Vaccination has revolutionised the control of infectious diseases in our pets. It is vital that all pets are adequately vaccinated to help protect the pet population as a whole. Responsible pet care requires puppies & kittens to be given their initial course of vaccinations, but this cannot protect them for the rest of their lives. As such adult dogs & cats require regular vaccination to maintain immunity against disease.
Newborn animals are ‘temporarily’ protected against many diseases by antibodies received through their mother’s colostrum. These maternal antibodies decline in the first few months of their lives, however until they drop sufficiently they can also neutralise vaccines. As the timing of this varies from individual to individual (6-14 weeks) we need to give a series of vaccinations to pups and kittens.
Adult Animal Vaccination
The immunity from the puppy/kitten vaccination course weakens over time and your pet can again become susceptible to disease. Annual health checks and booster vaccinations, as required, will provide the best protection for the life of your pet.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES OF DOGS THAT WE VACCINATE AGAINST
Canine parvovirus is a disease that affects dogs of all ages but is most common in young, unvaccinated pups and older dogs. The virus attacks all rapidly growing cells in the body - namely the intestinal lining and the bone marrow cells responsible for producing blood cells. As a result affected animals will develop severe vomting and diarrhoea as their intestinal lining 'sloughs' off and cannot mount an adequate immune response as they cannot produce new white blood cells. Dogs often die from severe dehydration and shock despite intensive veterinary care.
The virus survives for long periods of time in the environment and can be carried on shoes/clothing/etc and infect dogs that may otherwise be isolated. It is highly infectious and widespread outbreaks occur regularly in our area. The vaccination for parvovirus is extremely effective and is the best way to prevent the disease. Pups should receive a 3 dose course, generally at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks of age followed by annual boosters.
When buying a puppy, care should be taken to ensure that the vaccinations that have been used are effective. Killed vaccines available online (e.g. Parvac) do not provide adequate immunity and dogs can still get parvovirus. Make sure that modified live vaccines (vet only products) have been used. This will also ensure that your pup has been examined by a veterinarian.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect dogs of any age with young puppies being at highest risk.
Symptoms vary but can include fever, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and depression. Muscle tremors, fits and paralysis usually occur later in the disease. Treatment is usually ineffective and the recovery rate very low. Dogs that do recover may have permanent brain damage.
Since the advent of an effective vaccine, distemper has become increasingly uncommon however occasional outbreaks can still occur in unvaccinated populations so it is important that good population vaccination rates be maintained. The distemper vaccine is typically combined with the parvovirus vaccine.
Canine hepatitis is a viral disease (canine adenovirus) which, like distemper is extremely contagious and often fatal. Dogs of any age can become infected, however severe cases are rare in dogs over two years of age.
Symptoms include high fever, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and acute abdominal pain. In severe cases death can occur within 24 to 36 hours. Dogs that recover may develop long term liver and kidney problems and can act as carriers spreading the disease to other dogs for many months. The canine hepatitis vaccine is typically combined with the parvo and distemper vaccines.
Canine Kennel Cough
Canine kennel cough is a condition produced by several highly infectious diseases, which can be easily spread wherever dogs congregate, such as parks, shows, obedience schools and boarding kennels. Among the infectious agents associated with canine cough is the bacterium known as Bordetella bronchiseptica and the parainfluenza virus.
Affected dogs have a dry hacking cough which can persist for several weeks. It is distressing for pet dogs and their owners. It is a major problem for working and sporting dogs. Pneumonia can also be a consequence of infection. Widespread outbreaks can rapidly occur in unvaccinated groups of animals. Kennel cough vaccination requires a single dose as a puppy (usually given with the 2nd parvo vaccine) followed by annual boosters.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES OF CATS THAT WE VACCINATE AGAINST
Feline Panleucopenia Virus
It is very contagious and the death rate is high, especially under 12 months of age. Pregnant cats may lose their young or give birth to kittens with abnormalities, quite often with brain damage. Symptoms are depression, loss of appetite, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea, often with blood and severe abdominal pain.
The virus spreads so easily that heavily contaminated areas may need cleaning with a special disinfectant. Cats that do recover may continue to carry the virus for some time and infect other cats.
Feline Respiratory Disease (Cat Flu)
It is caused in 90% of cases by feline herpesvirus (feline rhinotracheitis) and/or feline calicivirus.
Feline respiratory disease affects cats of all ages, especially young kittens. It is highly contagious and causes sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and tongue ulcers.
Fortunately, the death rate is low except in young kittens, but the disease is distressing and may persist for several weeks. Recovered cats can continue to carry and spread the infection for long periods, and can show signs of the disease again if they become stressed.
The cat flu vaccine against herpesvirus and calicivirus are combined with the panleucopenia virus vaccine for form an F3 vaccination which requires 2 doses 4 weeks apart as a kitten followed by annual boosters.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline AIDS is a disease caused by infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and affects the cat’s immune system. Their natural defence against attack by other diseases may be seriously affected, much in the same way as human AIDS.
FIV is almost always transmitted by bites from infected cats. The virus that causes the disease is present in saliva.
While some infected cats show no sign of disease, others may display initial symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may occur such as weight loss, sores in and around the mouth, eye lesions, poor coat and chronic infections.
Eventually, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections and diseases. As a result, the cat may die from one of these subsequent infections.
Unfortunately in Australia, a lot of cats are infected with this virus. As such, all outdoor cats are recommended to be vaccinated against FIV. This involves 3 initial doses 2 weeks apart (1st and 3rd doses in conjunction with F3 vaccine) with annual boosters thereafter.
Chlamydia (also known as Chlamydophila)
Feline Chlamydia causes a severe persistent conjunctivitis in up to 30% of cats.
Kittens are more severely affected by Chlamydia when also infected with “Cat Flu”, and Chlamydia can be shed for many months. Vaccination against cat flu and Chlamydia helps protects against clinical disease.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Feline Leukaemia is a serious disease of cats caused by feline leukaemia virus.
The virus attacks the immune system and may be associated with lack of appetite, weight loss and apathy, pale or yellow mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhoea, reproductive problems, increased susceptibility to other infections, leukaemia and tumours. Many cats may be infected and show no signs at all.
About one third of infected cats remain chronically infected and may shed virus in their saliva, tears, nasal secretions and urine. The disease is then spread to uninfected cats by mutual grooming, fighting, sneezing or even flea bites.