We all know that animals should be vaccinated, especially when they are young, and that they should have booster vaccinations; however most people are a bit confused as to why we do it and what exactly we are vaccinating against. In this leaflet we will try to explain what we can do and what we as a practice recommend.
The diseases we vaccinate against are:
Distemper (Hardpad) is a viral disease which, before vaccinations, used to be very common, but which still occurs, especially in dogs from cities and rescue centres. It initially causes a 'flu like disease which in improperly vaccinated animals will often go on to develop muscle tremors and fits which go on for life. Some animals will die from the disease but most are left handicapped. Nowadays we see it mainly in puppies and re-homed dogs, but do get outbreaks in dogs whose vaccinations have lapsed and which have picked up the virus whilst out. It is still thought to be a cause of fits and premature senility in older dogs and is one of the causes of "Kennel Cough".
Viral Hepatitis is a disease that mainly affects puppies and causes liver failure. It is now quite uncommon especially in adult dogs.
Leptospirosis is a germ that is picked up from water infected by rats or carrier dogs. There are now four sorts, some that damage the liver and kidneys and one that just(!) damages the kidneys. It is common around here, especially in areas where there are rats or running water. If caught early enough we can treat the disease, but often the kidneys or liver are permanently damaged to some degree and so although the dog survives, they are never as healthy as they were. It is a Zoonosis, which means that it can be passed to humans.
Parainfluenza is a virus which causes an infectious cough, and is another of the three causes of "Kennel Cough".
Parvovirus is now commonly carried by seemingly well dogs. In susceptible dogs it destroys the lining of the bowel and also damages the body's immune system, especially in young, old or unvaccinated dogs. It causes severe haemorrhagic gastroenteritis with vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Puppies and young dogs are particularly susceptible and will frequently die in spite of treatment. Old dogs whose boosters haven't been kept up are also likely to be very ill, and although not so likely to die, require a lot of treatment and are left weakened.
Rabies is a virus that kills all mammals, including man. It is not at the moment found in Britain and so the reason we vaccinate pets is so they can go abroad and come back again without going through quarantine.
Bordatellosis is a bacterial disease which is the major cause of Infectious Bronchitis which was known as "Kennel Cough", This was because most dogs catch it in kennels. However any contact with a dog carrying the bacteria can result in disease, and dogs can be infectious for up to 10 weeks after they have been ill, unless treated with antibiotics. However, not only does bordatellosis cause a severe cough (very similar to whooping cough in children) it can also cause severe chest disease and heart failure, especially in dogs with pre-existing problems.
For all puppies we recommend an initial course of two full vaccinations against all of the above diseases except Bordatellosis, with the first being after the pup has been in his new home for 2-3 days (and is over 6 weeks of age), and a second four weeks later. The vaccine manufacturer recommends that the puppy does not come into contact with infection for ten to fourteen days after the second vaccination, although it is usually sensible to allow contact with vaccinated dogs and other vaccinated puppies before that so that the puppy learns to socialize and we have never seen a problem from doing so. If a puppy is first brought in when it is eight weeks old, we sometimes give a second injection at 10 weeks and a third at 12 weeks as this allows them to go out a couple of weeks earlier.
The protection given by the initial course lasts for a year and must be boosted by annual booster vaccinations. This is especially important the year after the initial course and then again as your dog gets older. In older dogs, as in older people, the body's natural resistance gets weaker and they are more susceptible to severe illness. Some parts of the vaccinations last up to 3 years so we give different components most years.
The routine vaccinations give very good protection against all the above diseases except bordatellosis.
Cover for two of the causes of "kennel cough", namely Distemper and Parainfluenza are included in the routine vaccinations. Vaccination to give protection against Bordatellosis is available, and consists of a single dose of vaccine given up the nose. It gives some protection within 5 days which reaches a maximum at 3-4 weeks and the make of vaccine we usually use lasts 12 months. We would recommend it for any dog going into kennels or to training classes. It is especially important in giant breeds as these are very susceptible to the effects of the disease on the heart as well as for dogs with chronic chest or heart problems.
Please contact us immediately if your pet is at all abnormal following a vaccination. Any reaction at all is very abnormal and most reactions can be treated successfully with a simple injection.
Serious reactions are fortunately very rare and often occur within ten minutes of the first time a vaccine is used in your dog. They are controllable by antidotes given immediately and it is always a good idea not to hurry away after your dog's first vaccinations! Minor reactions, usually to one of the substances used when making the vaccine, do occur more commonly and will recur year after year. These usually consist of being very quiet, shaking, off food and generally feeling miserable. These can be controlled by giving an antihistamine at the same time as the vaccination, so are not a sensible reason for not having boosters. However do tell the vet you see that a reaction has occurred previously.