Why have your dog vaccinated?
Unless regularly vaccinated, your dog runs the risk of contracting one of several possibly fatal infectious diseases. Parvovirus and Leptospirosis probably represent the most widespread threat, but it is also necessary to protect against Infectious Canine Hepatitis and Distemper. Vaccines are also available to protect against Parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica, who are involved in “Kennel Cough”.
If an animal (or person) is immune to a particular disease it means that there is little or no risk of falling ill to that disease. Immunity in an adult dog may be a result of either regular vaccination or the dog having suffered (and survived) the disease.
Puppies are usually protected for the first few weeks of life by the immunity passed in their mother’s first milk provided that the mother has been vaccinated and is immune. However, the immunity fades and leaves the puppies susceptible to infectious diseases, especially Parvo. Vaccinations at this point simply help providing protection.
Modern vaccines are products of extensive research. These vaccines are manufactured to standards which are no less exacting than those demanded for the production of vaccines for human use. With such safe and effective vaccines readily available, it makes sense to protect your dog at the earliest opportunity.
Parvovirus is a tiny but extremely tough and hardy virus that can survive in the environment for long periods. The disease was first found in the 1970s killing many thousands of dogs before effective vaccination became available. The main source of infection is the faeces of infected dogs. Be careful the virus can be spread on shoes and clothing and on the coat and pads of dogs!
Originally two forms of the disease were seen: heart disease (in young puppies) and enteritis. Now, heart disease is rarely seen. Enteritis is seen in any age of dog from about four weeks of age, but most commonly in dogs less than one year old. Signs appear very suddenly: depression, severe explosive vomiting, refusal to drink or eat, tummy aches and profuse foul smelling, bloody diarrhoea. This will result in rapid and severe dehydration leading to death.
“Parvo” is still commonly seen in unvaccinated dogs. We see cases every year and they are extremely sad. Vaccination and annual boosters are vital to protect against this disease.
Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria that are spread in the urine of infected animals. It can spread to humans by skin contact with infected urine. Rats commonly spread the disease with their urine. Two forms of disease are seen:
Leptospira Icterhaemorrhagiae (Weil’s disease)
This is contracted from rats, most commonly via contact with infected urine or rat-infested water. The liver is the main organ affected, although the kidneys may be involved. Signs are usually a high temperature, severe thirst, lethargy, increased urination abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. Death can occur in a few hours in severe cases.
This is contracted from the infected urine of other dogs. Milder signs are often seen with the kidneys being the main organs affected; jaundice is seen less often and is less severe. However, damage to the kidneys may cause problems later in life. Dogs that recover can excrete the bacteria in their urine for up to a year and thus, be a source of infection.
Annual vaccinations are vital to protect your dog and prevent it becoming a source of infection to
Whilst vaccination has resulted in a decrease in the incidence of this disease in recent years, many pockets of infection still exist, especially in large cities, which result in regular local outbreaks. The main source of infection is by inhalation during close dog to dog contact: signs may take up to three weeks to appear. Dogs less than one year of age are most commonly affected.
Typically, the first signs are runny nose and eyes with coughing and vomiting, followed by unusual tiredness, lack of appetite and diarrhoea. After several weeks there may also be a thickening of the pads, and nervous signs, including twitching or even fits. Dogs that survive may suffer from deformed teeth or even develop nervous signs later in life.
Treatment of canine distemper is often unsuccessful – vaccination is the best form of protection.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Canine Adenovirus, Canine Viral Hepatitis, Rubarth’s Disease)
Infectious Canine Hepatitis, which mainly attacks the liver, can rapidly be fatal. Transmission is by close dog to dog contact; dogs recovering from the disease may be a source of infection for more than 6 months. Dogs are most commonly affected in the first year of life, but all ages are susceptible.
Early signs include general discomfort and lack of appetite, very high temperature, pale gums and conjunctiva, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Subsequently, the dog may develop jaundice. In some dogs that recover, a clouding of the cornea, known as “blue eye” occurs, which will usually resolve.
Canine Adenovirus type 2 vaccines provide good immunity against Infectious Canine Hepatitis and one of the components of “Kennel Cough” syndrome.
Kennel Cough Syndrome (Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis)
Kennel Cough is an infectious disease that, as the name implies, can be picked up especially when dogs stay in boarding kennels. It can mean coming home to a distressed dog, whose coughing will undo all the good of your relaxing holiday. Kennel Cough represents a serious problem for kennels and, as a result, more and more are insisting on full vaccination cover for all dogs in their care. Although there are other organisms which can cause Kennel Cough, infection with Bordetella Bronchiseptica can lead to a persistent hacking cough that lasts for several weeks. Dogs can pick up Bordetella anywhere; it doesn’t have to be in kennels. The infection spreads from dog to dog through the air and dogs are just as likely to catch Kennel Cough at shows, training classes or wherever dogs are grouped together.
Fortunately your dog can be given a Kennel Cough vaccination – a vaccine which provides solid protection against Bordetella infection and can be given on its own or at the same time as your dog’s annual booster against Distemper, Viral Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and Parvovirus.
It is given as nose drops and is effective in as little as five days, although the best time to have this
vaccination is two weeks before your dog goes into kennels or to a show.
This disease is not seen in the UK but vaccination is compulsory for dogs travelling abroad on the ‘Animal Health Certificate’ scheme or for export. Dogs have to be microchipped before receiving a rabies vaccination. Please ask for more information at reception if you wish to travel with your dog. If you are planning to travel with your dog be sure to look at the DEFRA website before you start the scheme.
When should your dog be vaccinated?
Puppies may start their vaccination course as early as 7 weeks of age. If you acquire or have an older dog, effectiveness of vaccination are not immediate and the vet will advise when your puppy may be taken out for walks safely. It is important that your puppy socialises with other dogs and people early in life to avoid behavioural problems puppy or adult dog that is unvaccinated or has an unknown vaccination history, please book it in for its vaccinations. This allows your new pet to have a general check-up.
Immunity to these diseases does not last indefinitely and will gradually fall leaving your dog at risk. Annual boosters are vital to maintain the immunity which will protect your dog from these infections and provide an opportunity for a yearly health check by the vet. It is important to ensure your pet’s vaccination status does not lapse as this may result in your dog requiring to re-start their vaccination course.