Your dog is your best friend
We know that you care for your dog and want to ensure that he remains happy and healthy throughout his life and will do all you can to achieve this.
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. By preventing these diseases you ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.
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 animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible to start the vaccination programme.
Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.
Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when they are puppies the immunity they receive will protect them for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately this is not the case.
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.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.
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.
Fatal diseases of dogs
There are four major infectious diseases affecting dogs today. Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis. All are highly contagious and difficult and expensive to treat.
Parvovirus is perhaps the most common canine infectious disease.
Parvovirus was first recognised in the late 1970´s and rapidly became an epidemic. Many hundreds of dogs died before an effective vaccine could be produced. Sadly, this disease remains a major problem. Outbreaks still occur regularly across the country.
The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.
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. Death is common and frequently rapid unless emergency veterinary treatment is received.
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.
Although less common than it was 20 or 30 years ago, outbreaks still occur, mainly in urban areas where a large unvaccinated population of dogs and foxes exists. These tend to be ´explosive´ in nature, causing death or permanent brain damage. 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. This makes it easier to catch secondary infections. 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 teeth enamel.
Once again, treatment is lengthy, expensive and most importantly, often unsuccessful. As the incubation period is long - often about three weeks - it is usually too late to vaccinate when an outbreak occurs.
As the name suggests, canine hepatitis attacks the liver. Some dogs may become infected but show no obvious signs, but in acute cases the death of your pet 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 less severe form of the disease has been associated with "Fading Puppy Syndrome".
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria that is spread in the urine of infected animals.
Two major forms of the disease exist in dogs. One (L. icterohaemorrhagiae) causes acute illness and jaundice and is usually caught from rats - either by the animal being bitten or coming into contact with rat urine. L. icterohaemorrhagiae infection usually produces a sudden disease with fever, vomiting and diarrhoae, thirst, bleeding and jaundice. The outcome is usually fatal and death can occur within a few hours.
The other type (L. canicola) can also cause acute disease but frequently takes a more prolonged form. This leads to the slow destruction of the kidneys and renal failure can occur many years after the original infection. Even animals that show no signs of illness may still go on to develop chronic disease.
Other major diseases of dogs
Other major diseases of dogs include:
This virus is one of the pathogens responsible for the disease known as ´kennel cough´.
Dogs with this disease suffer from a harsh, dry cough that can last for many weeks, causing distress for both the dog and owner.
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 return to the UK with it you must ensure that it is protected by having it vaccinated against rabies.
Your dog must be at least 3 months old before it can be vaccinated against rabies. It can then be vaccinated any time after it has been fitted with a microchip. Before vaccinating your dog, the vet will check its microchip number and enter it onto your pet´s vaccination record.
If your dog is vaccinated against rabies before it was fitted with a microchip, it will have to be fitted with a microchip and vaccinated again. This is to make sure that your pet is correctly identified when it is vaccinated.
In order to prevent future complications please discuss the PETS Scheme in advance with your veterinary surgeon.
After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations. Your vet will advise you further. You must make sure that your pet is given its booster on time otherwise it will not meet the conditions of the scheme and would have to be vaccinated and blood tested again. It would have to wait another six months before being able to enter the UK.
Please discuss with your vet, vaccination of your puppy and dog throughout its life, the important infectious diseases and how you can help keep your dog healthy and happy.