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Pet vaccinations help prevent our pets from becoming ill or dying from infectious diseases. As routine annual vaccination has been prevalent in the UK, we have seen less of these infectious diseases. Unfortunately, they are still present and if a pet is not vaccinated and comes into contact with a carrier of some of these diseases, they may not survive the infection.

The vaccinations work by challenging the immune system of the pet to produce antibodies which then fight off the infection when they meet it. So, if they receive their initial vaccine course and yearly boosters, they can encounter the infection without becoming ill, or just have a very mild form of the illness. It is important to consider and discuss with us what vaccines your pet needs to protect them.

Vaccines have saved thousands of pets’ lives, but rarely animals can have a reaction to vaccines which can put people off. Vets have considered this carefully and we are careful not to vaccinate too often, or with diseases which your pet is unlikely to meet in their normal lives. Diseases also change and mutate so the vaccine manufacturers try as hard as possible to protect our pets against all possible strains of the infections.

In the last 5 years, we faced this challenge with Leptospirosis. This infection is caused by a parasite which can be transmitted by rat urine. Rats are hard to avoid in our country, they can live in most places: rural, urban, conservation areas, canals, lakes, they can be found everywhere. Leptospirosis causes disease in dogs and cats as well as humans. It is often fatal in dogs, fortunately, rarer in cats, but can cause meningitis in humans. In dogs, we see acute, severe kidney and liver failure. Their urine can carry the infection, so if they live with young children, older people or people with a suppressed immune system, this infection can be a great danger to their human carers. A new strain of Leptospirosis has been seen in the UK in recent years. Therefore, the vaccine manufacturers had to adapt their vaccine to include the new strain. This has resulted in fewer cases of Leptospirosis again. A great relief, as it is often too late to save the dog once the signs are seen. If the dog or cat does survive the infection, often they are chronic carriers and shed the organism in their urine or have long term health problems. It is devastating to see these easily preventable diseases, as they often result in the death of young animals.

Parvovirus, distemper and infectious hepatitis are the other core vaccines which we use in dogs. Parvovirus is an awful infection, causing diarrhoea and vomiting, the animals bleed from their gastrointestinal tract and the lining of the gut is destroyed. In order to have any chance of survival, dogs must be hospitalised for days on fluids, painkillers and medication to stop the constant vomiting. It is uncommon to save a dog with parvovirus infection unless it is caught very early. Distemper and infectious hepatitis can cause death or long-term severe health problems.

Some dogs are vaccinated against ‘kennel cough’, a disease which causes a cough similar to whooping cough in children. It is very contagious and in an older dog can go on for months causing discomfort and illness.

Cat flu is similar to human influenza, it is a severe infection involving the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. It is difficult for infected cats to breathe and, if they do survive, the cats are often left with chronic snuffles and sore eyes.

The second disease we vaccinate cats against every year is enteritis. Similar to canine parvovirus it causes severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and treatment is often unsuccessful. Bringing your cat to the vet is hard work as they often hate the annual trip in the basket in the car, but it is a small inconvenience compared to severe illness or chronic infection for them. Cats may also be vaccinated against feline leukaemia virus, a virus that causes cancer. Infected cats often get tumours between the ages of 8-13 years so it can be a cause of premature death.

Rabbits are vaccinated every 6 months to 1 year, depending on the prevalence of the diseases involved in your area. They are vaccinated against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. Myxomatosis was introduced into the wild rabbit population to reduce the number of rabbits. It is transmitted by a flea from a wild rabbit and makes the rabbits extremely ill very quickly, then they usually die as a result of infection. Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD) causes sudden death and there are 2 strains: RVHD1 causes sudden death in all infected rabbits; RVHD2 has a 25% mortality rate.

Given the severity of these conditions, it is important to discuss protecting your pets with us, so that we can advise you how best to ensure they stay healthy and happy.

Worried your pet’s booster vaccinations may have lapsed? Don’t be! Now is the perfect time to restart their vaccinations as we’re running a vaccination amnesty throughout June. This means we can restart your pet’s primary course of vaccinations for just the cost of a booster. So, don’t delay – book in today! We look forward to seeing you.

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