Dog Vaccinations are an important part of your pets health care and well being programme, but why do we recommend it?

Vaccination is the best way to protect your dog against specific diseases, and they are a quick and simple procedure for us to carry out. They are usually given via a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection, although the Kennel Cough vaccine is given as drops into the nose.

The vaccines themselves contain controlled, small amounts of the virus and are designed to trigger an immune response from your pets’ body. If your dog subsequently comes into contact with one of the diseases, its white blood cells in the immune system will recognise it and already have antibodies in place ready to attack the virus.

As a general rule we recommend your dog is vaccinated every year, assuming your pet has completed its initial vaccination course of 2 injections, 2-4 weeks apart. If the annual booster vaccination is carried out within a few weeks of a due date then most dogs will be fine. However, if too much time has gone by then we prefer to re-start the vaccination course.

All pets differ slightly, so here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we might not always vaccinate your dog for all diseases every year. A number of factors will influence our decision, including your pets’ health status, breed, age, life style, the environment they live within, and travel habits.

The common Canine vaccinations protect against the following diseases: Canine Parvovirus, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, Canine Distemper, Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, and Rabies.

Viruses mutate (change) over time, so by regularly vaccinating your dog they will be covered against emerging strains that may not have been around in previous years.

Canine Parvovirus (Parvo) is very contagious (easily spread), debilitating and unfortunately widespread. It is spread through faeces (poo) and this highly resistant virus can remain in the environment for many months. Parvo remains extremely common still and is notoriously difficult, and expensive, to treat .Symptoms of infection include high fever, lethargy, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. It is thought that, due to statistical cases, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Rottweilers are more susceptible to Parvo than other breeds. This disease typically affects young pups and elderly dogs the hardest, although I have unfortunately seen many unvaccinated adult dogs die of Parvovirus during my career. Vaccination is the only certain method of preventing this potentially fatal disease.

Canine Infectious Hepatitis is transmitted by contact with bodily products such as saliva, infected urine or faeces. This virus commonly attacks the Liver and can also potentially cause damage to the eyes too. It ranges in effect from mild through to fatal and, at present, vaccination remains the best form of protection against it.

Canine Distemper is often fatal and notoriously hard to treat, so we say that vaccination is essential for this condition. It is very rare in the UK thanks to a successful vaccination programme but remains widespread in parts of the world, so continued vigilance with vaccination uptake levels is needed to prevent our dog population becoming susceptible. This particular disease is spread by nasal and eye discharges and is highly contagious. Symptoms include lethargy, fever, coughing, diarrhoea and

vomiting; convulsions and paralysis are seen in the latter stages of disease. The Distemper virus attacks many organs of the body including the nervous system, and permanent damage may be suffered even if the dog survives and recovers to some degree.

Leptospirosis is borne by rats and is transmitted via their urine into the environment, where it survives very successfully in damp conditions such as water courses, ponds and lakes. Onset of the disease can occur so suddenly that there is little chance of effective antibiotic therapy. Acutely infected dogs can suffer levels of liver or kidney damage that need lengthy periods of treatment if they are to fully recover. Immunity to Leptospirosis wanes after a year so it is absolutely vital that it be re-administered every year. Unfortunately we have treated a case here at Saint Leonards within the last twelve months, so it is still about in the area.

Some Leptospirosis vaccines now offer protection against 4 types of the disease (L4) compared with the standard (L2) vaccine. Veterinary opinion is still divided as to whether this is necessary due to the latter two strains being very rare and the fact that there have been reported reactions to the L4 vaccine in some cases. At Saint Leonards we currently use the L2 vaccine as standard but also stock the L4 vaccine for clients that specifically request it.

Kennel Cough is an infection that transmits very readily from one dog to another, so vaccination is essential if your dog is in contact with lots of other dogs; for example at the groomers, obedience classes or at boarding kennels. Perhaps it should be re-named as “highly infectious catch-it-anywhere” cough! It is caused by various airborne viruses and bacteria and is easily recognisable by a dry, hacking cough often described as sounding as though an object has got stuck in your dogs’ throat. It is the most infectious of all the Canine diseases but happily, since we have incorporated this vaccine into our standard vaccination protocol the number of cases we have seen has reduced J

Rabies is an incurable and fatal disease that affects the Central Nervous System of almost all mammals, including humans. It is spread through contact with the saliva of infected animals via bites or any break in the skin. Although not present in the UK it occurs widely throughout many other countries of the world; if your dog travels abroad at all the Rabies vaccine is compulsory for your pet to have in order to travel under the Pet Travel Scheme.

After we have administered the vaccines to your pet they may act quieter than usual for the following 24 hour period; a bit like we do after having the ‘Flu jab in autumn. They may have a small painful lump at the injection site which normally recedes over a few days. Side effects following vaccination are thankfully rare.

You know your dog better than anyone, so if you have any concerns at all following a vaccination then don’t hesitate to contact us. Here at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre we would rather you err on the side of caution and phone for advice than have to treat a poorly pup. The only thing left to say is that a judiciously given treat can work wonders for post vaccination recovery J

Here at Saint Leonard our standard vaccination includes Kennel Cough and is charged at £53. We will give your dog a health check whilst we have them in our room for their injection, and a quick cuddle too; well every job has its perks after all!