Vaccination protects your dog against various diseases which can cause pain, distress and are often fatal.
By vaccinating your dog you have peace of mind, knowing that you have provided protection. As well as safeguarding your own pet, it also prevents diseases from being passed on to other animals.
What are vaccines?
Vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium that causes a particular disease. They work by stimulating the body’s immune system in a safe way. If the dog then comes in to contact with the disease for real, the immune system “remembers” what it did to deal with the vaccine, so can fight the disease. This protects the dog.
When should I get my puppy or dog vaccinated?
Pets should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout their life.The first vaccine is usually given at 8 weeks of age, with the second usually given four weeks later.
Booster vaccinations are needed because the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They are administered every year.
When can my puppy start to meet other animals?
Puppies should be vaccinated before they mix with other animals. It is essential for their normal development that they are allowed to socialise with other animals while they are very young, so you should get them vaccinated as soon as possible.
Which diseases do vaccines protect against?
- Canine distemper (‘hard pad’)
- Canine parvovirus
- Infectious canine hepatitis
If you are planning to take your dog abroad you will need to arrange additional vaccinations and health checks.
Vaccination is vital throughout your cat’s life. Within a few weeks of being born, your kitten will start to lose the natural resistance to disease which it gained from its mother’s milk and, sooner or later, it is almost certain to be exposed to infection of one kind or another through grooming, sharing litter trays or feeding bowls, fighting, or numerous other ways that are an everyday part of a cat’s life.
With vaccinations you can take the essential first steps in dramatically reducing the risk of your cat becoming seriously ill or even dying from disease. With a regular annual booster after that, you can give it the protection it needs and deserves for the rest of its life.
When should your cat be vaccinated?
A course of two vaccinations is given as the primary course. The initial vaccination provides a low level of immunity and ‘primes’ the immune system and the completion of the course with the second vaccination boosts the immunity to full protective levels.
Kittens start their vaccination course at 9 weeks of age with the second vaccination at 12 weeks. If you acquire or have an older kitten or an older cat that has not been vaccinated or has an unknown vaccination history, please book it in for its vaccinations as soon as possible. This will also allow your new pet to have a general check up with the vet. Remember that the protective effect of vaccination is not immediate and the vet will advise you when your cat will be protected and allowed outside.
Immunity to these diseases does not last indefinitely and will gradually fall leaving your cat at risk. Annual boosters are vital to maintain the immunity which will protect your cat from these infections and provide an opportunity for a yearly health check.
- Feline Viral Infectious Respiratory Disease (Cat Flu)
There are two main viruses which cause what is commonly referred to as ‘cat flu’. These are feline rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus and they are present all year round in the United Kingdom cat population. Cat flu spreads very easily by direct and indirect contact between cats. Cats entering shows or being boarded during holidays are particularly at risk because they are placed in close proximity to each other. Signs of the disease are a runny nose, weepy eyes, sneezing, coughing and lethargy. If treated promptly, cat flu is hardly ever fatal, but can make your cat ill for some time and may leave it with snuffles and breathing difficulties for the rest of its life.
This disease, more commonly known as ‘enteritis’, occurs as an epidemic every few years. It is highly contagious and can affect cats of any age but is most common and severe in kittens. It causes acute depression, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and in many cases death. The few cats that do survive the disease tend to suffer from other diseases due to the damage caused to the immune system.
This virus which causes feline enteritis can remain active in the environment for a very long time and spreads easily via contact with infected cats or their saliva, urine or faeces.
Feline leukaemia is a very serious, incurable disease which can take months or even years to fully develop and which is currently considered to be the single most significant infectious cause of death among the cat population in the western world.The symptoms vary widely and range from damage to the immune system (making your cat much less able to fight off other infections) through to persistent anaemia and cancer.
Once the symptoms have appeared, your cat will almost certainly die, but even those which appear healthy can harbour the leukaemia virus and spread the infection to others when they share food or water bowls or when they suffer bites during fights. If a pregnant cat has the virus, her kittens will usually be infected when they are born.
This disease is not seen in the UK but vaccination is compulsory for cats travelling abroad on the ‘Pet Passport’ or for export. Cats have to be microchipped before receiving a rabies vaccination. Please ask for more information at reception if you wish to travel with your cat.
Record of vaccination
On completion of your cat or dog’s primary course you will be given a record card providing a record of vaccination and advising you when the next booster is due. Catteries and kennels will almost certainly require this before accepting your pet.
Remember to bring this record card to the surgery each time your pet has vaccinations so that it can be updated.