It is all too easy to become complacent about vaccinations, with many owners overlooking their pets’ yearly jabs as they get older and remain healthy. However, the reality is that it is critically important to vaccinate our animals every year without fail. Not only is this vital so that we can continue to protect our animal population against deadly infectious diseases, it also allows veterinarians an opportunity to give them a full health check and assess for any potential issues that may be hard for owners to spot such as dental disease, obesity or chronic dry eye.
When it comes to our beloved pooches, the core vaccines administered within the U.K are against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus. Many younger vets will never have seen a case of Distemper in the U.K., proving the vaccination protocol is successful and further emphasizing its importance. Not surprisingly, in countries where routine boosters are not performed, the disease is rife.
In most areas, vets will also recommend protection against the bacterial disease Leptospirosis, which is spread in the urine of wildlife such as rats. Certain strains are more prevalent in certain areas and animals such as working dogs may be more at risk. Your vet will discuss the best Leptospirosis vaccine option with you.
Owners also have the option of administering a vaccine against ‘Kennel Cough’, which is particularly important for those dogs who have a lot of interaction with others, such as those who go to training classes, shows or doggy day care. Though Kennel Cough is not a fatal disease, it can cause a nasty cough in those affected and is highly infectious.
Recently, there has been some concern regarding the potential ‘over-vaccination’ of dogs, with owners worried that they may be exposing their pets to unnecessary jabs. While several vaccines will give dogs immunity for more than one year, this is not the case when it comes to the Leptospirosis vaccine which must be repeated every 12 months. As dogs are exposed to Leptospirosis when in contact with soil or water that has been contaminated by infected urine, the vast majority are at risk. Concerned owners do have the option of performing blood ‘titre’ tests annually for Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvo, to check their dog’s immune status, with vets only vaccinating those with low antibody levels and monitoring those who still have adequate antibodies.
Cats must not be forgotten when it comes to vaccines, with U.K. vets recommending they are protected against Cat Flu and Feline Parvovirus as a minimum. Most will also require the Feline Leukaemia Virus injection. Leukaemia and some forms of Cat Flu are usually incurable and all can have a vastly negative impact on an animal’s quality of life, so prevention is always important. There are also some ‘non-core’ vaccines available, such as the Chlamydophila felis jab, which vets may suggest for certain kitties, such as those living in multi-cat households or rescue centres.
Both cats and dogs can also be vaccinated against Rabies if travelling outside of the U.K. Thankfully, within the U.K. we do not need to protect our pets against this non-endemic disease. Those that do wish to travel will also need a passport and will need to keep a close eye on the Brexit negotiations to know what else may be required going forward!
Our pet rabbits are not exempt when it comes to vaccines and it is advised that both indoor and outdoor bunnies are protected against Myxomatosis, RHD 1 and RHD 2 with annual boosters.
For most of our cherished pets, receiving their vaccine is a quick and painless event. A small number of patients may feel a bit unwell the next day, with potential symptoms including lethargy, a transient fever and an upset stomach. These reactions are uncommon and do not often require treatment. It is also possible for an animal to develop a small, firm lump at the site of injection which should disappear within one to two weeks. A serious reaction to a vaccine is extremely rare and the benefit of receiving the vaccine far outweighs any potential risk.
We welcome you and your pet to the clinic for their health check and vaccination, whether they are due their annual booster or have not received one in many years. Our vets will be more than happy to discuss your pet and their lifestyle, tailoring their vaccination plan to them.