Dog vaccination

Vaccination protects against diseases which can kill your dog or take a very long time to be cured. There are five major infectious diseases that are covered by routine vaccination. They are all highly contagious, can need extensive and expensive treatments and with the exception of kennel cough may be fatal. None of them needs to be a problem when your animal is covered by vaccinations.

CANINE PARVOVIRUS

This disease was first recognised in the late 1970's and rapidly became an epidemic killing many dogs before a vaccine was developed. It is still a major problem in young dogs as there are still outbreaks amongst unvaccinated dogs, especially in highly populated areas. It is a virus that affects the digestive system in that it causes acute severe vomiting and diarrhoea, often with the appearance of pure blood, and with a particularly pungent smell. The dog will become extremely dehydrated and will usually die unless treated very early.

DISTEMPER (Hard Pad)

Thankfully, due to vaccination this disease is less common. It is a very distressing condition as it affects the nervous system. Initial symptoms include a pussy discharge from the nose and eyes, a high temperature, coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea and fits. The pads of the feet may become dry and cracked - hence the name. If the dog does survive it may have a permanent disability such as epileptic fits. Distemper has a long incubation period of about 3 weeks.

CANINE HEPATITIS

This is another viral infection that - as in humans - affects primarily the liver. It exists in various degrees of severity. In its mildest form the dog is a little off-colour, but at its most severe it can cause sudden death. The typical case to be seen lasts for 2-7 days and the dog is very depressed with a high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea. During recovery some dogs get a 'blue eye' due to the cornea swelling and becoming cloudy, but this will often clear in time.

LEPTOSPIROSIS

There are two forms of this disease. The first one causes 'Weils disease' in humans. In dogs it affects the liver and kidney causing jaundice. The second form causes kidney inflammation and can cause mild disease in humans. Both forms are spread by rats and infected urine.

KENNEL COUGH

This is a highly infectious bronchial disease. In a similar way to human 'flu' it is caused by various viruses and bacteria. Although a dog may be vaccinated it may still be possible for it to suffer with mild symptoms. The disease affects the delicate lining of the trachea causing irritation leading to a harsh cough, which can be quite distressing to the dog. It can be treated with prolonged antibiotic therapy, but this is expensive and not always effective. The infection is passed from dog to dog through the air. Even dogs which never leave the garden could become infected. However, the main problem comes where dogs are grouped together e.g. in boarding kennels, at training classes, and dog shows. Some dogs will cough or sneeze for 1- 2 days after vaccination. A separate nasal vaccine currently provides the best protection.

When to vaccinate?

Puppies can start their vaccination as early as 6 weeks.

Puppies older than 12 weeks of age also require two injections, a minimum of 2 weeks apart.

Until at least 5 days after the second injection, puppies should be kept away from all other dogs, which are a potential source of infections.

An additional injection against parvovirus may be recommended for puppies, 6 weeks after the second injection as they are especially susceptible to the damaging effects of the disease at this age.

Adult dogs also require a course of two injections, a minimum of two weeks apart, if they are being vaccinated for the first time.

Both puppies and adults, once they have had their initial course of injections will require a yearly booster to maintain their immunity.

Occasionally there may be tenderness around the vaccination site.