Vaccinations For Dogs
Puppies should be vaccinated from 6-8 weeks old and need 2-3 doses to be completely covered. A yearly booster vaccination is then required to ensure they remain protected, though not all parts of the vaccine are given every year as protection for some diseases lasts longer. The yearly vaccination appointment is also a great opportunity for a full examination to make sure your dog stays in the best shape possible.
Parvovirus causes anorexia, vomiting and profuse haemorrhagic (bloody) diarrhoea. This rapidly results in dehydration and anaemia. There is no specific treatment for parvovirus and many dogs don't survive even with intensive care. The virus is extremely infectious and can survive in the environment for a long time.
Infectious hepatitis causes fever, liver failure and clotting disorders. It is thankfully very rare now due to widespread vaccination.
Distemper virus can affect almost every part of the body causing signs from runny eyes and coughing to diarrhoea and neurological abnormalities. Although it was almost wiped out by vaccination, cases of distemper have increased in the UK in recent years.
Leptospirosis can be fatal, and it causes a variety of signs including liver and kidney failure. Cases are more common than we realise as lepto is difficult to diagnose and can mimic many other conditions.
Kennel cough syndrome is caused by several different viruses. Although very infectious, it isn't dangerous but can make young or old dogs quite poorly. It is spread by direct contact so it is common in kennels but can also be spread between dogs when they meet on walks. It is a live vaccine so can cause mild symptoms for a few days after administration and shouldn't be given if anyone at home has a weakened immune system.
Because parvovirus is so widespread, and serious, a 3rd dose of the vaccine can be given at 16 weeks old to help boost immunity
Rabies is not present in the UK, but vaccination is a requirement for any dogs travelling abroad.
Do vaccines always work?
Vaccinations work by stimulating the immune system to make antibodies that protect against infection. For various reasons a small number of dogs will not create a full protective response. Giving two doses to puppies helps increase the chance of a full immune response, as do yearly boosters throughout their life.
What if we don't want to vaccinate?
A blood test (titre testing) can be done to check the level of immunity of your dog. This can help guide when to give a booster. This test is often only done once a year, so if it shows poor immunity, there is no way of knowing when the immunity changed. This means there may have been a period where your dog wasn’t protected.
Are there any risks?
The most common side-effects from vaccination are lethargy and mild discomfort, sometimes accompanied by a mild fever. These usually resolve without treatment within 12-24 hours. Some dogs may have mild irritation at the injection site or develop a small lump under the skin. This usually goes away within a couple of weeks.
Allergic reactions to vaccinations are very rare but can happen. Symptoms can include vomiting, difficulty breathing, swelling and collapse. Allergic reactions usually occur within an hour or two of the injection. If your dog appears unwell after a vaccine, please contact your practice immediately.
Essential annual dog vaccinations are included in The Healthy Pet Club membership - please contact your practice to discuss and book your dog's vaccinations.