Vaccination stimulates the body’s own natural defence system and is used to protect against a variety of different diseases.
Puppies would normally receive initial vaccination injections at 8 and 10 weeks of age. Two weeks following the final injection, full immunity should be achieved and your puppy is safe to meet other dogs and go outside of your home environment. An annual booster vaccination is then required, to maintain protection.
The following infectious diseases are those which dogs are routinely vaccinated against every year:
Canine Distemper Virus
This disease has been rarely diagnosed in the last decade, due to successful vaccinations programmes. Distemper is a virus that is easily spread from dog to dog, via the respiratory system and is usually fatal.
This virus is very similar to the one that decimated the seal population a few years ago.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
This disease is caused by the Canine Adenovirus and is not common. Infection is spread through direct or indirect contact with the virus in urine, faeces or saliva. Faecal and salivary excretion is short lived, but urinary shed from individual animals may persist for up to 9 months.
Clinical signs include corneal oedema (“blue eye”), but animals often die suddenly with few previous signs.
Parvo virus is the most important viral infection in dogs, as it is very easily picked up from shedding animals and the environment; it is hard to treat and commonly fatal. Puppies, old and ill dogs are the most susceptible to the virus, as they have very poor immunity.
Canine Para influenza – ‘Kennel Cough’
Kennel cough can be caused by several infectious agents, either alone or in combination. A dry, harsh, hacking cough is usually the only clinical sign and it is spread by direct contact and short distance aerosol transmission.
Due to kennel cough being caused by several different agents, we would advise that your dog has an annual intra nasal vaccination against the most prevalent strain of kennel cough, Bordetella. We particularly recommend this if your dog will be going into kennels; some kennels insist on your dog being vaccinated against kennel cough, all kennels insist on your dog being vaccinated against the other diseases.
Lepto is usually caught through mucous membranes or broken skin and infection usually occurs via direct or indirect contact with rodents, rather than dogs. Affected dogs that we see are either not vaccinated or overdue their vaccinations, with a history of swimming in stagnant or slow moving water.
Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and history, supported by blood tests, as the clinical signs are often vague. Leptospirosis is frequently fatal and is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be caught by humans.
Frequently asked questions with regard to vaccinations
‘Why do we vaccinate when the diseases are so uncommon?’
The answer is that the diseases are so uncommon due to the successful vaccinations programmes in place. If dog owners decided to stop vaccinating their pets, these diseases would not take long to reappear in epidemic proportions.
‘Am I over vaccinating my dog, if I have a booster done every year? Surely every other year is enough?’
The vaccination regime we use at Wicstun Veterinary Group is specifically designed to avoid over-vaccination. All puppies or adult dogs who are starting afresh, will receive 2 injections, two weeks apart. A year later, they will receive a full booster against all four diseases. After that, they receive a full booster only every third year. For the intervening two years, they have a booster for Leptospirosis only. This is because the immunity against Lepto is short lived and needs to be topped up every year.
Kittens should receive initial vaccination injections at 9 and 12 weeks of age. Two week following the final injection full immunity should be achieved and therefore your cat is safe to meet others. An annual booster vaccination is then required for life to maintain protection.
The following are the main infectious diseases in cats which can be vaccinated against:
Cat Flu (feline upper respiratory tract disease)
Still common in the UK and can be very serious, especially in kittens and elderly cats. It is spread between cats by direct contact and through sneezing.
It is exists in 2 major forms: Calici Virus and Herpes Virus, although the common signs are similar and include: coughing, sneezing, high temperature, loss of appetite, discharge from eyes and nose and calici virus can cause ulcers on the tongue.
If infected, cats can remain a carrier even after recovery and so can still pass the disease on to others.
Infectious Enteritis (feline panleucopenia)
This disease is most common in kittens and young cats and has a high mortality rate.
It is one of the most dangerous infections and death can occur before any symptoms are even seen.
Symptoms when seen can include: vomiting, severe abdominal pain and rapid dehydration.
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
The main route of transmission of FeLV is via direct contact, particularly through mutual grooming and fighting. The virus is also present in blood, urine and other bodily fluids of infected animals.
Young cats are again more susceptible to the disease but it can occur in cats of any age.
The disease can take months to develop after infection but then begins to suppress the immune system, causing secondary infections, tumours and death. Diagnosis of the disease is difficult as the symptoms are so diverse.
Causes conjunctivitis and is mainly seen in kittens in multicat households as it is easily spread between cats. This is usually only included in the routine vaccinations for breeding cats.