Why should I vaccinate my pet?
Vaccination plays an important role in reducing the prevalence and severity of several diseases – including those that are most dangerous.
These diseases are transmitted not just though contact with an infected pet, but from environmental factors such as contact with water that has been contaminated or drinking water that an infected wild animal has also drunk from.
Even indoor cats should also be vaccinated, as several viruses, (especially Feline Infectious Enteritis-Panleukopenia) are very stable in the environment and can be transferred into homes on clothing and footwear.
Which diseases do we vaccinate against?
It is important for pet owners to be aware that only some vaccines available provide immunity against all the below diseases.
Feline Infectious Enteritis (Panleukopenia)
A viral infection associated with a severe and often fatal form of gastro-enteritis – vomiting and diarrhoea. This infection may also cause neurological symptoms in kittens. Recovery can be very slow from this virus.
Feline Herpes Virus & Calicivirus (‘Cat-Flu’)
These viruses are extremely common and symptoms include sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, mouth ulceration, loss of appetite and even pneumonia. Recovery can be very prolonged and the cat may require hospitalisation to place a feeding tube if not eating. This infection causes conjunctivitis and is passed from cat to cat by direct contact. It is more prevalent in young cats.
Feline Leukaemia Virus
This virus causes a persistent infection of the bloodstream, bone marrow and lymph nodes and can be fatal. Most cats with this disease will die or require euthanasia within 3 years of diagnosis. Death is due to immunosuppression caused by persistent infection, progressive anaemia and development of tumours (lymphoma) or leukaemia.
Canine Parvo Virus
This virus attacks the intestinal tract and causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Parvovirus is highly contagious. Dogs contract the virus through contact with infected animals’ stools. Without treatment, dogs become dehydrated, weak and often die. This virus is very common. And puppies that are not properly vaccinated are often afflicted.
Distemper is a nasty virus that is highly contagious. Clinical signs include upper respiratory infection, conjunctivitis, high fever and possibly even pneumonia. The dog may also have neurological signs when the virus reaches the brain, causing fits. Bloody diarrhoea is also frequently present. This disease is nearly always fatal.
There are four types of Leptospira which dogs are at risk of contracting in the UK. The diseases are carried by both domestic and wild animals, particularly rats.
The infection can be caught directly from infected animals or through contaminated water, soil or food. It enters the body through the mouth, nose, eyes or through damaged skin.
The disease which can also be transmitted to humans, usually attacks the liver and kidneys, and can be fatal. Leptospirosis is always present in the environment for your dog to pick up, especially in contaminated rivers, streams and water courses, both flowing and standing.
Canine adenovirus causes infectious canine hepatitis, a potentially fatal disease involving vasculitis and hepatitis. Symptoms include but are not limited to: fever, lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, and bloody diarrhoea. Infection can also cause respiratory and eye infections. The infection is passed in the urine and faeces on infected animals.
Canine Parainfluenza Virus
Plays a pat in ‘kennel cough’ infection. It is passed between dogs by direct contact with infected nasal secretions. Vaccinations against this virus is given by a separate intra-nasal vaccine. Vaccinating alone is not sufficient to prevent infection, however by doing so you are providing your dog with the best possible cover.
Kennel Cough (Bordetella Bronchiseptica)
This vaccine is given separately to your dog. The route of administration is squirting the vaccine liquid down the nose. This disease is transferred between dogs due to secretions from the upper respiratory tract. Dogs in close proximity to each other are most at risk e.g. in kennels or if your dog is particularly friendly with others on walks. The clinical signs include a dry retching cough as though trying to be sick. Vaccinating alone is not sufficient to prevent infection, however by doing so you are providing your dog with the best possible cover.
This is a virus spread by blood-sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitoes. It causes swelling around the face, eyes, lips and ears and leading to eventual blindness, disorientation and death. There is a very low survival rate. Indoor rabbits are still at some risk.
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)
This is a virus spread either directly between rabbits or via indirect means such as shoes or clothing. As a result, indoor and outdoor rabbits can be at risk. It causes internal bleeding and is usually rapidly fatal.
How to get started
Vaccinations can be started from nine weeks old or at any age in an adult cat. The initial vaccination course includes two vaccinations which are administered three to four weeks apart. After this primary course, a once yearly booster vaccination is necessary to provide sufficient immunity within your pet should they come into contact with these diseases. Your cat also receives a full health check before receiving its vaccination, so can be an excellent way of our vet picking up on any subtle changes, which may be signs of other early diseases.
We generally start vaccinations from 8 weeks old or at any age in an adult dog. The initial vaccination course includes two doses of the vaccine which are administered over 4 weeks. For puppies starting their vaccine course at 8 weeks old we can then give the second dose of vaccine for Distemper, Parvovirus and Canine Adenovirus (hepatitis) 2 weeks later at 10 weeks followed by their second dose of Leptospirosis vaccine a further 2 weeks later (4 weeks after the first dose). We generally recommend a Leptospirosis vaccine that covers all 4 strains but these vaccines do have to be given 4 weeks apart. The second dose of DHP can also be given at the 4 week mark if you don’t wish to bring your puppy in for three visits. It is important not to miss these second doses to ensure your puppy gets full cover. In some breeds we will also recommend an additional dose of the DHP vaccine at 16 weeks of age this will be discussed with you by the consulting vet at your first appointment. After this primary course, a full booster vaccination is necessary after one year. Some diseases require an annual booster while others need further booster vaccinations at intervals of three years to provide sufficient immunity within your pet should they come into contact with these diseases. Your dog also receives a full health check before receiving its vaccination, so can be an excellent way of your vet picking up on any subtle changes, which may be signs of other early disease. Vaccination against Parainfluenza Virus and Kennel Cough are in addition to these injections.
We can vaccinate rabbits from 5 weeks old. We use a combined vaccine against myxomatosis and VHD Strains 1 and 2. This is a single injection which has to be given annually to effectively provide sufficient immunity in rabbits.