Why is vaccination important? I've never heard of any of these diseases so why should I bother? The answer is simple: prevention is better than cure. Many of these diseases are relatively rare in the UK because so many owners ensure their pets are regularly vaccinated. Without vaccination, these diseases would become more common and more pets would be at risk.
Dogs require vaccination against Parvovirus, Distemper, Leptospirosis and Infectious Hepatitis. Symptoms of these diseases range from lethargy, vomiting and diarrhoea to seizures and collapse. Parvovirus is often a fatal disease; dogs that contract it and do not receive veterinary treatment only have a 20% chance of survival. Outbreaks of Parvovirus occur throughout the UK, young dogs aged up to six months are most at risk, but unvaccinated adult dogs will also be at risk. Distemper is rare in the UK due to the regularity of vaccination, although cases have been recorded in recent years. Leptospirosis is caused by contact with infected rat urine and can be found in contaminated water sources where dogs may drink or swim. Leptospirosis is not only often fatal in dogs, it can also infect humans too, causing a severe infection known as Weil's disease. Infectious hepatitis is spread by contact with bodily fluids of infected dogs, the virus can also survive in the environment for many months. Although most dogs make a full recovery from this infection, supportive care during the infection can be costly.
In addition to the yearly booster vaccination, an additional Kennel Cough vaccination is recommended, and is often a requirement for any dogs going into kennels. Pets travelling abroad may also need a Rabies vaccination, but please speak to your vets for more information.
Cats require vaccination against Cat Flu, Feline Panleucopenia, Feline Leukaemia and Chlamydophila. Cat flu is common within the UK and is most serious in kittens or elderly cats. It is spread by direct contact or sneezing. Symptoms are similar to those seen in humans with flu. Once cats contract cat flu, they can be prone to flare-ups throughout their lives, especially at times of stress or illness. Feline Panleucopenia or Feline Infectious Enteritis is spread in the urine or faeces of infected cats and can be transmitted from pregnant females to their young in the womb. This can cause abortion or brain damage in kittens. Infected cats have a lower immune system, leaving them vulnerable to further infections. Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is spread via saliva and most commonly due to cats fighting or grooming each other. Around 30% of cats who contract FeLV develop fatal symptoms, others survive but have a compromised immune system.
Rabbits should not be forgotten and should be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. So if you have ever wondered what you're vaccinating your pets against, now you know. Prevention really is the best course of action!