Vaccination 

Why should I vaccinate?
Vaccination is a way to stimulate the immune system to produce a protective response. By showing the body a disease in an inactivated form, the immune system has a head start which should allow your pet to fight off infection from the diseases in the vaccine. No vaccine can be considered a 100% guarantee against the infection but should at the very least reduce the severity of the disease should your pet succumb. Most of the diseases that we vaccinate against have no known cure.

The Great Vaccine Debate
Vaccines have been blamed for many things both in the human and animal field. There have been great concerns about over vaccination which has led some owners to stop vaccinating their pets. However a valuable lesson should be taken from the human field with the MMR vaccine where scaremongering led to children not being vaccinated leading to the recent Measles epidemics. The concerns about vaccination have to be weighed against the very real severity of diseases that vaccinations are aiming to protect the animal against. We are very happy to discuss any concerns that you may have before embarking on a vaccination program.

When should I vaccinate my pet?
Firstly we like to allow approximately seven days for any new addition to settle in before starting vaccinations. Leaving mum and their siblings plus moving to a new environment can be very stressful and we know that animals which are stressed have a reduced immune response so may not get the best protection from their vaccine. It also allows time for any infections that may be incubating to show themselves. Of course we welcome the opportunity to meet your new addition as soon as possible so we are pleased to offer a free check over soon after they arrive to discuss any concerns you may have.

Puppies require a course of two injections two to four weeks apart, but the second injection must be give at 10 weeks of age or more. We recommend the first injection at 8weeks and the second injection at 10 weeks, then waiting a further week before taking your puppy out into the big wide world. This should be followed by annual boosters.

Kittens also require a course of two injections but these must be three to four weeks apart with the second injection at 12 weeks of age or more. We recommend having the first injection at 9 weeks and the second at 12 weeks followed by annual boosters.

Rabbits can be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age with one dose, onset of immunity occurs 3 weeks later and they require annual boosters.

Are there any side effects?
In theory, animals can have any of the side effects suffered by humans, but in practise we see very few. The most common thing that you may see is that your pet may be sleepy after their vaccine, this may be in part due to the stress of the whole experience as much as the effect of the vaccine itself. You may feel a small lump or notice some soreness around the site of injection. This usually resolves quite quickly.
If your pet seems really out of sorts, starts to run a fever or anything unusual then please phone the practise as soon as possible.

Which diseases do vaccines cover?

Dogs

Distemper (D) is an ‘old’ disease, known as hard pad and is not a disease we want to see back. There has not been a significant outbreak in the UK for several years but is a severe potentially fatal disease. It has various presentations initially showing respiratory signs, then gastro-intestinal signs and eventually neurological changes leading to seizures. Dogs can be infected for life and unvaccinated animals are at highest risk.

Parvo virus (P) is a very infectious disease that can often be fatal and requires intense hospitalisation and treatment such as fluids, blood transfusions and anti-viral drugs. The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells of the guts and causes so much damage that the lining comes away and animals start producing profuse bloody diarrhoea. They rapidly become dehydrated and depressed, with vomiting also not being uncommon. Although thought of as a puppy disease, dogs of any age can get it, it can be walked in off the streets on your shoes. Vaccination is the way to protect them against it.

Infectious Hepatitis (H) is thankfully uncommon these days but still exists and is potentially fatal too. Signs are very variable and do not just affect the liver, it can damage the kidneys and cause eye and vascular problems too.

Leptospirosis (L) is contracted from the urine of rats or dogs, your pet can be infected if their gums or other mucous membranes come into contact with the bacteria. This is why swimming in canal or rivers could be a risk if they have been contaminated. People can also catch it. Forms of the disease are widespread in the UK and it can cause irreversible kidney damage.

Parainfluenza (Pi) is the main virus associated with infectious bronchitis. It is widespread just as for people and is included in the vaccine to try and prevent severe illness developing.

Kennel Cough (KC) – you can chose to vaccinate your dog against the bacterial element of infectious bronchitis which we would certainly recommend if going into kennels when the risk of infection is higher as it is spread by droplets in the air. This vaccine is not an injection, unlike the others; it is a liquid that must go up the nose. It is a live vaccine so if your dog is going to kennels, they often require a minimum interval between their vaccine and their stay. This can vary so please check with your kennel.

Rabies (R) – if you are planning to travel abroad with your pet, then you also need to get a pet passport and vaccinate against rabies.

Cats

Viral Cat Flu (Calicivirus and Herpes - RC) is a widespread problem and possibly fatal to young kittens, with many infected cats becoming carriers and suffering with recurrent symptoms for the rest of their lives. It is spread by coughing, sneezing and direct contact.

Feline Leukaemia (Felv) is a major cause of death in young adult cats. The virus is spread by close contact for example mutual grooming or fighting which puts entire males at greater risk. Kittens can also be infected by their mothers while still in the womb and the disease may not show signs for years after infection. It is a very serious disease which lowers your pet’s immune system leading to secondary infections, tumours and death.

Panleukopenia (P) is thankfully uncommon in the UK but that it thanks to people keeping up their vaccination. It is very similar to parvovirus in dogs and is often fatal.

Rabies (R) – if you are planning to travel abroad with your pet, then you also need to get a pet passport and vaccinate against rabies.

Rabbits

Myxomatosis is a viral disease introduced to the wild rabbit population by man with a view to controlling numbers. It causes swelling around the eyes, the base of the ears and genitalia. It is usually fatal in spite of intensive treatment. Initially it was spread by the rabbit flea but now it is thought to be spread by other biting insects since cases are seen in the middle of towns.

Haemorrhagic Viral Disease (HVD) is another unpleasant viral disease which causes bleeding from all orifices and often will present as sudden death. It is though to have been spread by birds.

How long will the vaccination last?
For dogs, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and kennel cough vaccines only last for one year so annual boosters against these diseases are necessary. Other components now last for three years so we give the most appropriate vaccine each year, but if in any doubt we give everything to be safe.

For cats and rabbits, the components only last for a year so everything is given in an annual booster.

What happens if I miss the yearly booster?
This really depends on how late you are but the vet may well recommend starting again with a primary course of injections.

What if my pets never have a vaccination or I do not know if it has been vaccinated?
It is never too late to start and elderly animals tend to be more susceptible to infection. If in doubt or you have no paperwork as proof that your pet has been vaccinated, be safe and start all over again.

 

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