One easy way in which you can help to ensure that your dog is protected from infectious diseases is to ensure that he is vaccinated as a puppy and regularly throughout his adult life.
Why Vaccination is important
Dogs can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination every year.
Regular vaccination can protect your dog from infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, canine parainfluenza and rabies.
This page contains information on each of these diseases.
Why you need to vaccinate your dog regularly
For the first few weeks of life, puppies are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk. However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity declines to a sufficiently low level for the puppy to no longer be protected. At this stage it is possible to start the vaccination programme.
At 8 weeks old your puppy can have his or her first vaccination and health check with the vet. Further vaccinations are given at 10 and 12 weeks. From the day that you bring your puppy home he or she can be taken out into your garden if it is enclosed and out-of-bounds to unvaccinated dogs. As long as your puppy is given the vaccinations as described above, he or she can start to go outside on a lead in public areas from 11 weeks of age. We recommend that off-lead exploring and access to ditches and water is avoided until your pup is at least 13 weeks of age.
Puppy vaccinations do not provide life long immunity.
After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.
For some of the diseases we vaccinate against, immunity has been shown to last for several years. However, for other diseases (notably Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough) protection does not appear to exceed one year following vaccination.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response again so that protection is maintained.
At Acorn House Vets we vaccinate all dogs against parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and leptospirosis when they are first vaccinated. We then provide an annual booster which varies in composition according to the length of time that immunity is known to last for each disease. For most dogs this means that every 3 years the full booster is given and for the intervening years the booster contains leptospirosis only.
Kennel cough is a separate vaccine given into the nose. This vaccine protects against parainfluenza virus and the bordetella bacteria. This vaccine requires annual boosters to maintain protection.
How vaccines work
Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your dog´s body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular organism if your dog comes into contact with it again.
Contagious diseases of dogs
Parvovirus was first recognised in the late 1970s and rapidly became an epidemic. Many hundreds of dogs died before an effective vaccine could be produced. Outbreaks still occur regularly across the country and the disease is a particular problem in breeding and rescue facilities.
The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. This disease is life threatening.
Once a dog becomes infected by parvovirus, the virus invades the intestines and bone marrow. This leads to sudden and severe bleeding into the gut, resulting in dehydration and shock and damage to the immune system. Emergency veterinary treatment is essential.
Canine distemper, sometimes referred to as ´Hard Pad´, is caused by a virus very similar to the measles virus, although it is not a risk to humans.
Control of distemper through the routine vaccination of dogs has been one of the big success stories of pet vaccination, as this condition is now uncommon in the UK. We are most likely to see the disease in pets imported from abroad or from puppy farms where vaccination take-up is low. Transmission of the virus is by inhalation and direct contact.
The distemper virus attacks most parts of the body, including the spleen and bone marrow. As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to the lungs and gut, the eyes, skin and brain.
The classical signs are of a dog with a high temperature, a discharge from the eyes and nose, a cough, vomiting and diarrhoea. Hardening of the skin may occur, in particular the nose and pads, hence the term ´Hard Pad´. The virus can reach the brain causing permanent damage, ranging from involuntary twitches to fits. Dogs that recover may be left with some permanent disability such as cracked pads and nose, epilepsy, and damage to tooth enamel. Many cases do not recover.
As the name suggests, canine hepatitis attacks the liver. Some dogs may become infected but show no obvious signs, but in acute cases death can occur within 24-36 hours.
The disease is spread by direct contact and from faeces, saliva and urine from infected dogs. The virus is carried to the liver and the blood vessels where the major signs of the disease appear.
The symptoms are very variable depending on the severity of the infection. Some animals may show a slight temperature and at the other extreme may die suddenly. Intermediate cases exhibit fever, vomiting, pale gums, jaundice, abdominal pain and internal bleeding. The disease has also been associated with infertility and "Fading Puppy Syndrome".
Leptospirosis is a widespread bacterial disease affecting many animal species, including dogs and occasionally humans. Carried by rats and other rodents, it survives in damp environments including still or slow moving water. Any dog that exercises outdoors is at risk of this potentially fatal disease. Vaccines against bacterial diseases such as Leptospirosis do not provide long-lasting immunity which is why we give leptospirosis vaccine annually as part of our dog vaccination programme.
Vaccines targeting what were the two most common forms of the bacterium have been available for decades but in recent years new strains have emerged. Now experts are recommending the use of vaccines which target four strains of the disease rather than the traditional two.
Here at Acorn House we strongly believe in offering the best available protection for your dog and we are now using the new four strain leptospirosis vaccine for our vaccinations. We will be happy to discuss this when you visit at the time of the next booster vaccination or if you would like further information in the meantime then please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Other major diseases of dogs
Other major diseases of dogs include:
This condition can be caused by the canine parainfluenza virus alone or in combination with the bordetella bacteria (related to the bacteria that causes whooping cough in children). Kennel cough is spread through air droplets and contaminated clothing and equipment, so if a dog in kennels contracts the disease, it will rapidly spread through the remainder of the kennelled dogs. However, it is perfectly possible for your dog to catch kennel cough from other dogs at dog shows, training classes, doggy day care, or popular parks and dog walking areas.
Dogs with this disease suffer from a harsh, dry cough that can last for many weeks. This can cause distress and broken sleep. Kennel cough is extremely infectious so affected dogs will not be permitted into boarding kennels or day care / dog walking facilities. They should not even be taken on walks as the mucus that they cough up will be infectious to other dogs.
Cases of kennel cough will often pass with time but veterinary monitoring and symptomatic treatment (such as anti-inflammatories and cough suppressants) are often required. If the Bordetella bacteria is suspected, then antibiotics may be prescribed. Occasionally kennel cough may spread to the chest or affect the bloodstream and hopsitalisation will be necessary.
Rabies Vaccination and the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS)
Rabies is a fatal disease, which affects both dogs and humans. Rabies was eradicated from this country many years ago and strict systems are in place to make sure that it is never seen again.
If you are intending to take your dog to another European country and then return to the UK you must ensure that he or she is protected with a rabies vaccination.
Dogs must be at least 3 months old before they can be vaccinated against rabies. Before vaccinating your dog, the vet will check that your dog is microchipped in line with the EU regulations and the PETS scheme.
An information sheet is available regarding the PETS travel scheme and other issues to be aware of before deciding to take your pet abroad - this is available under the "services" tab and is entittled "pet travel".
After your pet has been vaccinated, regular booster vaccinations will be required. Your vet will advise you further as the time periods required between rabies boosters vary depending on the country that your pet was first vaccinated in and the countries that they will be visiting. It is vital that you stick exactly to the dates provided in the pet passport. If your dog is just one day overdue with a rabies booster, he or she will not be permitted to re-enter the UK and may be taken into quarantine.
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Acorn House Veterinary Surgery
Linnet Way, Brickhill, Bedford, MK41 7HN