Making sure you vaccinate your pet regularly is important to protect them against infections and diseases which can shorten or impact the quality of life. Pets need to be vaccinated from an early age, as many animal infectious diseases are still prevalent in the UK, which can in some cases also be transmitted to humans. Up to date pet vaccinations is the only way to be sure your pet is protected for life.
Your vet will advise you on the pet vaccinations that are best and give you a schedule, which depends on many different factors including where you live and how many other pets are in your home.
Vaccinating your puppy is an essential job in the first few weeks of owning your dog. The first time they are vaccinated they have a course of two injections, usually at eight and 10 weeks old. The Vet also will give your puppy a full check over to make sure they are healthy.
The dog vaccination will not work immediately, so it’s important to confirm with the Vet when you are ok to let your puppy socialise with other animals. They then require a booster pet vaccination at 6 or 12 months of age. As your puppy grows, you must ensure you regularly keep up to date with annual injections as the initial immunity may fade leaving them at risk.
What Diseases do Dog Vaccinations Protect Against?
- Canine Parvovirus - a virus that can survive for long periods - it is usually fatal.
- Canine distemper (hard pad) - a severe, usually fatal disease, rare in the UK in recent years due to vaccination.
- Infectious hepatitis - still exists in the UK (although rare due to vaccination) and is often fatal.
- Leptospirosis - contracted from the urine of rats and/or other dogs. Canals and rivers can be contaminated, and forms of the disease are widespread in the UK. Can also cause severe disease in humans (weils disease).
- Kennel cough/Parainfluenza - an extremely unpleasant harsh, dry cough, highly contagious disease of the respiratory tract, usually transmitted in places where dogs gather (kennels, shows, parks where lots of dogs are walked). Dogs of all ages can be affected; it is caused by several bacterial and viral agents. The coughing can last for some weeks and during this time serious complications such as pneumonia may arise, especially in puppies or older dogs, these complications can occasionally be fatal.
- Rabies - a fatal disease not found in the UK. Vaccination is required if your dog is travelling abroad.
Do dogs need to be vaccinated?
Vaccinations are essential for providing your dog with adequate protection from life-threatening and debilitating diseases. There is the option of Titre testing, which involves blood samples to determine your dog's immunity. Unfortunately, this is not always 100% reliable, it is costly to perform, and leptospirosis would still need to be vaccinated against. Therefore, we would recommend core vaccinations on the whole.
Is it OK to not vaccinate my dog?
As veterinary professionals, we would always recommend vaccinations; the risk is not worth taking when it comes to the harmful diseases.
What vaccines do dogs legally need?
It is not a legal requirement to have a dog vaccinated, but it is highly advisable. Some kennels, dog trainers and day-care require vaccinations for all dogs to use their services. Insurance can also be invalidated if dogs are not vaccinated.
At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog?
Dogs require annual booster vaccines throughout their lives; this is to ensure maximum protection against life-threatening diseases. We base our choice of vaccines on the lifestyle of the dog rather than age.
Can I vaccinate my dog myself?
Under UK law, only veterinary surgeons can prescribe medications; vaccinations fall into this category. Your vet is required to health assess a pet before prescribing and administering the vaccine. Like many drugs, vaccines can have mild side effects, which is why a health check prior is essential to ensure your pet will be fit and well after the vaccine is administered. Veterinary professionals are trained at administering these vaccines; this wouldn't be advised for a member of the public to administer themselves. Also, the vaccination bottles, needles and syringes require correct disposal. Some diseases such as diabetes require owners to inject their animal at home, but correct monitoring, training and equipment is essential.
If your dog is anxious or nervous, you can speak to the team at any time, and we can plan to reduce as much stress as we can. For example, after a discussion between the owner and the team, some of our nervous dogs have a minimal health check and the vaccine may still be administered. This is carried out when an owner or we feel a health examination will be too stressful.
Annual boosters usually cover leptospirosis and kennel cough (can be given every six months). However, distemper, parvovirus and canine hepatitis are usually needed every three years. Therefore, a dog would need a vaccine every year to have maximum protection against diseases. Book a pet vaccination appointment for your dog
Cat vaccinations are important to protect them from severe infectious diseases and passing anything to other animals in your area. Several dangerous diseases continue to infect cats throughout the UK. This is especially true if you intend to let your kitten or cat roam freely outside. Until your cat is fully vaccinated and neutered you should keep them inside.
When a kitten is first vaccinated from around 9 weeks old, they require a course of 2 injections separated by a couple of weeks. Regular follow-ups are then required to boost your cat’s immunity to the diseases as immunity can fade over time.
What Diseases do Cat Vaccinations Protect Against?
- Cat flu (feline upper respiratory tract disease) – a very common disease in the UK and can be serious, especially in kittens and older cats. It spreads between cats by direct contact or through sneezing. Symptoms include a runny nose and eyes, high temperature and lethargy.
- Infectious enteritis (feline panleucopenia) - An unpleasant, often fatal disease, vaccination has been successful in controlling the disease.
- Feline leukaemia - A viral disease usually transmitted when cats fight or during grooming. It can take months to develop after initial infection but then will begin to supress the cat’s immune system, causing secondary infections, tumours and death.
- Chlamydophila felis - Causes conjunctivitis and is mainly seen in kittens and those in multi-cat households.
- Rabies - A fatal disease not found in the UK; vaccination is mandatory if you plan to take your cat abroad.
Why are cat vaccinations necessary?
Vaccinations are essential for providing your cat with adequate protection from life-threatening and debilitating diseases. There is the option of Titre testing, which involves blood samples to determine your cat’s immunity. Unfortunately, this is not always 100% reliable and can be costly to perform. Cats also staying in boarding or cattery facilities are often required to be vaccinated if you're planning to go on holiday.
Do indoor cats need vaccinations?
Indoor cats still require vaccines, but this may be a reduced course that only includes cat flu and enteritis. However, many indoor cat owners still have a full vaccination course each year just in case their cat decides to go out exploring!
What happens if you don't vaccinate your cat?
Deciding not to vaccinate runs the risk of your cat contracting various harmful diseases. If you also want to travel with your cat or need them to stay in boarding facilities or catteries, most sites require up to date vaccination status and will not accept unvaccinated animals. A simple yearly vaccination course can help to protect your cat so they can live a happy and healthy life.
Should you vaccinate an older cat?
As long as your cat is fit and healthy, we would always recommend vaccinations for your cat. These vaccinations provide protection from harmful diseases.
Can a vet tell if a cat has been vaccinated?
There is no way to tell if a cat has been vaccinated physically; however, if your cat has a vaccination card, previous vet records or microchip details, our team can look into your cat's history where possible.
We recommend that rabbits are vaccinated against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD).
Previously this would have been administered through two separate injections, however, our new rabbit vaccine means that your pet can be protected against myxomatosis and both strains of VHD with just a single injection.
Do house rabbits need to be vaccinated?
Vaccinations are essential for providing your rabbit with adequate protection from life-threatening and debilitating diseases such as viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD 1 and 2) and myxomatosis.
How often do rabbits need to be vaccinated?
We recommend that rabbits are vaccinated every 12 months to protect them against potentially fatal diseases.
Do rabbits need to go to the vet?
To ensure your rabbit is kept happy and healthy, we recommend annual check-ups, as well as consults if you’re worried about your rabbit’s health. Rabbits are vulnerable to infectious diseases and illnesses one example is dental disease, which can cause a wide range of problems for your pet. We would advise you on vaccinations as well as external and internal parasite prevention.
General Pet Vaccinations FAQ
Why does my pet need to have vaccinations every 12 months?
Depending on the disease that your pet is being vaccinated against, the period of time that they are protected will differ. Certain diseases, such as leptospirosis in dogs and flu in cats only carry around 12 months protection, which is why a yearly booster is recommended. Even though you pet might be being vaccinated every 12 months, it is not always against the same diseases – your vaccination card will show you which diseases they are getting boosters for each visit. Visiting us every 12 months for vaccinations also means your pet gets a full annual health check, which is equally important!
Does my pet need to be vaccinated if they live inside?
Although your pet may not go outside, it is still possible for diseases to be brought into the house. This could be via soil on a dirty boot or via other wildlife that could enter the home. Therefore, having full vaccination can provide the protection needed for all circumstances, meaning you don’t have to take the risk.
I have heard that vaccines are risky and to avoid them – is that true?
Any veterinary procedure that is performed can carry some sort of risk, however in the case of vaccinations, it is important to remember that for the majority of pets the benefits of being vaccinated greatly outweighs the risks. Vaccination reactions are rare and where they do occur, they are mostly short-term and mild. Reactions of this nature show that the vaccine is effectively stimulating the immune system.
The team at Alder Vets are always happy to talk to you about the benefits and risks associated with vaccinating your pet to help identify the most suitable strategy as part of their wider preventative healthcare programme.