Banfield’s Vaccine Recommendations for Dogs and Cats

By Deborah Miller, DVM, DABVP, and Carla Webb, DVM
Contributing Authors


Vaccines are one of the most powerful preventive care tools we have as veterinary professionals, and it is our responsibility to make the best vaccine recommendations possible for pets and their families.

We hope these recommendations will underscore best practices in the field by means of creating individualized vaccination plans for each patient, decreasing the possibility of adverse events and championing client education.


Table of Contents

Research & Publication Overview

In 2013, Banfield performed a comprehensive vaccine product and protocol review, which included a thorough literature review and appraisal, and a close review of the three widely recognized published consensus statements on vaccinations:

  • The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA)
  • American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
  • The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)

Banfield performed a doctor survey to receive direct input from our thousands of practicing veterinarians and formed an external advisory board comprised of experts in epidemiology, infectious disease, internal medicine and shelter medicine.

The Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK) team and Medical Quality Advancement team provided data and statistical analysis surrounding adverse vaccine reactions. Banfield also consulted with emergency and critical care specialists to develop best practice recommendations surrounding the optimal treatment of adverse vaccine reactions.

In spring 2014, Banfield formally published its findings from these studies with recommendations in the Vaccine Preventive Care Resource Guide for Medical Leadership. Banfield’s final vaccination protocol recommendations were made based on the following criteria:

  1. Providing optimal protective immunity against clinically relevant diseases the pet is at risk to contract, while minimizing the potential for adverse reactions
  2. Alignment with consensus statements from WSAVA (2010), AAHA (2011) and AAFP (2013) whenever possible
  3. Banfield’s commitment to preventing zoonotic diseases and protecting animal and human health

Key Evidence-Based Protocols

For veterinarians, one of the most challenging aspects of practicing evidence-based medicine can be the lack of well-developed studies and well-reported information.

Two specific examples of where Banfield endeavored to utilize evidence-based medicine to formulate our protocols included the safety and efficacy of intranasal (IN) versus subcutaneous (SQ) Bordetella vaccines and the safety and efficacy of adjuvanted versus non-adjuvanted vaccines.

IN versus SQ Bordetella vaccines for canines

A critical literature review of available research showed, in our opinion, that there was insufficient evidence to conclude one vaccine was superior to another. However, Banfield has recommended using the IN vaccine as the first choice for Bordetella vaccination for the reasons noted below.

Compared to SQ vaccination, IN Bordetella/parainfluenza vaccination appears to provide:

  • Faster protection, within 72 hours1
  • Rapid immunity, which does not require initial three-week boosters for adequate protection
  • Proven duration of immunity of at least 12 months2,3
  • Significantly fewer clinical signs and decreased viral shedding upon challenge or exposure4
  • Increased, persistent local/mucosal IgA levels4
  • Ability to vaccinate as early as 3 weeks of age, if indicated
  • Immunity, which is not interfered with by maternal antibodies
  • Less potential for local injection site reactions and systemic side effects
  • No injection site pain
  • Rapid immunity against parainfluenza virus

SQ Bordetella vaccination should be recommended in specific situations, including:

  • Aggressive animals, where IN administration could result in human or patient injury
  • Dogs with previous significant adverse reactions to IN vaccination
  • Households where there is an immunocompromised person at home, where IN Bordetella could potentially be transmitted to the family member at inoculation or subsequent shedding

Adjuvanted versus non-adjuvanted vaccines for felines

A critical literature review of available research, in our opinion, showed there was not a statistically significant difference in the incidence or prevalence of sarcomas in cats that received adjuvanted vaccines compared to cats that received non-adjuvanted vaccines for feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
The decision to remain with non-adjuvanted FeLV and rabies virus for felines at this time was made for the following reasons:

  • At this time, there is no good evidence to support that adjuvanted vaccines cause a higher rate of feline injection site sarcomas (FISS) compared to non-adjuvanted vaccines.5,6
  • FISS’s have also been reported with many other injections, including long-acting corticosteroid injections, SQ fluids and microchips.
  • Our recommendations were supported by the 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report,3 which states: “Although initial reports linked development of sarcomas at injection sites with the use of inactivated rabies and FeLV vaccines, more recent studies have found no relationship between the type, brand or use of inactivated versus modified-live vaccines and the risk of subsequent sarcoma development.”

More research is needed to continue to evaluate the use of non-adjuvanted vaccines, especially the canary pox rabies vaccines for felines.

Variations from WSAVA, AAHA, and AAFP

Banfield’s protocols closely align with the majority of the recommendations made by WSAVA, AAHA and AAFP (See Table 1). However, we deem it important to identify the areas of variation from other protocols that have been proposed to better clarify our insight into the increase in risk in our patient population.

These differences have been identified based on the reasons listed below, according to vaccination type.

Leptospirosis Vaccination

Leptospirosis vaccination is listed as “based on risk” by WSAVA and AAHA, whereas Banfield considers leptospirosis a “standard” vaccination because of the following: (See Table 2 for Banfield's definitions.)
  • The severity of the disease when it occurs
  • The difficulty in accurately diagnosing the disease
  • The prevalence in every state in the United States
  • The zootonic potential of this disease
Banfield is committed to preventing zoonotic diseases and protecting human and pet health.

Bordetella/Parainfluenza Vaccination

Bordetella/Parainfluenza vaccination is listed as “based on risk” by WSAVA and AAHA, whereas Banfield considers Bordetella/Parainfluenza a “standard” vaccination because of:

  • The highly contagious respiratory nature of the disease
  • The current recommendation/requirement for Bordetella vaccination in most boarding facilities

FeLV Vaccination

FeLV vaccination is listed as “based on risk” by WSAVA whereas Banfield considers FeLV vaccination a “standard” vaccination in kittens because:

  • Both AAFP and WSAVA point out the advantages of protecting kittens against FeLV.
  • There is a high susceptibility of this age group to this serious, often fatal disease.
  • It may be very difficult to predict what the future lifestyle will be for a kitten.
  • Surveys show that more than 50 percent of household cats have some exposure to the outside environment.
  • Infected carrier cats may show no obvious symptoms, but remain infective to other cats.


Banfield’s goal is always to provide appropriate immunity for diseases the pet is at risk to contract with the lowest possible rate of adverse effects from vaccination. We will continue to monitor the research and information on vaccines as it becomes available to make the best possible choices for products and protocols for our patients and clients.

Part of our continuous quality improvement plan around vaccinations includes a comprehensive vaccine review every three years, or whenever major changes or information becomes available, as well as the close tracking and analysis of vaccine adverse reactions.

Table 1: Vaccine Protocols for Canines & Felines

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Table 2: Core, Standard & Based on Risk Vaccination Categories

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1. Gore T, Headley M, Laris, et al. Intranasal kennel cough vaccine protecting dogs from experimental Bordetella bronchiseptica challenge within 72 hours. Vet Rec. April 2005;156(15):482-483.
2. Lehr C, Jayappa H, Erskine J, et al. Demonstration of 1-year duration of immunity for attenuated Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccines in dogs. Vet Ther. Winter 2008;9(4):257-262.
3. Jacobs AA, Theelen RP, Jaspers R, et al. Protection of dogs for 13 months against Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza virus with a modified live vaccine. Vet Rec. July 2005; 157:19-23.
4. Davis R, Jayappa H, Abdelmagid O, et al. Comparison of the mucosal immune response in dogs vaccinated with either an intranasal avirulent live culture or a subcutaneous antigen extract vaccine of Bordetella bronchiseptica. Vet Ther. Spring 2007;8(1):32-40.
5. Moore GE, DeSantis-Kerr AC, Guptill LF, et al. Adverse events after vaccine administration in cats: 2,560 cases (2002-2005). JAVMA. 2007;231:94-100.
6. Gobar G, Kass P. World Wide Web-based survey of vaccination practices, post-vaccinal reactions, and vaccine site-associated sarcoma in cats. JAVMA. 2002;220(10):1477-1482.

Further Reading

1. Day MJ, Horzinek MC, Schultz RD. Vaccinations Guideline Group. WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats. J Small Anim Pract. 2010;51(6):1-32.
2. Wellborn LV, DeVries JG, Ford R, et al. 2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines. JAAHA. Sept/Oct 2011;47(5):1-42.
3. Scherk MA, Ford RB, Gaskell RM, et al. 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report. J Feline Med Surg. 2013;15:785-808.

About the authors

Deborah Miller, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline), graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1990. She practiced emergency and critical care medicine for 10 years at several large referral practices in California prior to joining a general practice in Florida. She joined Banfield in 2009 as a medical advisor. She is currently senior manager/Medical Programs on Banfield’s Medical Quality Advancement team.
Carla Webb, DVM, graduated from Oregon State University in 2010. From 2008-2010, she worked with the Banfield Student Jobs Program and externship program, and joined Banfield full time in 2010. Dr. Webb was a clinical veterinarian in Banfield hospitals in Oregon for four years and is currently a project manager on Banfield’s Medical Programs team. Dr. Webb lives with her husband, Chris, and a crazy Siamese named Miso.