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Importance of Dog Vaccinations

Vaccinations are the best way to protect your dog from potentially fatal diseases.

There are several potentially fatal diseases out there that pet dogs can succumb to, and vaccinations are the best way to protect your dog from these diseases. Vaccinations are designed to prevent pets from falling ill with serious, potentially life-threatening diseases. Many of the diseases we vaccinate against can prove fatal and do not have a reliable cure, which is why vaccine prevention is so important. 

The diseases we can protect dogs against with vaccinations are Canine Parvovirus; Distemper virus; Infectious Canine Hepatitis; Leptospirosis; Kennel Cough.  

Recently there has been a noted increase in Parvovirus and Leptospirosis infections in dogs, likely caused by an increase in numbers of unvaccinated pets, particularly during the Covid pandemic. The concern is that we start to see these diseases on the rise again, and remembering the Parvo outbreaks in the 80's, believe me that is not something that you would want to see again.

When puppies are born, they are usually protected from infections by their mother's milk, that is providing she has been regularly vaccinated. However, this protection only lasts a few weeks, so they need their vaccinations from an early age. Puppies can be vaccinated from 8 weeks old. They will need a primary vaccination course to get their protection started. They are not protected enough to be safe around other dogs and to be out in public parks and walkways, until one week after their second vaccinations. To find out the best advised vaccine protocol for your puppy, please contact your Vet practice, they will still be able to assist and advise you during these difficult times.  

After the primary puppy vaccination course remember that your dog will then need to be vaccinated annually, to keep up the protection against the diseases. This is called a Booster vaccination, as it boosts your dog’s on-going immunity against these diseases.   

It is not necessary to vaccinate against every disease every year, but all dogs do still require annual Booster vaccinations against Leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease which could potentially affect humans. The vaccine protection against Leptospirosis does not last much beyond 12 months, which is why revaccination against this disease is recommended on an annual basis. The booster vaccinations against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus are given every third year after their first annual booster vaccines.  

Adult dogs whose vaccinations have lapsed and who have not been vaccinated within the last fifteen months, will need to resume a full primary vaccination course, involving two sets of vaccinations. Your vet will choose a vaccination regime in line with their vaccine protocol, your pet's health, local disease prevalence, and the most up to date professional guidelines.  

Concerningly, Parvovirus continues to still pose a disease threat to dogs throughout the UK. Sadly, despite the availability of a vaccination against this disease, cases are still being seen. These are dogs that have been incubating the disease as puppies, are not vaccinated, or they are not up to date with their regular booster vaccinations. Worryingly there has been a rise in Parvovirus cases over the COVID-19 restriction period. This is probably due to a lapse in vaccination protection throughout the UK dog population during this time.  

Parvovirus causes terrible suffering for the dogs infected, and any treatment requires intensive veterinary nursing if they are to survive. Sadly, despite all best efforts, severely affected puppies and dogs do still die as a result of this terrible disease.  

The virus attacks the heart muscle and intestinal tract of young puppies and the intestinal tract of adult dogs. Parvovirus is particularly serious in young puppies, and they also are at potential risk of heart disease from this virus. It also affects puppies and dog's intestines and clinical symptoms of Parvovirus include vomiting, a foul-smelling profuse diarrhoea that may contain blood, severe dehydration, lethargy, and loss of appetite, collapse.    

If a dog develops any of these signs, they should receive immediate veterinary attention. With treatment some dogs will recover, but others can die, sometimes within hours of showing signs. Fatality rates can be extremely high. In puppies, the mortality rate can be as high as 70%.   

As long as a puppy is not already infected and incubating this disease when acquired, then thankfully Parvovirus is preventable through a course of primary vaccinations. So, do make sure that you acquire your pup from a healthy, well-researched, known, reputable source and breeder, to avoid any potential disease and heartbreak here.   

However, older pets need protecting too, as their immunity can decline. Ask your vet practice about regular booster vaccinations to make sure your dog is kept well protected lifelong. Prevention is always far better than cure. Once vaccinated, your dog's immune system response to diseases such as Parvovirus gradually fades over time, so their vaccination boosters are still required to maintain a full and adequate protection. Generally, once your dog's puppy course and his first-year annual booster vaccinations are completed, the Parvovirus protection is then given as a booster vaccination every three years.  

If your puppy or dog is not vaccinated, or if their vaccinations have lapsed, then do call your Vet practice for advice on how to arrange for vaccine protection against these diseases. 

If the number of pets protected by vaccines drops, our animal companions could be at risk from an outbreak of several infectious diseases, some of which, such as Leptospirosis, are also zoonotic and can be transmitted to humans. 

Always contact your Vet and your Vet support team for good, professional advice on your pets’ vaccinations.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers,
Senior Consultant,
Crown Vets

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