Understanding Pet Vaccination

The saying, “prevention is better than cure” is very appropriate for many of the diseases we vaccinate animals against since only very few are specifically treatable and many can prove fatal. In principle vaccination stimulates natural immunity and works by giving the animal’s immune system a head start so that it can respond much more rapidly when these infections threaten.

Some pet vaccines have the additional advantage that they are preventing diseases that are also a potential serious threat to human health. Two examples in pets include rabies and leptospirosis (sometimes known as Weil’s disease in humans) in dogs.

What do we vaccinate pets against?

There are a number of potentially serious diseases that we are able to vaccinate our animals against, however not every pet will require every vaccine. Although an annual vaccination visit is recommended, with the modern dog and cat vaccines we now use not every vaccine component is needed every year. At the annual health check we will be able to assess your pets lifestyle and advise on the appropriate vaccination course that best for him or her.

Dog and cat

Dogs

  • Routine basic protection typically covers the most serious infectious diseases;
  • Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Leptospirosis

Additional vaccines maybe used depending on the disease risks to your dog, these can include:

  • Bordetella (kennel cough)
  • Parainfluenza
  • Coronavirus
  • Rabies

Cats

As with dogs, cats can be vaccinated against a number of nasty and potentially fatal diseases.  We can advise you about the most appropriate protection for your cat; Depending on your cat’s lifestyle protection can be offered against the following diseases:

  • Viral cat flu
  • Panleucopaenia
  • Feline leukaemia
  • Chlamydophila
  • Rabies

Rabbits

Myxomatosis continues to be the major disease risk for pet rabbits throughout the UK. However protection against other fatal disease, viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) is also recommended.

How do we know that vaccines are safe and effective?

We all want to ensure that the vaccines we give pets are safe and effective. Modern veterinary vaccines have to undergo a battery of tests verifying not only that they are efficacious but that they also meet quality and safety standards.

Transient lethargy or swelling at the injection site is sometimes expected following vaccine administration as the body’s immune system responds, however more serious adverse events such as allergic reactions are extremely rare occurrences.

Academic research has further investigated other potential concerns. One example is POOCH (Practice overview of canine health). This was an independent study performed by the Animal Health Trust, a leading UK research institution, which examined the relationship of general ill-health in dogs with vaccination in a carefully controlled manner. The study’s results showed there was no negative impact on the health of dogs triggered by recent vaccination.

Cicada map

Do we still see the diseases we vaccinate against?

Until recently, other than anecdotal press reports, there has been little knowledge of how common some of the infectious diseases in pets are in the UK. In 2007 an initiative called CICADA (Computer-based investigation of companion animal disease awareness) was set up to investigate how often some of these diseases were being diagnosed in veterinary practices.

CICADA shows that a number of the diseases we vaccinate against continue to be a problem in the UK. Widespread risks include parvovirus and kennel cough in dogs, cat flu and leukaemia in cats as well as myxomatosis in rabbits. You can now check out some of the disease risks identified recently in our region by visiting and navigating the interactive maps at www.cicadasurvey.co.uk/petdisease.asp.

Recent survey data has shown a combination of complacency with regard to infectious disease risk and the credit crunch has lead to a falling proportion of immunised animals in some areas. Reduced take up of vaccination is one factor that could allow some of these diseases to increase in the UK and it is vitally important that as high a proportion of the pet population remain vaccinated and up-to-date to keep them at bay

If your pet hasn’t been seen at the practice in the last 12 months, the chances are that its immunity to one or more of the disease risks may need boosting - in which case please do contact us to discuss your pets individual needs.

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