Pet Vaccination Advice

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Just like humans, animals are susceptible to a wide range of illnesses and diseases. By vaccinating your pet you are protecting them against some serious life-threatening or potentially severely debilitating conditions. In addition, vaccinating your pet can help prevent the spread of disease in your local area should there be an outbreak.

Further Advice

Common Questions

What diseases can be vaccinated against?

Dogs are commonly vaccinated against Distemper (Hardpad), Hepatitis, Adenovirus, Parvovirus (Enteritis), Parainfluenza and forms of Leptospirosis. It is also possible to vaccinate against Kennel Cough and Rabies.

Cats are commonly vaccinated again Cat Flu and Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). It is also possible to vaccinate cats against Chlamydia and Rabies.

Rabbits are commonly vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease of Rabbits (VHD).

We also vaccinate other animals – including ferrets and chickens! We will be able to discuss the disease risks of these more “unusual” animals with you and help you decide what/if a vaccine is needed.

What should I vaccinate my animal against?

Dogs: We recommend that all dogs should be vaccinated against the diseases as described above. These diseases are serious and either life-threatening or potentially severely debilitating. We also recommend the Kennel Cough vaccine if your dog is mixing with many others – this is not just a problem confined to kennelled dogs!

Cats: We recommend that all cats should have a vaccination against Cat Flu and Enteritis. This is also the minimum usually needed for cats to be accepted into a cattery. It is also advisable to vaccinate cats against the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) which is a nasty viral disease that can suppress the cat’s immune system and often allows certain types of tumours to develop. This disease can infect cats at any time, although the particularly young or old are most at risk. Cats that are purely indoor animals (ie never go outside) are very unlikely to come in contact with an FeLV positive cat and therefore don’t necessarily require vaccination against FeLV.

Britain remains a “Rabies-free” country and so you will only need to vaccinate your dog or cat against Rabies if you are planning to export the animal (dogs and cats) or take your dog or cat on holiday to Europe under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

Why should I vaccinate my pet?

Thankfully these days, because of a high uptake in pet vaccination, we do not see the diseases anywhere near as much as we used to. However they are still around and potentially any unvaccinated animal is susceptible to these illnesses.

They are spread by a variety of factors and can also be picked up from the environment too. The fact that “my dog doesn’t mix with other dogs” or “my cat doesn’t go outside much” does not mean that your pet may not be exposed to the diseases.

We do see clusters of disease pop up occasionally (for example Parvovirus is more common in inner-city areas) and certain breeds of dog may more predisposed to certain conditions (black and tan dogs such as rotties and dobermans seem to be more prone to Parvo, and working dogs or dogs with more contact with water are more prone to contracting Leptospirosis.)

It is always very sad when we are presented with a poorly animal that is suffering from any of these very preventable diseases.

How does vaccination work?

Vaccination involves exposing the body to an inactivated or altered form of a virus or bacteria which can cause disease. This results in the body creating anti-bodies to a specific disease without becoming ill or suffering from the effects of the disease itself. Once the body has made these anti-bodies, the immune system is ready to act immediately should it become exposed to the real disease.

Often an animal will need an initial vaccination course of two injections followed by yearly jabs for the rest of the animals life. This means that a high level of anti-bodies are created in the first instances, which are then “topped-up” each year by the booster. Not every vaccine requires an annual booster - some are given every third year.

How old do animals have to be in order to start their vaccinations?

Dogs usually start their vaccinations at 8 weeks old, and have their second injection at 10 weeks old. This is so that they are protected fully by the time they can start going out and about at around 11 weeks of age. This early vaccination is very important as it allows the dog to start being socialised with the big wide world at an age when they are most open minded. Remember that older puppies still need vaccinating if the breeder has not already done it!

Cats usually start their vaccinations at 9 weeks old, and have their second injection at 11 weeks old too. Again this is so that they are fully protected at a young age – often when they are at their most inquisitive!

Rabbits can be vaccinated against Myxomatosis from 6 weeks old onwards, and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) from 10 to 12 weeks old onwards. Unlike the dog and cat vaccines, only ever a single injection is required to be injected. Unfortunately, these two vaccinations cannot be given together and therefore are usually administered two weeks apart. A good idea to have the Myxomatosis vaccine at 10 weeks old and then the VHD vaccine at 12 weeks.

Are there any risks involved?

The vaccines used in general practice are very safe. Your pet may get some transient discomfort or itching around the site of the injection, but this is usually very short lived. However – a very small proportion of animals may suffer a type of allergic reaction to the vaccine; often after their very first injection. With cats, there is thought to be a slight link between the Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV vaccine) and the incidence of a type of skin cancer called fibrosarcomas. At the moment this risk is thought to be very low, around 1 in 10,000. Therefore it is important to discuss your animal’s vaccination protocol with one of our vets.

What does the cost of the vaccine incorporate?

The cost of the vaccination doesn’t just include the injection itself. For puppies, kittens and rabbits starting their vaccination course, the price includes a thorough health check and examination to make sure that he or she is absolutely healthy before entering the big wide world. We also provide puppy and kitten packs which are crammed full of information about general health care, flea and worming treatment and training (for puppies), and the vets are happy to discuss any aspect of your pet's requirements.

For those animals coming in for their annual booster – the same applies. We like to give each animal a thorough “MOT” and health check, and it can be a good time for people to bring up any concerns that they may have been having during the past year. This annual health check gets more important as your pet gets older as the examining vet may be able to pick up problems with the animal that owners may not yet be aware of.

Why does my pet have to have a "booster" vaccine every year?

This is a good question – as humans don’t get their vaccines done as frequently. It is quite a complicated subject and one that feelings can often run quite high about!

To try and simplify the science – it is to do with “immune memory”. After a vaccine the animal produces a strong response and produces a lot of the required antibodies (or specific cells to actually produce the antibodies). Over time – particularly if the disease itself is not encountered, the numbers of these antibodies start to drop. After a while (usually around 12-15 months) the levels of these antibodies may have dropped to such a level where they may no longer protect against the disease itself.

This rate of decline will obviously vary between individuals. We are able to blood test animals at booster time to check antibody levels to see if vaccination is required. More often than not, the results show that booster vaccination is indeed required – not necessarily for all the diseases but often 1 or more. This is particularly the case with Leptospirosis antibodies. The difficulty is the variation between individuals and the fact that you cannot “guess” which ones are still protected after a year – and those that are vulnerable.