Just like in humans, vaccinations are an extremely important part of healthcare as they strive to eliminate or reduce disease within a population as well as protecting the individual from potentially life threatening disease and are recommended by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), RSPCA, International cat care, Rabbit Welfare Association (RWA) and many other organisations. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk with side effects only very rarely. The duration of immunity to each vaccination is different and therefore they need to repeated at different intervals. The annual vaccination appointment is also a great opportunity for our vets to give your pet a thorough health check including monitoring their weight and discussing any concerns you have.
In the UK we vaccinate against 5 main diseases:
Parvovirus – This disease primarily affects puppies, usually in urban areas. It causes bloody sickness and diarrhoea and is more often than not fatal. Vaccination has reduced the incidence of this disease but if vaccine numbers drop it will increase again.
Distemper virus – This disease primarily affects puppies and causes sickness, diarrhoea and neurological signs such as seizuring. This is also fatal but thankfully vaccination has kept it at low numbers. We have seen it though in rescue dogs from abroad which may threaten our population.
Infectious canine hepatitis – Causes signs such as vomiting, diarrhoea, bleeding disorders and liver disease and can affect adult dogs.
Leptospirosis – This is an emerging bacterial disease of humans and animals and the greatest threat to our adult dogs. This disease is not affected by large scale vaccination so your dog will only be protected if it has been individually vaccinated. We do see cases of this disease in our area and numbers are rising. Leptospirosis is spread by animals such as rats. Dogs catch the disease from drinking stagnant water, i.e. ponds and puddles. The signs are bloody sickness and diarrhoea, kidney failure, liver failure and it’s often fatal. There are four strains of the disease in the UK and therefore vaccination is required against all four strains. Immunity is short lived, very few antibodies remain after 1 year and therefore re-vaccination is annual.
Kennel cough – This disease is very common and we see cases weekly. It is not fatal but it does cause a nasty choking sounding cough which can last months. Dogs usually pick it up from socialising with other dogs on walks. Vaccine is required if your dog goes into kennels or if it meets other dogs.
In cats we routinely vaccinate against 4 main diseases:
Calici virus (cat flu) - This virus is very common throughout the cat population. It usually affects kittens and can be life threatening. Most cats will then fight off the virus but 1/3rd of cats will continue to shed and carry the virus infecting other cats. They will also then have flare ups of the disease with signs such as upper respiratory infections, ocular disease and severe oral ulceration.
Herpes virus (cat flu) – as above
Feline panleukopenia virus (feline infectious enteritis) – Can cause sudden death, especially in kittens as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and seizures.
Feline leukaemia virus – This virus is also common in the feline population. It is spread through saliva so fighting, grooming and sharing food and water bowls puts cats at risk. This disease is usually fatal within 3 years and leads to anaemia and cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma.
We vaccinate rabbits against 2 main diseases:
Myxomatosis – This is a disease many people will have heard of and whilst the incidence of it has reduced since its introduction into this country we still see cases including in pet rabbits. It is spread by biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes so can also be caught by indoor rabbits. It causes severe nasal and ocular congestion causing blindness which in most cases is fatal.
Viral Haemorrhagic disease – This disease is likely to be more common than we realise as it often presents as an owner just finding their rabbit dead in the garden. The virus is spread by the wind, wild animals, birds and food stuffs and causes sudden death.
There is now a combined vaccination for these two diseases and re-vaccination is annual.
NB - We can now vaccinate against additional Type 2 VHD strain. There are no warning signs for this, usually the rabbit is just found dead.
Contact us at the clinic for further information on the above - or to book an appointment.
Category: Small Animals