F1: When should my puppy receive his first vaccination?
Primary Vaccination: For the first few weeks of life, puppies are usually protected against disease by the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk. Gradually this protection decreases until the animal is no longer protected.
Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.
F2: People are not vaccinated every year, so why does my dog need annual boosters?
Annual Booster Vaccination: People in the UK are not vaccinated every year because the risk of disease is relatively low, and because large numbers of people are vaccinated at the same time, e.g. at school. Unfortunately, only about 50% of dogs and cats are properly vaccinated, and therefore the risk of disease outbreaks in pets is much higher. Dogs can also become infected from the urine and faeces of rats and foxes.
In some countries of the world where killer diseases are still common, human vaccinations are given much more frequently than in the UK.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.
In addition, an annual health check is an important opportunity to have your pet thoroughly examined, and to discuss any concerns and questions with your vet. In this way any emerging problems can be identified early, and often treated more effectively.
F3: What is in the vaccine?
There are several major infectious diseases affecting dogs today. All are highly contagious and difficult and expensive to treat.
Parvovirus is perhaps the most common canine infectious disease. Outbreaks still occur regularly across the country. The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.
Distemper virus attacks most parts of the body, including the spleen and bone marrow. As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to the lungs and gut, the eyes, skin and brain. As the incubation period is long - often about three weeks - it is usually too late to vaccinate when an outbreak occurs.
As the name suggests, canine hepatitis attacks the liver. Some dogs may become infected but show no obvious signs, but in severe cases the death of your pet can occur within 24-36 hours.
Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria that spread in the urine of infected animals. The disease may be caught from rats or other dogs. The disease can either cause severe liver damage and death in just a few days, or slow destruction of the kidneys over months or years.
This virus is one of the organisms responsible for the disease known as ‘kennel cough´. Dogs with this disease suffer from a harsh, dry cough that can last for many weeks, causing distress for both the dog and owner.
F4: Is vaccination safe?
In a word, YES: a number of scare stories have been written about pets developing problems such as anaemia following vaccination. Several large and independent surveys have been conducted in the last few years, and all have shown that vaccinated animals are at no greater risk of developing such diseases than unvaccinated animals. As with any product, including food, a tiny proportion of animals may have a reaction to the vaccine, but this must always be balanced against the much greater risk of fatal disease.
Even as we enter the new millennium children in Europe are dying of measles, a disease that should have been eradicated long ago, because parents have been put off routine vaccinations. Protect your pets as you would your children.