Vaccinations

We recommend vaccination of dogs and cats to prevent serious infectious diseases. 

We send reminders for yearly vaccinations.  Your pet will receive a full health check at the time of vaccination, and we will address any additional issues that we find at the time of the vaccination appointment. It is important that we give a thorough appraisal of your dog’s health status on a yearly basis, as this provides the opportunity to detect any problems before they become serious. Our pets age far more quickly than we do, so a yearly check up may alert us to an issue that can be treated, and that could extend your pet’s life by many years. It is also important to ensure that your dog is healthy and likely to have an efficient and available immune system capable of responding effectively to vaccination. If we find that they are fighting an infection or disease, we will usually delay the vaccination until your pet it well. 

If you have any questions, worries or concerns please ask any of our friendly staff for further information. 

  

Is annual vaccination still important?  

The simple answer is YES! 

Dogs: 

The diseases we use vaccines to prevent are Canine Parvovirus (severe bloody diarrhea and vomiting), Distemper (affecting brain, lungs and the digestive system), Adenoviral hepatitis (severe liver disease) and the Kennel cough culprits: Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica (related to whooping cough).  

Cats: 

The diseases we use vaccines to prevent are Feline Panleucopaenia (Feline Parvovirus) the “Cat flu” viruses (Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpes Virus – 1) and FIV (Feline Aids). 

These diseases are frequently fatal, however the risk of adverse effects from vaccination is very small. Therefore the risk vs benefit analysis is strongly in favour of vaccination. 

 

How does immunity work?  

The immune system is complex, but essentially there are 3 main parts that allow our bodies and our pets bodies to have some resistance to disease. 

  1. Innate immunity or inherent resistance: This is the skin and mucous membrane barriers, along with secretions and reactionswhich keep bacteria and viruses from getting access to our bodies. When they do get in, the white blood cells and other cells and chemicals inside the body take up the fight. Unfortunately this is the part of the immune system that is attacked by these severe diseases. Unfortunately, if it is the only component of the immune system fighting, it is inadequate to compete with these diseases. 
  2. Cell mediated immunity isinduced by vaccination and natural exposure to the viruses and bacteria. This immunity is a vital part of the defence mechanism against disease.  Cell mediated immunity cannot be measured in a blood sample. 
  3. Antibody mediated immunityis also induced by , and exposure to viruses and bacteria. The antibodies produced protect the animal against disease when the virus or bacteria is next encountered. Repeat vaccination yearly ensure that there are always enough antibodies in the blood stream to provide protection against disease. Antibody levels can be measured in a blood sample, and this gives an indication of how well protected your pet is.  An accurate and quantitative reliable test significantly more costly than a vaccination. Titre tests tell you where the immunity is at the time of the blood test, but they do not provide a guarantee of ongoing protection against natural disease. Although it is not a test that we recommend, we can send a blood sample to the lab if you would like this information. We believe that the advantage of ensuring that antibody levels are high, gained by yearly vaccination is a great benefit, and requires very little cost and even smaller risk.  

 

How do vaccines work?  

Vaccination protection has two important aspects. 

  1. Protection of the individual– modern vaccines provide excellent protection against lethal diseases in the face of infection challenge. This means, if a vaccinated dog gets exposed to parvo, it’s induced immunity will inactivate the virus, and the dog will not get sick. On the other hand, all unvaccinated dogs exposed to parvo will get sick. The virus attacks the lining of the stomach and intestines before you realise the dog has been exposed. Dogs can no longer digest or keep down food. Most dogs get so sick that they require hospitalisation, and many will die despite our best efforts and treatment. 
  2. Herd protection– this is a forgotten aspect of vaccination. Essentially, if more animals in a population are vaccinated, the disease risk is less because the quantity of virus in the environment and the number of diseased animals spreading the virus decreases. Sick animals shed live infectious virus in their stool, nasal mucous or oral secretions. In fact, if all susceptible individuals are vaccinated the disease risk reduces to nil. Amazingly, smallpox in humans and rinderpest in cattle have been eliminated from the planet by vaccination programs. 

Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get to that state with parvovirus! The “antivax campaign” has set any such aims back a long way. The reason why some unvaccinated dogs do not get infections is because they have not come across the virus. This is known as herd immunity.  Basically, the unvaccinated animals are protected by the responsible owners who do vaccinate their pets! 

In human medicine, we are seeing the consequences of decreasing uptake of vaccination – the incidence of measles and whooping cough in some communities is increasing and tragically there have been some infant mortalities from preventable diseases.  

Unfortunately, vaccines are a victim of their own success.  We believe in the science behind vaccines and are convinced of the value of vaccines in disease prevention. 

 

But what about the risks?  

The fact is that some vocal individuals have exaggerated the risk associated with vaccination in general. Lack of exposure to the diseases means that people forget that the reason the vaccines were developed was because the diseases were killing people and animals, and treatment was not helping. Ask anyone who was around before vaccines were developed for measles, whooping cough, parvo or distemper, and they will tell you that vaccines were seen as a miracle. 

There is always a small risk associated with any medication or vaccine, but compared to the disease, the risks seem minute. A study in the UK, involved a 5 year analysis from 2005 to 2010. There were an average of 18 adverse reactions reported, for every 100,000 doses of vaccine sold (that is 1 reaction every 5500 vaccines given). How bad were the reactions though? Recorded reactions were mainly mild lethargy, inappetence and mild swelling at the injection site. Surely this reinforces the fact that vaccination is extremely safe.  

 

Annual vaccination?  

DOGS 

We recommend annual vaccination because we see these diseases and they are tragic. With prolonged and intensive treatment, some pups and dogs with parvo will survive, but many do not, despite the best possible treatment. Treating and nursing these patients is heartbreaking for veterinary staff. Parvovirus is a very tough virus, and can easily be transferred into the home on shoes or equipment. When dogs catch parvo and have never left the fenced property, we can only conclude that the virus must have been brought in on shoes, clothing or car tyres.  Distemper is very rare now, but there is no treatment for it – it is a cruel disease that destroys the lungs, the intestines and the brain. Fortunately the vaccination is extremely effective. Adenoviral hepatitis causes severe and painful swelling of the liver, and fatal consequences of liver failure. Kennel cough is highly contagious and can be caught by any interaction with a sick dog – kennels just intensify this risk. Death from pneumonia secondary to kennel cough does not always happen, however these dogs can require hospitalisation to get them over the disease. 

CATS 

We recommend annual vaccination because of the severity of disease when cats are affected, and the severely infectious nature of the upper respiratory diseases. Feline panleukopenia virus is a species of parvovirus that can infect all wild and domestic cats. It is a highly contagious, severe infection that causes gastrointestinal, immune system, and nervous system disease. Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious cause of upper respiratory infections and oral ulcerations in cats. These cats have a blocked nose and a sore mouth, so will often refuse to eat. Feline herpes virus also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, is just as infectious. Both viruses cause similar symptoms, and we don’t always diagnose which virus is responsible for the sneezy miserable kitten. Both viruses are components of the standard feline vaccination.[Text Wrapping Break]Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is present in the cat population in our area. It is transmitted via saliva and other bodily secretions. It is not a strong virus like parvo, so can’t be brought in on shoes or even cat hair. We see it in cats who get into fights.  Often the local stray Tom cat is the carrier, and spreads the virus via his aggression. Cats who are kept strictly indoors and do not interact with any stray cats are not at risk of contracting FIV, so vaccination is not essential.  If your cat is bitten in a cat fight, we recommend testing them for the presence of FIV virus 8 weeks later. If the test is negative, FIV vaccination is recommended. If the test is positive, your cat can live a happy life, however they are more prone to infections, and are now a source of virus, so we strongly recommend keeping them indoors for the rest of their lives. 

Are puppies & KITTENS more vulnerable?  

Yes. Young pups and kittens are at a critical stage until 12 weeks of age for most, and still vulnerable until 16 weeks of age for some. They are born with an immature immune system, which does not get stimulated to create antibodies immediately. The are born with antibodies derived from their mother’s placenta and milk. This is called passive immunity, and it provides protection from disease (if mum has been vaccinated!). Vaccination begins at  8 weeks of age because some animals will not have much immunity from Mum. 4 weeks later another vaccination is given, and by this time, most animals will no longer have any of Mum’s antibodies left, and will generate an active immune response. If some antibodies are left though, they will bind the vaccine, and prevent a protective immunity from developing. We give a final puppy vaccine at 16 weeks to ensure that those pups who had a high level of passive maternal immunity, will still produce an active immune response, which will keep them protected for the following year. 

Vaccination in pups is especially important because it is essential to their development that they safely meet other pups as early as possible, to develop social skills and learn behaviours that will lead to a happy life. Vaccination is a prerequisite to puppy school. 

 

How can I give my pet maximum protection?  

We have vast experience in the practical application of vaccines and their impact on animal health, so we recommend an annual health check and vaccination against the important infectious diseases of dogs and cats. 

At the end of the day, we know that what we do is as safe as possible and works! 

If you have any questions, worries or concerns please ask any of our friendly staff for further information.