your veterinarian to get an individualised vaccination plan for your senior pet, depending on health status and lifestyle.

Q: What are core and non-core vaccinations?

A: Core vaccinations are ones recommended for all pets, regardless of whether they wander outside or spend most of their time staying indoors. Core vaccines provide protection against highly deadly and contagious viruses that are difficult and costly to treat. Non-core vaccines are administered depending on the risk.

Q: How often should they be vaccinated?

A: The vaccination schedule of senior pets varies from that of younger pets. Some vaccines are administered less frequently and can be discontinued depending on our pet's health, latest vaccination status, and risk of exposure to diseases.

Vaccine requirements vary from country to country, but these are some of the common ones for all pets and the frequency:

  • Rabies vaccine in senior cats and dogs is administered every 1-3 years, depending on local regulations. In Australia a rabies vaccine isn’t required unless exposed.
  • In senior dogs, the Bordetella vaccine's frequency may vary. It is generally given annually or depending on the exposure. It is commonly known as kennel cough vaccine.
  • The frequency of the Canine Influenza vaccine depends on the exposure as well as risk factors; however, it is administered annually to senior dogs.
  • In the case of rabbits, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) vaccine and Myxomatosis vaccines are given annually.
  • For hamsters, vaccination is not a common practice. Keeping their living environment clean and safe, having a proper diet, and regular health check-ups are ideal practices for their well-being.

Some of the vaccines can now be given less frequently, and down the track could be discontinued.

Q: What are the risks of vaccinations? Should we be concerned for our senior pets?

A: There is a high risk of adverse reactions to vaccines in older pets with health issues or weakened immune systems. However, the overall benefit of vaccination is generally more significant than these minimal risks. Your vet will always examine your pet's health condition first though and if required, recommend suitable precautions for them.

Q: Is there any specific after care?

A: Just like humans, after the vaccination your pet may feel a bit off (and need extra love and cuddles!).  Make sure they have a comfy place to rest and that they have easy access to food and water. They may not want to eat, which is normal.

Avoid touching the area or playing with your pet. It is likely they will come to you if they need attention. Importantly, if your pet isn’t back to normal within 48 hours, or if you notice any adverse reaction, see your vet.


After a quick Q+A, Dexter was ready for his vaccinations. Our vet did a thorough check up before administration and explained the risks and after care required (and fortunately for Dex, there was no side effects!).

If you have any concerns about vaccinations, it's always best to chat with your vet to get specific guidance relevant to your pet's needs.