Dog vaccinations were developed to protect our dogs against many life threatening diseases. Before most dogs were routinely vaccinated, these diseases were common and often resulted in death. Fortunately due to the high uptake of vaccination we rarely see these diseases, but if the number to dogs vaccinated drops too low there will be enough susceptible animals for them to become commonplace again. They are a crucial part of a proper preventative health care program.
The vaccines we use in dogs at the Ark Veterinary Centre are Nobivac vaccines. The reason we have chose these vaccines is due to the good level of protection given, along with a very low rate of side effects (the most we have seen is a short period of being quiet after the vaccination, usually in puppies). When a vaccine is given, the body will then respond to it by producing an immune response. Your dog gets a full health check before we administer any vaccination. This is because if your dog is unwell, it’s ability to respond to the vaccine may be affected. At best, this means that the vaccine will not be fully effective, and at worst the vaccine could make your dog feel even worse. Hence it is crucial that vaccines should only be given to healthy individuals.
Initial vaccination course of 2 injections given 2-4 weeks apart. The first vaccine can be given from 6 weeks of age and the second one from 10-11 weeks of age. There must not be an interval of more that 4 weeks between the injections or the course will not be effective. Both vaccinations include protection against parvo, distemper, infectious hepatitis, and leptospirosis.
Annual boosters. A first annual booster is given against all four diseases. At this point the dog will be protected for 3 years against parvo, distemper and infectious hepatitis, however, they still require annual vaccinations against leptospirosis. Each year at your dog’s annual health assessment, we will check where they are with their vaccination status, and only administer what they require to keep them protected.
It is essential that all dogs that are used for breeding are fully vaccinated. Pups born to vaccinated mothers usually have antibodies from their mothers (maternal antibodies) to protect them against infection during the first few weeks of their lives. As the level of maternal antibodies declines then the puppy vaccines should be given. If you vaccinate puppies too early the maternal antibodies will prevent the vaccine from taking properly, if you leave it too late the puppy will not have any protection and will be at risk.
Booster vaccinations are part of your dog’s annual health check – this involves much more than a quick “jab” and your dog is given a full head to toe checkover. We are also able to discuss any behavioural/ training issues you may have. After the health check, your dog will be administered with an appropriate vaccination, and you will get a health check certificate with any advice or recommendations for follow up treatment.
Conditions that we routinely vaccinate dogs for
Parvo is a well known disease of dogs that causes a life threatening vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. It can also cause acute heart failure. It is highly contagious and can rapidly spread through litters of pups wiping them out.
It first emerged as a serious disease in the 1970, where it was killing thousands of dogs. An effective vaccine was then developed and although it is no longer present in epidemic proportions, parvovirus is still a relatively common disease in unvaccinated dogs. It is caused by an extremely hardy virus that can survive in the environment for up to 3 years. Young dogs are at greatest risk from this virus. It is mainly spread in the faeces of infected dogs (usually within 3-4 days after infection, and often before they develop any clinical signs of disease). It can also spread on shoes and clothing and on the coat and pads of dogs.
Canine parvovirus (CPV) affects all breeds of domesticated dog, although the black and tan varieties appear to be particularly susceptible. The incubation period of CPV is generally 4-7 days. Individuals normally have severe enteritis, however occasionally, animals may only have mild symptoms.
The virus infects and replicates in the cells lining the intestines destroying them. This results in the commonly seen symptoms of severe vomiting, abdominal pain and profuse smelly, bloody diarrhoea. This can result in rapid and severe dehydration, and ultimately death. It can also cause inflammation in the heart and lead to acute heart failure.
There is no specific treatment for the virus itself, and all treatment is aimed at supporting the body and minimising the effects. Some animals will recover with intensive treatment, but are likely to be left with chronic scarring to their intestines. Unfortunately many are not strong enough, so it is important to ensure that your dog is vaccinated in both puppyhood and adult life.
Vaccination against distemper has been highly effective and now the disease is rarely seen. However, as vaccine levels in dogs are falling, there have started to be areas where outbreaks of distemper are occurring.
Canine distemper virus is a highly infectious viral disease of dogs which can cause mild signs in some individuals, but may be fatal in others. Dogs less than one year of age are most commonly affected, however, those animals that have not been vaccinated or have weakened immune systems are also susceptible. The main source of infection is by inhalation of aerosol droplets during close dog-to-dog contact. Signs can take up to three weeks to appear. The virus cannot survive easily in the environment and can be killed by most household disinfectants. The early signs of disease are primarily respiratory with runny eyes and nose, and coughing. This is followed by depression, loss of appetite, vomiting and subsequently diarrhoea. In the later stages of the disease, dogs may develop thickening of the foot pads (known as ‘hard pad’) and nose. Dogs which survive may go on to show serious neurological signs including seizures (fits). There is no specific treatment for canine distemper, although supportive therapy in the form of intravenous fluids are often given to correct the fluid loss due to vomiting and diarrhoea. The best form of protection against this virus is through vaccination.
Infectious canine hepatitis is caused by a virus which affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of a dog. The disease can develop very quickly and some individuals may die within hours of becoming unwell. Dogs are most commonly affected in the first year of life, but unvaccinated dogs of all ages are susceptible.
It is transmitted by direct contact with infected urine, saliva and faeces. Dogs that have recovered from this disease can still be infectious to other dogs for more than six months. The virus is relatively hardy and can survive for months in the environment. Clinical signs develop after an incubation period of 4-7 days and most commonly include lack of appetite, fever, pale gums, conjunctivitis, coughing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. Sometimes, the dog may later develop jaundice. In some dogs that recover, a clouding of the cornea occurs, known as ‘blue eye’ which usually resolves itself over time. Occasionally the disease is so severe as to cause sudden death before any signs have developed.
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which means it can infect humans. It is caused by bacteria that are spread in the urine of infected animals. The human form of the disease is more commonly known as Weils disease.
There are different strains of leptospirosis that cause disease. The 2 main ones are Icterohaemorrhagiae and Canicola. With Icterohaemorrhagiae, the rat is the main carrier of the disease. Transmission to dogs is either directly via contact with infected urine, or indirectly via contact with contaminated water (e.g. drinking or swimming in canals or rivers inhabited by infected rats). Symptoms of disease can vary from mild nonspecific signs such as lethargy and depression, to more severe signs such as abdominal pain, jaundice, liver damage and even death. Dogs that have been infected may go on to become carriers of the disease, shedding the bacteria in their urine.
With Canicola, the dog is the main carrier of disease. This form of disease primarily affects the kidneys and again clinical signs can vary from mild and non-specific, to kidney failure or sudden death. Dogs that recover from the disease can also become carriers and shed the bacteria in their urine for up to 2 years.
All dogs that are exercised out of doors or have access to rodents or where they have urinated, are at risk. Given how this disease spreads most dogs are potentially at risk and therefore it is important to re-vaccinate your dog on a yearly basis against this disease to continue the optimum level of protection – studies have shown that protection starts to wane after 12 months. Annual vaccination not only provides disease protection but can also impact shedding of infection in urine, minimising the chance of spread of disease.
There are 2 other strains of leptospirosis which do not commonly occur in the UK. Some vaccine manufacturers have brought out a new vaccine containing all 4 strains. At present we do not use this vaccine. The reason we have chosen not to use it routinely is because
- All dogs would have to start the vaccination course again for it to have effect.
- Puppies will not be fully covered until 13 weeks of age as the 2nd vaccine cannot be given until 12 weeks of age, so delaying socialisation.
- The new vaccine stings on injection and can result in a lump forming.
- There is no definitive proof that we have these strains of leptospirosis in the UK as specific lab testing is not 100% accurate.
If evidence to the contrary comes to light, then we will review our vaccination policy.
Other conditions that we often vaccinate for
Kennel cough (bordetella bronchiseptica or Bb)
This is the commonest cause of kennel cough and from the same family as Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough in humans). Bb causes disease in a wide range of host species, including cats (where it is one of the causes of ‘cat flu’), pigs, rabbits and horses. Bb can infect other species kept in close contact with dogs and therefore interspecies transmission is possible in particular between dogs and cats. Bb can be shed for up to four months post infection. It is not a life threatening condition, but it is highly contagious. We recommend vaccination in animals who are going into high risk situations (boarding kennels/doggy day care).
Often found together with Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb), CPi is present in mouth and nose secretions for up to two weeks post-infection. CPi alone can cause a mild cough and runny nose. However, the severity and duration of clinical signs are worse if CPi occurs combination with Bb. The kennel cough vaccine includes CPi along with Bb.
Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease which is almost always fatal and can infect all mammals including humans. Dogs are the main source for human rabies. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal with high virus concentrations in its saliva. The British Isles has been free of rabies for many decades. The last case of classical rabies caught in the UK was in 1902 and since 1946 there have only been 22 deaths in the UK from rabies acquired abroad. All rabies susceptible animals entering the UK are required to spend six months in quarantine, unless they arrive in this country under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).
Rabies virus is a member of the Rhabdoviridae – an RNA virus. Both wild and domesticated animals can act as a natural reservoir for the disease, with human infection normally transmitted from dogs, cats, rodents and wild animals like bats, foxes and skunks. The incubation period of rabies varies from nine days to more than a year. The delay in some cases is because the virus has to migrate from the site of initial entry into the body to the spinal cord or the brain. The average length of time for clinical signs to appear is four weeks after infection and can be seen in three phases:
- Phase one – Local irritation of the entry site, followed by fever, mild changes in demeanour, behaviour and temperament. Pupils will be dilated and eye reflexes slow. The sound of an animal’s bark or meow may alter.
- Phase two – Aggression, lack of coordination, disorientation, seizures and fits, increased salivation and photophobia.
- Phase three – Paralysis, excessive salivation, respiratory failure, coma and then death.
The requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) are very strict regarding rabies boosters and if a pet owner wishes to keep their animal registered, its vaccinations must be kept up-to-date. It is important to consider that if a pet is regarded as resident in a particular country being visited that the rules governing rabies vaccination in the country may be different from those needed for travel, if you are unsure, please check with a local vet.
Other conditions that vaccines exist for but we currently do not routinely recommend