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Vaccinating dogs - your questions answered

Vaccination is the quickest and best way to protect your dog from preventable diseases. Most of these diseases are caused by viruses, and unfortunately, there is no direct treatment for most viruses that affect dogs today. We all know that ‘prevention is better than cure’. Some of the diseases mentioned below are treatable with supportive medication, but others can be fatal. Vets frequently see unvaccinated puppies with diseases, such as parvovirus, which can cause serious illnesses in dogs of all ages. Both of these, and many other diseases can be prevented, or the clinical signs minimised, by a simple vaccination.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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It is advisable for all puppies to be given an initial course of two injections. These start from the age of 8-9 weeks old. The second vaccination is given 3-4 weeks later, when they are over ten weeks of age. Depending upon disease prevalence in your area, your vet may recommend a third vaccination at 16 weeks or older but this is less common. Read our article for more advice about protecting your puppy. This primary course should be followed by an annual booster vaccination. Annual booster vaccinations are essential as the body’s immune response naturally declines over time. Some vaccinations need to be given every year, and others are given every 2-3 years, depending on the specific vaccine.

Vets most frequently use combination vaccines, which means that with one injection your dog is protected against several different diseases. The most commonly administered vaccinations will help to protect your dog against:

  1. Distemper: a viral infection that has symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, respiratory and neurological disease. It can be fatal.
  2. Infectious canine hepatitis: causes severe damage to the liver and kidneys. It can be fatal, however it is now rare due to vaccinations.
  3. Parvovirus: a viral infection that causes painful and severe diarrhoea and vomiting leading to dehydration, with over 25% of cases proving fatal. It mostly affects puppies although adult dogs can be infected. It is highly contagious.
  4. Para-Influenza: a respiratory virus that is a component of kennel cough. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of contracting this infection, and reduces the severity of the illness.
  5. Leptospirosis: the canine equivalent of Weil’s Disease. A bacterial infection that can cause liver and kidney failure. It can be caught from swimming in or drinking from water exposed to rat’s urine e.g. canals, puddles and stagnant water.

It is never too late to start a vaccination programme. If you have an older dog, or your dog’s vaccination status has lapsed (exceeded the 365 day booster limit) we can advise you about how to get your dog protected. Elderly (geriatric) dogs and puppies have a weaker immune system than adult dogs, so it is especially important that they are fully vaccinated and that their boosters are kept up to date. In addition, most boarding kennels will not accept dogs unless they have an up to date vaccination record due to the risk of unvaccinated dogs sharing pathogens.


What about titre testing?

Many people are worried about the effects of regular vaccinations, though there is no evidence that regular vaccination causes health issues. Some people still prefer to titre-test, which involves taking a blood sample when the annual booster vaccinations are due. This looks at antibody levels in the blood for distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis. If the antibody levels are acceptable, these vaccines can be delayed by a year and retesting can be completed the following year. Kennel cough and leptospirosis should be given as usual.

Please follow the link for more advice about kennel cough.


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