Vaccinations are an essential part of preventative healthcare for your dog, cat or rabbit. A yearly booster provides effective protection against diseases that can cause severe illness, some even potentially fatal, so it’s extremely important that we vaccinate our pets routinely to provide immunity.
Below you’ll find additional information and frequently asked questions regarding vaccinations in cats, dogs and rabbits.
Dogs are routinely vaccinated against the following:
Parvovirus – a hardy and highly contagious virus that can cause localised outbreaks in the UK. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is unfortunately often fatal
Distemper – this nasty virus causes a commonly fatal neurological disease. It is now very rare in the UK thanks to vaccination, but it is important to ensure pets are covered in order to keep it under control, especially as more and more dogs enter the UK from abroad
Infectious Hepatitis – sadly this potentially fatal virus still exists in the UK
Leptospirosis (Weil’s Disease) – this is a bacterial infection that is spread by rat urine or by infected dogs. Rivers and waterways can be contaminated by the bacteria. Weil’s disease also causes disease in humans
There are several brands of dog vaccines available in the UK. It is important that a puppy – or adult dog not currently vaccinated – receives a two-part primary vaccine course initially, to establish their immunity. This primary course must be completed using the same brand of vaccine, or with two brands which are compatible. Here at Swale Barn Vets we use the most widely chosen vaccine brand for dogs in the UK.
A primary course requires two vaccines 2-4 weeks apart, and we recommend that puppies are at least 10 weeks of age at the time of the second vaccine, to ensure optimal immunity.
What if my puppy has already had the first half of their primary course with their breeder?
The answer depends on which brand was used. If the first vaccination was the same or compatible with the UK’s leading brand, which we hold in stock, we can simply go ahead and administer the second half of the primary course. If your puppy had a different brand, not to worry, we can either re-start the course using the vaccine we routinely use, or we can attempt to acquire a single dose of the same brand as the first vaccination administered, but it’s worth mentioning that despite our best efforts this won’t always be possible. Either way we’ll find a solution which ensures your puppy is protected, so no need to worry.
Some pet owners worry about over-vaccinating, and we understand this concern and agree that dogs and cats should not receive any more vaccinations than necessary. There is however a lot of confusion about how often pets need to be vaccinated, so we hope the following information provides some useful clarity.
Viral immunity with the canine vaccine we routinely use lasts 3 years following the first annual booster after a primary course (i.e. usually from the age of 2 years old onwards unless you have a lapse in booster frequency). However the bacterial vaccines only last one year. For dogs this is the Leptospirosis vaccine, which must be given annually to maintain immunity.
Cats do not require the FeLV vaccine every year as this also gives 3 years of immunity after the first booster (i.e. when your cat is two years old and above as long as there have been no lapses in vaccine history), however we do recommend the rhinotracheitis and calicivirus vaccines annually.
Perhaps surprisingly, 60% of dogs that have so-called kennel cough, haven’t actually been in kennels! It is called kennel cough because the disease spreads when dogs are in close contact, and so it is common in dogs entering kennels.
The disease is technically known as infectious tracheobronchitis, and it is caused by the combination of a virus and a bacteria. The typical clinical sign is an extremely unpleasant honking cough, similar to human whooping cough. It is very contagious and can as easily be acquired in areas where a high number of dogs visit, such as popular dog walking routes, canine day-care centres, and even training and agility classes.
Some dog owners therefore elect to vaccinate their dog against infectious tracheobronchitis even though they never go into kennels, whereas others prefer to do so only if their kennels, canine day-care centres, training and agility classes insist upon it.
The vaccine lasts for a year and can be given from 8 weeks old. It can be given at the same time as your dog’s annual booster, and it takes 2 weeks from vaccination for adequate immunity to develop.
Cats are routinely vaccinated against the following:
The condition commonly referred to as ‘Cat Flu’, which is caused by a combination of viruses, including rhinotracheitis, herpesvirus, and calicivirus. Disease is preventable but incurable, and in extreme cases can sadly be fatal. They typically manifest as a chronic pattern of waxing and waning upper respiratory symptoms, including sneezing, runny eyes and nose, wheezing and coughing, high temperature and a loss of energy and appetite. Cat flu is still very common in the UK, especially in kittens and elderly cats. It spreads rapidly via sneezing and direct contact, and will be very contagious to unvaccinated cats, particularly those living within the same household.
Feline leukaemia is a viral disease that spreads between cats when fighting and grooming. It can take a long time for signs to develop, often several months and can result in immune suppression, secondary infections and tumour growth. Vaccination is helping to bring the disease under control in the UK.
Kittens are given two vaccines 3-4 weeks apart, with the second vaccine being at or after 10 weeks of age.
Rabbits are vulnerable to two extremely common diseases, which are sadly rapidly fatal amongst affected rabbits in the UK. They are:
Myxomatosis – a highly contagious disease spread by insects that come in contact with infected rabbits, causing severe swelling of the eyes and mouth together with a fever.
Viral haemorrhagic disease – this is caused by two different viruses and can be a cause of sudden death without any symptoms.
Protection against these diseases is provided by either a single yearly combined vaccination, or two vaccinations given two weeks apart.