Vaccinations – Dogs / Cats / Rabbits

What is a Vaccination?

A vaccination is an injection administered by a vet, usually under the skin although some can be given via a spray up the nose. The injection then works by training the body to recognise the harmful viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine so that if the body meets it again it can fight it off.

We routinely vaccinate against some highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases. There is often little to no treatment for these diseases and any puppy or kitten contracting them can die. Vaccination is a simple way to protect your dog or cat and keep them healthy.

Dog vaccinations

What do we vaccinate against?

  • Canine infectious hepatitis (adenovirus 1) – canine infectious hepatitis is a disease whereby the adenovirus attacks the liver causing liver failure in some cases. Animals that succumb to the disease often die, those less severely affected can still be very sick with the disease. There is no specific treatment but the vaccination provides good protection.
  • Canine distemper (hard pad) – canine distemper virus causes a very serious, often fatal disease. Signs of the disease can include coughing, discharge from the nose, vomiting, diarrhoea, convulsions and hard foot pads (hyperkeratosis). Animals recovering will continue to suffer illness for the rest of their lives. The vaccination is very effective.

  • Canine parvovirus (‘parvo’) – canine parvovirus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea which is often bloody. Young puppies are often affected and many will die as a result. If a bitch is affected whilst pregnant it can result in growth deformities in the puppies. Vaccine protection is usually very good. It is important that the second vaccination given to puppies is when they are at least 10 weeks old otherwise the antibodies given to the puppy from its mother can affect the vaccines effectiveness resulting in the puppy catching parvo despite being vaccinated (Rottweiler’s especially)

  •  Leptospirosis (Weils disease) – Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a bacterium that is usually spread by rats which pass the bacteria in their urine. The bacteria needs a moist environment to survive therefore dogs spending a lot of time around water are most at risk. The disease can cause liver failure and jaundice and can be spread to both other dogs and people. Vaccination is very good but only lasts 1 year, dogs at higher risk need vaccinating more often.
  • Kennel Cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) – Kennel cough I caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses including: canine parainfluenza virus, canine adenovirus 2 and Bordetella. Kennel cough is not serious in a healthy dog but it does cause a harsh hacking cough that can last several weeks. It is also highly infectious and spreads rapidly through dogs coming into close contact e.g. in kennels.

  • Rabies – vaccination against rabies is unnecessary in the UK as we are free from Rabies. However if you plan to travel abroad with your dog you will need a rabies vaccination, this now means that quarantine is not always necessary when travelling with your dog.

When should my dog be vaccinated

Puppies are protected from infectious diseases by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, once these antibodies reduce the puppy will make their own antibodies to protect them against disease. Some puppies do not have good protection from their mother and so benefit from early vaccination. For most puppies the first injection is given at 8 weeks old with the second vaccination at 10-12 weeks old (10 weeks old is the earliest a second vaccination can be given). Puppies need both injections to be fully protected.

The protection given by each vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your dog remains safe.

Do vaccines always work?

Vaccines offer very good protection however on some occasions an individual dog may not get full protection from the vaccine. This is usually because the dog was already ill or stressed at the time of injection. The vet will examine your dog before they give the injection and any concerns from the owner should be raised at this time.

Most dogs are protected against infectious disease by regular vaccination. Your dog MUST receive regular vaccinations to be fully protected against these diseases.

Cat Vaccinations

What do we vaccinate against?

  • Feline Panleucopaenia (feline distemper/feline infectious enteritis) – feline panleucopaenia virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea leading to a potentially fatal dehydration within 2-3 days. Kittens and young cats are particularly at risk. The virus is spread in infected faeces but vaccination provides good protection.

  • Cat Flu (feline viral rhinotracheitits caused by feline calicivirus and herpes virus) – the effects are similar to humans with sneezing, runny nose and eyes and often mouth ulcers can occur. It is rarely fatal except in those otherwise unwell, elderly or very young. Cats affected often recover but can carry the viruses lifelong and often show signs when stressed. This means they pose a risk to any unvaccinated cat.

  • Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) – not all cats infected with the virus get the disease but those that do often die. The disease destroys the cat’s defences against other disease and can lead to cancer which is often fatal. The virus spreads by direct contact with other cats so any cat going outside is at risk.

  • Rabies – vaccination against rabies is unnecessary in the UK as we are free from Rabies. However if you plan to travel abroad with your cat you will need a rabies vaccination, this now means that quarantine is not always necessary when travelling with your cat.

When should my cat be vaccinated?

Kittens are protected from infectious diseases by the antibodies in their mother’s milk, once these antibodies reduce the kitten will make their own antibodies to protect them against disease. Some kittens do not have good protection from their mother and so benefit from early vaccination. For most kittens the first injection is given at 9 weeks old with the second vaccination at around 12 weeks old (12 weeks old is the earliest a second vaccination can be given). Kittens need both injections to be fully protected.

The protection given by each vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your cat remains safe.

Do vaccines always work?

Vaccines offer very good protection however on some occasions an individual cat may not get full protection from the vaccine. This is usually because the cat was already ill or stressed at the time of injection. The vet will examine your cat before they give the injection and any concerns from the owner should be raised at this time.

Most cats are protected against infectious disease by regular vaccination. Your cat MUST receive regular vaccinations to be fully protected against these diseases.

Rabbit Vaccinations

There are several highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases that can affect your rabbit. Luckily a vaccination is available to protect your rabbit against the 2 most prevalent. It is essential that your rabbit receives regular booster injections to ensure they are fully protected.

What do we vaccinate against?

  • Myxomatosis – a disease caused by a virus that only affects rabbits. The virus causes a very severe swelling of the lips eyelids and genitals. Wild rabbits suffering from the disease are most at risk of being caught by predators. Pet rabbits can sometimes recover with very intensive nursing if the disease is caught early. Insects transmit the virus between rabbits including flies and rabbit fleas. Cats can sometimes carry the rabbit flea so a house rabbit is still at risk of catching the disease.

  • Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) – a disease caused by a highly contagious virus. It causes massive haemorrhage (bleeding) from the internal organs leading to a rapid death. The virus is spread rabbit to rabbit but also on contaminated equipment, clothing and feed; insects’ rodents and birds may also transmit the virus.

When can we vaccinate?

A combined Myxomatosis and VHD vaccination can be given from 10 weeks of age. The protection given by the vaccination wears off after time and so annual boosters are required to ensure your rabbit remains safe.