Why should I vaccinate my pet?
Often, there is no complete cure for life threatening diseases such as Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Cat ‘flu. Vaccination is the only proven method of protecting against certain specific diseases your pet might be at risk of contracting. There are other diseases, such as Kennel Cough in dogs, which are less life threatening but where protection can also be provided by vaccinating.
Distemper virus - can be fatal, causing fits, uncontrolled muscle contractions (tics) or muscular weakness. It often permanently damages the dog’s nervous system, smell, eyesight and hearing. It can cause a discharge from the dog’s eyes or nose, as well as sickness and diarrhoea. Other symptoms include coughing, a temperature, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Canine hepatitis virus – (Adenovirus) is a potentially fatal disease most commonly found in young, unvaccinated pups. It causes discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing and serious liver and/or kidney disease, appetite loss, sickness, as well as a change in drinking and urination behaviour. The disease is spread by contact with urine from infected dogs.
Parvovirus (Parvo) - is most likely to infect pups up to six months of age but can infect older dogs and is often fatal in the very young and old. It can cause severe vomiting and blood stained diarrhoea, high temperature and sudden death from damage to the heart. It is easily spread by direct contact between dogs or via owner’s clothing and shoes.
Leptospirosis - is a bacterial disease which causes loss of appetite, sickness, high temperature and discharge from the eyes. The dog may develop liver disease, kidney damage, diarrhoea and increased urination. Infected dogs may die rapidly or much later from kidney failure. If they survive they can remain carriers. Carriers can shed the disease and infect other dogs without showing signs of disease themselves. It is an infection frequently carried by rats and mice and contamination of water or feed and is common where hygiene measures are insufficient.
Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella (Kennel Cough) - are a few of the infectious organisms that can cause Kennel Cough. In the early stages there is a harsh dry coughing which may be followed by gagging. It is highly infectious and can be carried on clothing or from walking where an infected dog has coughed. If it gets into kennels it spreads very quickly, hence the name Kennel Cough.
Rabies Vaccination - is required for the pet passport scheme. Rabies is a fatal disease that can affect a lot of animals including dogs and cats and if an animal bites a person they will also become infected. Rabies can have an incubation period of up to 6 months before showing symptoms. Animals can have a range of abnormal behaviours. They can become mad or dumb and quiet.
When do I vaccinate my Puppy?
We usually vaccinate from 8 weeks of age, however in some situations Parvovirus may be started earlier. The first vaccination is followed up 2- 4 weeks later with a booster injection.
Annual injections are necessary to keep all dogs protected against the diseases covered in the vaccinations. The vaccination protocol may be varied depending on the pet.
Feline infectious enteritis (FIE, Feline Panleucopaenia, Feline Parvovirus) - this disease can cause severe sickness and diarrhoea or sudden death. It can result in brain damage in kittens infected before or shortly after birth. The virus also affects the bone marrow and immune system reducing the production of white blood cells. It can survive for long periods in the environment.
Feline herpes virus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV) ‘Cat flu’ - these two viruses are responsible for most of the cases of ‘Cat flu’ and can be fatal. This disease causes sneezing, discharge from the nose and eyes, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers, inflamed throat, coughing and rarely, pneumonia and skin infections. Many cats remain carriers of these viruses acting as a source of infection for other cats (ie. by shedding the virus even though they are not showing signs of illness).
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) – causes severe damage to the immune system, (increasing the susceptibility to other infections). Most persistently infected cats die due to other uncontrolled infections, progressive anaemia or through the development of tumours (lymphoma) or leukaemia. FeLV cannot survive outside of the cat for long and is spread from queen to kitten or by direct contact between cats e.g. via exchange of saliva (grooming/bites).
When do I vaccinate my Kitten?
Kittens are vaccinated form 9 weeks of age and followed with a booster injection 3-5 weeks later. Annual vaccinations are necessary to keep all cats protected against the diseases covered by the feline vaccinations. Timing and age for vaccinations may vary depending on the pet.
What is a vaccine and how do they work?
Vaccines contain a small dose of either dead or live organisms. These trigger the pet’s immune system to fight the disease (by producing antibodies). Vaccination primes your pet’s immune system on how to produce the correct antibodies quickly. If your pet then comes into contact with one of the diseases, the immune system will recognise the disease and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight the illness.
Vaccines cannot guarantee 100% immunity especially if the pet is in poor health. For this reason vaccines should generally only be used in healthy pets and we recommend a health check first. The immunity a mother passes to her newborn pups/kittens through her milk can also block the newborn’s ability to create antibodies when it is vaccinated. That is why young animals need to be vaccinated at very specific ages to maximise the chance of providing protection.
How do I know that the vaccines are safe?
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (an Executive Agency of Defra) regulates all veterinary medicines in the UK, including vaccines. Before any vaccine can be sold in the UK it must pass a strict, independent, scientific assessment.