Responsible use of veterinary immunobiologicals in cats and dogs


Ratification Date: 27 Jul 2012


Immunobiological products (vaccines) should only be administered to dogs and cats by a registered veterinarian or under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.


The correct use of immunobiological products in animals requires a high level of veterinary expertise, knowledge of the immune process in animals and an understanding of the associated hazards for humans and animals.

Vaccination is one of the most common veterinary procedures undertaken in small animal practice. It is important in preventing and controlling infectious diseases in cats and dogs in Australia.

Veterinarians must maintain a highly professional approach to all aspects of the use of vaccines. This includes ensuring that vaccines are not used unnecessarily, ensuring that the latest techniques are adopted as appropriate and appreciating that the profession will be held responsible for the correct use of immunobiologicals.


Immunobiologicals should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, which includes recommendations on storage, handling, administration, dosing and safety. Owner consent should be obtained if veterinarians deviate from these recommendations or from commonly accepted veterinary practice.

The safety of the animals, the person administering the product and other animals and people should be considered, including providing therapy for adverse reactions.

The risks of exposure to infectious diseases, possible adverse reaction and the benefits of vaccination should be discussed to allow clients to give informed consent or refusal. Veterinarians should advise clients that vaccination is part of the overall approach to health management of their pet. Vaccination does not always provide protection from infection or clinical signs of disease. While vaccines are generally recognised as controlling disease, they do not always confer protective immunity. The client’s informed decision should be recorded.

An understanding of the interaction of the immunobiological with the particular animal is essential. The choice of product (e.g. live or inactivated vaccine, booster vaccine, antiserum or toxoid) will depend on:

  • the likely immune status of the animal before vaccination
  • the timing of vaccination (e.g. the animal’s age, date of previous vaccination, the degree of challenge expected, other diseases or physical stressors to the animal)
  • the interaction of immunobiologicals that may be administered simultaneously or close together, and
  • the degree of exposure to infection.

Vaccination protocols should be tailored for the individual patient according to age at initial examination, breed, risk assessment, general health status and vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines.

Good record keeping and accurate identification of the animal are both essential for effective vaccination programs and a legal requirement. The date of vaccination, veterinarian administering the vaccine, vaccine batch number, manufacturer and site of vaccination should be recorded in the patient’s records.

Veterinarians should have expert knowledge of correct hygiene procedures, storage and procedures for use of immunobiologicals (including route and site of administration).

Veterinarians should appreciate the importance of the animal’s state of health, age, pregnancy and nutrition. Vaccines are recommended for use in healthy animals, following a physical examination. Consideration should be given to the appropriateness of vaccinating animals that are suffering from concurrent disease, chronic disease, immunodeficiency, debilitation or concurrent drug administration that may affect the immune response.

Veterinarians should assess the likelihood and nature of adverse experiences to an immunobiological so that adequate arrangements can be advised for the aftercare of the animal.

Other relevant policies and position statements

Vaccination of dogs and cats


Gaskell, R.M., Gettinby, G., Graham, S.J. and Skilton, D. (2002). Veterinary Products Committee working group report on feline and canine vaccination. Vet Rec 150:126–134.

Mouzin, D.E., Lorenzen, M.J., Haworth, .JD. and King, V.L. (2004). Duration of serologic response to three viral antigens in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 224:61–66.

Date of ratification by AVA Board 27 July 2012.