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Why should I vaccinate my dog?

The principal of vaccination is to stimulate the body’s defences, a number of cells and chemicals, of which the best known is antibodies. Puppies are protected against many infectious diseases by antibodies present in their mother’s milk (colostrum), which they receive in the first few hours of life. This protection from maternal antibodies lasts less than 3 months. This is why vaccination schedules start around the age of 2 months with the initial injection, and they are completed around 3 months of age, when maternal antibodies have decreased.

We recommend that your puppy receives its first vaccination at 8 weeks, and the second injection 2 weeks later, at 10 weeks old. Immunity is effective from 7 – 10 days after the second injection, so your puppy should be kept inside until then.

Why is it necessary to have repeat vaccinations?

Many people believe that if they have their pets vaccinated when they are puppies, the immunity they receive will protect them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately this is not the case. To maintain protection, regular booster vaccinations are required. Re-vaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is offered for an additional period.

We recommend that your dog receives an annual booster vaccination, and the practice sends out cards to remind you that your pet is due an annual health check and booster injection. Should your dog’s annual vaccination be missed by more than three months, we recommend starting the initial course of two injections again.

Without these regular vaccinations, your dog’s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal diseases.

There are five major infectious diseases which affect dogs, and are therefore included in the primary course injections and covered by annual booster: Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza. All are highly contagious and can be difficult to treat.With the advent of more modern vaccines, your dog will not require vaccination with all 5 every year; Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza are still required annually for continuous protection, byt Parvo, Distemper and Hepatitis are only required third year after one year of age.

Canine parvovirus is perhaps the most serious and common of canine infectious diseases. This disease is a major problem, with outbreaks still occurring regularly across the country. The onset is sudden, with vomiting and foul, bloody diarrhoea that leads to rapid dehydration and collapse. The heart may also be attacked by the virus. The death of your pet can occur within 24 hours. The only protection against this distressing disease is by vaccination.

Canine Distemper is highly contagious and often fatal. Those pets that survive the initial viral attack are often left with permanent disability such as deformed teeth, nervous twitches or a predisposition to distressing epileptic fits. Treatment is often unsuccessful as the incubation period is long, often about three weeks. It is usually too late to vaccinate when an outbreak occurs.

Canine Hepatitis attacks the liver. In acute cases the death of your pet can occur within 24 – 36 hours. Those pets that recover from the disease may become carriers and spread the virus to infect other dogs.

Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium that is spread in the urine of infected animals. Two major forms of the disease exist in dogs. One, which causes acute illness and jaundice, is often caught from rats – either by the dog being bitten or coming into contact with rat urine. The other type can also cause acute disease but frequently takes a chronic form. This leads to the slow destruction of the kidneys and renal failure can occur many years after the original infection.

Parainfluenza Virus leads to a respiratory disease that can cause sneezing, coughing and runny eyes.

There are two additional diseases which you may decide to protect your dog against, depending on your lifestyle. These are:

Infectious bronchitis: Commonly referred to as ‘kennel cough’, canine infectious bronchitis is a highly contagious disease of a dog’s respiratory tract. Dogs of all ages can be affected and signs include a dry, harsh paroxysmal cough – rather like whooping cough in humans, which lasts for several weeks. During this time, more serious complications such as pneumonia may develop, which in older or weak dogs, can occasionally be fatal.

Conscientious boarding kennels will insist that your dog is vaccinated against this disease, and it is recommended if your dog is attending shows or classes, or anywhere where groups of dogs converge. The vaccine is not injected under the skin, but instead a small volume is squirted up the dog’s nostril, without a needle.

Rabies: As the UK is officially a ‘rabies-free’ zone, rabies vaccination is only carried out if your pet is travelling abroad under the Pet Passport Scheme, or if it is going to live abroad on a permanent basis. Further details of the requirements for travelling with your dog may be found under ‘Pet Passports’.