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Vaccinations – Why, What and When?

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Vaccination protocols for your pets:

It is very important to get our pets vaccinated. Vaccinations are preventative rather than curative, they help stop the spread of contagious diseases and reduce clinical signs. Vaccinations can also protect against transmissible diseases such as rabies, which can infect humans. Vaccinations contain weak versions of the diseases we want to protect against, our pets immune systems are then stimulated to produce antibodies that can then fight off diseases. The efficiency of vaccinations declines over time, so booster vaccinations are needed to ensure your pet has maximum protection. 

Main vaccinations for dogs:

1: Canine Distemper:

            This is a serious and contagious disease of the intestinal, respiratory and nervous systems. The virus spreads via respiratory secretions from infected dogs. Symptoms include respiratory signs: conjunctivitis/uveitis, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, coughing, inappetence, neuro signs: circling, ataxia, convulsions, head twitches, paralysis and also GI signs: vomit, diarrhoea. Sometimes the virus can cause paw pads to harden (hyperkeratosis). Canine distemper can be life threatening and cause irreversible damage if dogs can’t mount a suitable immune response.

2. Canine Adenovirus type 2 (CaV-2):

            A respiratory disease in dogs leading to symptoms such as: coughing, retching, fever, conjunctivitis and nasal discharge. It is an agent that is commonly associated with Kennel Cough. CaV-2 vaccine can also protect against CaV-1 (canine adenovirus type 1) which leads to canine hepatitis.

3. Canine Parvo virus:

            Canine parvovirus is a very contagious viral disease that is common in dogs. It causes gastrointestinal diseases mainly in unvaccinated puppies. The virus can survive for a long time in the environment (up to 8 months) and is spread by direct contact with the stool of infected dogs. Once a dog becomes infected there is an incubation period of 3-7 days before symptoms are seen.  The main symptoms are bloody diarrhoea, lethargy, high fever, dehydration and vomiting. 

5. Canine ParaInfluenza:

            One of the most common pathogens involved in canine tracheobronchitis (kennel cough). It is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Symptoms can be mild including nasal discharge, cough, fever, sneezing and conjunctivitis. The virus is airborne and spreads through aerosol particles.

6. Leptospirosis:

            Bacterial infection that spreads through the bloodstream. Dogs are infected through infected water/urine from infected wildlife such as rats. It can be a serious and fatal disease. Symptoms include fever, sore muscles, stiffness, weakness, depression, inappetence, increased thirst/urination (due to kidney injury), vomiting, diarrhoea, yellow skin, dark speckles on gums (petechia), fast breathing, irregular pulse and nasal discharge.

Vaccination protocol for dogs:

  • Puppies can be vaccinated with their 1st dose from 6 weeks of age
  • A second dose should be given 2-4 weeks later at 10 weeks of age. The second dose must be given when the puppy is 10 weeks of age or older. 
  • A third dose may be given to puppies at 15 weeks of age to ensure maximum immunity
  • Booster vaccines are then given annually.
  • For dogs over 12 weeks of age: 
    • 1st dose of vaccine is given, and second dose is given 2-4 weeks later
    • After this then the dog is fully protected and needs annual booster vaccinations.

Kennel Cough:

Kennel Cough is a canine cough that is spread quickly in kennel environments. It is an upper respiratory disease caused by a combination of various bacterial and viral pathogens. The disease is spread by aerosol secretions from infected dogs. Symptoms are mild and include a hacking dry cough. The vaccine is a nasal spray that is required before dogs are allowed to stay in most kennels. Dogs must be vaccinated 3 weeks before staying in kennels. There are different strains of bacteria that can cause kennel cough so the vaccine can’t be 100% protective. This vaccine is repeated yearly.

Main vaccinations for cats:

1. Feline Calicivirus:

            An upper respiratory tract and oral disease of cats. Symptoms include nasal/ocular discharge, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers, sneezing and coughing. Occasionally some infected cats are seen to be lame. Calicivirus is a highly contagious disease that infects through airborne viral particles. Once infected cats show clinical signs which can last for up to 12-21 days. Infected cats may carry the virus for months and even years after the infection.

2. Feline Rhinotracheitis: 

            Feline herpes virus (type 1) causes upper respiratory tract disease with symptoms such as: conjunctivitis, ocular and nasal discharge. The virus is spread by respiratory secretions and direct contact with infected cats. Once a cat gets infected it shows symptoms in 2-5 days and the infection lasts 10-20 days. Cats infected with the virus become lifelong carriers. Most carriers are latent, and the disease reactivated occasionally due to illness or stress. If the virus becomes reactivated the cat sheds the virus and becomes infectious.

3. Feline panleukopenia virus:

            Also known as feline parvo virus it is a highly contagious disease that can be fatal. Kittens are most severely affected, and the disease is most commonly seen in cats aged 3-5 months. The virus persists in the environment and infected cats shed the virus in urine, stool and nasal secretions. Symptoms of the virus include diarrhoea, high fever, vomiting and even neuro signs.

4. Feline Leukaemia virus:

            This is a virus that can only infect cats. It depresses the immune system and causes progressive and persistent infections. The virus is usually spread through saliva.

Vaccination protocol for cats:

  • 1st dose given at 8 weeks 
  • 2nd dose given 2-4 weeks later 
  • Then booster vaccinations yearly after 

Rabies Vaccination:

Rabies is a fatal neurological disease that can be spread from animals to humans. It is currently not present in Ireland. It transmits via saliva through a bite or scratch from a rabid animal. Once the virus enters the body it can travel to the nervous system. There are 2 phases to the clinical symptoms. Phase 1: fever, behavioural changes, dilated pupils and sometimes changes in a pet’s vocalization. Phase 2 includes: aggression, ataxia, seizures, and increased salivation. Phase 3: paralysis, respiratory failure, coma and then death. There is no treatment for rabies in dogs which is why rabies vaccinations are so important and a legal travel requirement. 

Rabies vaccination protocol:

  • Once inoculated with the vaccination, dogs and cats must wait 21 days before being totally immunized and are able to travel 
  • Boosters are needed every 3 years 

Onset of immunity: after their 2nd starter vaccine both dogs and cats, must wait 10-14 days before being fully protected and are able to interact with others.