By Dr. Megan Kelly
There is a lot of controversy regarding vaccinations in general whether for people or pets but there is no doubt that they are necessary and have been instrumental in saving the lives of many. Some diseases have been virtually eradicated due to worldwide vaccination. I think the important thing to consider is to vaccinate when needed but not to over vaccinate and put unnecessary load and strain on the body’s immune system.
Vaccinations in dogs provide the body with the necessary stimulation to elicit immunity against the following life threatening diseases.
Canine distemper virus : signs include nasal discharge, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea and eventually neurological symptoms such as seizures and tremors.
Canine parvovirus: severe vomiting and diarrhoea in young puppies. This virus is often fatal.
Canine infectious hepatitis : this virus causes liver failure.
Leptospirosis : this is a bacteria carried by rats and also results in liver failure.
Rabies : always a fatal virus which can be spread to humans. The virus is transmitted by saliva and eventually spreads to the brain where it causes behavioural symptoms such as aggression and then progresses to paralysis and death.
Kennel cough : caused by a combination of bacteria and viruses. Symptoms include a dry, hacking cough that sounds like there is something stuck in your dog’s throat.
The first vaccination is given at 6 weeks. At this time the immunity the puppy receives from the mother will start to wear off. A booster is given at 12 weeks together with the first rabies vaccination. Another booster is required 12 months after the first series of vaccinations and after that every year to 3-yearly depending on your pet’s immunity. Rabies is a compulsory vaccine and should be done yearly. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) states that we should vaccinate no more frequently than every three years depending on the dog’s immunity. If the dog is still immune to the core diseases then re-vaccinating will not add any extra immunity. If you are not sure if your pet has the required immunity one can do titre testing (vaccicheck) yearly. A small sample of blood is taken and checked for the presence of circulating antibodies. This way one can decide whether the vaccine is needed on a yearly basis or not.
Even if your pet doesn’t need a vaccination, a yearly health check is always advised as many diseases when caught early can be treated.