Thank goodness for vaccinations! We have all had them at some time in our lives - to prevent childhood diseases, to stop us getting horrible diseases when we holiday in exotic destinations. – they are life savers! Vaccines have even allowed us to eradicate Smallpox from the planet! Animals benefit from the protection that vaccines can give and you should have your pets vaccinated against disease where possible.
The main diseases against which a new puppy should be vaccinated are Distemper, (a rare problem in the UK now thanks to vaccinations! It is an inevitably fatal disease and used to cause great suffering in the poor dogs that caught the virus!), Parvovirus (still a common and often fatal gastroenteritis), Infectious hepatitis (An adenovirus causing liver failure, rare now thanks to vaccinations) and Leptospirosis (a bacterial disease caught from water polluted by rat’s urine e.g. canals, drains, stagnant water. Humans are affected too – Weil’s disease –usually resulting in a fatal liver failure.
Your new puppy will have some temporary immunity from their mother provided that mum was vaccinated. This maternal protection wears off so that by the time the pup is 8 weeks of age they need their own immune system to provide protection. They can have their first vaccination at 8 weeks and a second at 10 to 12 weeks. They are generally safe to go out of the garden for walks one week after this second injection. In some circumstances puppies should receive a third parvovirus booster between 4 and 5 months of age.
The “Kennel Cough” syndrome can be controlled by vaccination – rarely a fatal disease but one which causes distress to dog and owner. Breeding bitches can also be vaccinated against Canine Herpes Virus, a common cause of infertility. Booster vaccinations are necessary to maintain a good immunity – some, but not all of the diseases need to be given every year with your dog’s annual health check.
The Rabies vaccination is given to animals travelling abroad – see our Pet Travel section.
The main cat diseases that can be avoided by vaccination are the major respiratory viruses, (herpes virus and calicivirus), the feline parvovirus (causing severe, often fatal gastroenteritis), and the Feline Leukaemia Virus (producing a cancer of the white blood cells). Vaccinations for other diseases include Rabies for those cats lucky enough to holiday abroad; Bordetella, a type of feline “cattery cough”, and Chlamydia infection, a protozoan oculo-respiratory disease.
Your new kitten can be vaccinated from 9 weeks of age once maternal immunity has waned, with the second vaccination being given 3 weeks later. As in the pups, a week should then elapse before your kitten is allowed out to meet other cats in the community.
Booster vaccinations are generally given each year at the annual health check.
Catteries should not accept cats for boarding that do not have proof of vaccination.
Probably the most important disease to vaccinate against in rabbits is Myxomatosis, a viral disease which is transmitted between rabbits most commonly by midges and rabbit fleas.
Every year we have to euthanise pet rabbits suffering this disease and they can so easily be protected by just a single injection given after the bunny is 5 weeks old. Rabbits can be safely exposed to infection 3 weeks after vaccination but they need to have a yearly booster shot at their annual health check appointment.
The other disease covered by vaccination is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD), causing fatal blood clotting and enteritis. It spreads both directly between rabbits and by indirect routes. Protection is given within the same vaccine preparation and protocol as Myxomatosis.
For any further information or advice, please feel free to contact us.