In the past many dogs, cats and rabbits succumbed to a range of awful diseases that we see far less of nowadays thanks to vaccination. Ask any older pet owner and they will remember parvovirus and distemper epidemics. We now routinely vaccinate all puppies from 6 to 8 weeks of age, kittens from 9 weeks of age and rabbits from 8 weeks of age to protect them from those same diseases. You will not only be protecting them but also all the pets in your locality. Where people don’t vaccinate or keep up to date with vaccines we still see outbreaks of these diseases which are often fatal. Some of the diseases (such as Leptospirosis) are zoonotic and can affect people too.
We write to all pets each year to invite them for their annual health check and booster vaccination.
The Annual Health Examination is far more than just coming for a booster vaccination; in fact it is probably one of the most important visits to the Vets in that it allows us to identify any abnormalities early and deal with them or offer advice as appropriate. The vet will check ears, eyes, teeth, skin, heart, lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes and so on. This is provides an ideal opportunity to review preventive health, behaviour and any other concerns that you, the owner, may have. We make longer appointments for this in order to address all these things.
Many people ask questions about the need for vaccines, the frequency they must be given and potential side effects. We believe that many vaccines are not only essential for your pet to prevent life threatening or serious disease but are also imperative to protect humans and the pet community generally. We do not agree with over vaccination so we adjust vaccine protocols and recommendations based on manufacturer data sheets, the endemic situation and currently available data. For example we give leptospirosis vaccines to dogs annually but parvovirus every 2 years (or every 3 if you are regularly within 12 months of your last vaccination).
The risks associated with vaccination are small. More common side effects include soreness at the vaccination site for a few days, lethargy, mild diarrhoea, swelling at the vaccine site and allergic reactions (the latter within minutes or hours of vaccination). Most of these side effects are rare and have to be balanced against the benefit given by the vaccine. If you wish to discuss vaccination of your pet further then the Vet will happily answer any questions when you are next in. We routinely recommend vaccination of dogs against Parvovirus, Distemper Virus, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Parainfluenza Virus and Leptospirosis. We protect cats against the two cat influenza viruses (Herpes and Calici) and Feline Leukaemia Virus.
We also have Kennel Cough (an intra-nasal vaccine against Bordetella—one of several organisms that can cause a debilitating respiratory infection) for dogs. Previously we have given this to dogs going into kennels whilst you are on holiday (most good Boarding Kennels insist on it). We see Kennel Cough commonly and we now recommend the vaccine for all dogs who spend time with other dogs.
Many people take advantage of the PET Travel Scheme, for example to travel in the European Union. This entails being vaccinated for rabies and having a passport issued. The pet must also have an Identification Chip fitted.