Vaccinations are unquestionably the greatest advance in the health of pets (and humans) in all of medical history. They have done more to prevent disease and improve well-being than even antibiotics or surgery. They are an absolute essential part of pet ownership and all puppies and kittens must get vaccinated at the appropriate times.
In recent times, especially with a massive reduction in the disease (as a result of their effectiveness), their use has been brought into question. In response to questions surrounding the use of vaccines in companion animals there has been a worldwide study by Prof Michael Day of Bristol Vet School. A series of recommendations have been made. Wherever possible I try to adopt these principals to secure the health and welfare of the animals under my care.
For a drug or vaccine to be licensed it has to pass through extremely stringent safety and performance tests. These show that if used at certain times in an animal’s life, at a certain dose and at a certain frequency, the vaccine will work and minimise side effects. It is therefore also prudent to adhere to the licence when considering an individual pet’s vaccination protocol.
Annual vaccinations also ensure annual health examinations take place. There are many diseases that can be successfully treated if caught early especially cancers, heart disease and kidney disease to name a few.
In general I would advise vaccinating a kitten at 9 and 12 weeks with Herpes Virus, Calicivirus, Feline Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia Virus. I believe the Merial Purevax vaccines to be the safest. From then on an annual health check and vaccination is advisable, (although further leukaemia vaccinations are unlikely to be necessary for indoor cats).
Puppies should be vaccinated at 8 weeks and 10 weeks so they can start socialising with other dogs as soon as possible. Puppy parties can be a great way to get them playing constructively with other dogs before they are 12 weeks old. A final vaccine at 16 weeks should also help prevent the small percentage of dogs who do not have solid immunity with the previous 2 vaccines. A full vaccination should be done again 12 months later. A full vaccine includes Infectious Hepatitis (Adenovirus), Parvovirus, Parainfluenza virus, Leptospirosis and Distemper. In subsequent years, vaccination with Leptospirosis and kennel cough (Bordatella bronchoseptica) should be given annually, with the full vaccination reserved for every third year.
The Kennel Cough vaccine is often a requirement of a stay in kennels. It lasts one year and is quite effective. Kennel cough is however, a non-fatal disease and can be easily treated. The vaccine must be given up the nose and in my experience can lead to some dogs becoming head shy. If your dog does not mind the vaccine then I am happy to give it. If the dog shows signs of aversion to the procedure, then I would be unlikely to advise the annual dose unless there are other factors which would suggest it to be beneficial. It is much more important that I can easily look at your dog’s mouth or in its eyes if it is unwell.