Vaccination plays a very important role in protecting the health of our pets. Due to widespread vaccination, several previously common, life threatening viral infections are now rarely seen.
Gladesville Veterinary Hospital (GVH) recommends routine vaccination for dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets.
Vaccination involves the controlled administration of a killed or weakened strain of certain infectious viral or bacterial organisms, which offers protection to the animal against the diseases produced by those organisms.
Whenever an animal is vaccinated by one of the vets at GVH it is given a thorough health check which includes a physical examination, a discussion of issues relevant to the good health of your pet and an opportunity for you to bring up any concerns you may have about the health or behaviour of your pet.
The diseases we vaccinate against in dogs Include:
- Parvovirus, a highly contagious and often fatal viral infection which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The virus is picked up from other dogs’ faeces and survives for long periods in the soil and elsewhere in the environment.
- Distemper a progressive and usually fatal viral infection that is characterised initially by signs of fever, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhoea. This is then followed 3 weeks later by neurological signs (seizures, tremor, incoordination and weakness).
- Infectious hepatitis (Canine Adenovirus I), which is a viral infection that affects the liver, with signs including loss of appetite and vomiting.
- Parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bacteria. These organisms (and others) can cause the highly contagious Kennel Cough, which is a harsh hacking cough that usually resolves within 2-3 weeks but can be severe in young dogs or dogs with lung or airway disease.
Usually 3 puppy vaccinations are necessary with the final puppy vaccination at 16 weeks of age or older to ensure lasting immunity.
Although the final puppy vaccination is at 16 weeks of age or older, socialisation after your puppy is 10-12 weeks of age is recommended as the initial vaccinations will still provide protection at this stage. Please do not delay socialisation because your puppy has not yet had his or her final vaccination.
Once a dog has had its first annual booster, at 15 months of age, the DHP (distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus) component can be given every three years although the kennel cough vaccine still needs to be given annually .
The diseases we vaccinate against in cats include:
- Feline enteritis virus (Panleucopaenia virus), which is a highly infectious disease that may result in diarrhoea, vomiting, lethargy, fever and death.
- Rhinotracheitis virus, a component of cat flu which is an infectious disease that affects the upper respiratory Tract. It causes sneezing, a nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, fever and inappetance. Occasionally the virus may also cause ulceration of the cornea and mouth. Long term damage to the lining of the nasal cavity may cause a chronic ‘snuffler’ state.
- Feline calicivirus, a component of cat flu, which is an infectious disease affecting the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms are identical to Feline Rhinotracheitis virus, except mouth and tongue ulcers are more common. In kittens it may cause arthritis and pneumonia.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which is a cat-specific viral disease that can interfere with the immune system. Once infected the virus persists for the lifetime of the cat. The virus is shed in high levels in the saliva, so infection most commonly occurs after a bite from an infected cat. The best prevention is to keep your cat indoors away from other carrier cats and have any new cats tested prior to joining the household.
- Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is another feline-specific viral disease that is transmitted by biting, and also possibly grooming or sharing of water and food sources. Ther are a number of serious and fatal conditions associated with FeLV.
- Chlamydophilafelis is a feline specific bacteria that causes conjunctivitis in cats, generally of young cats housed in large groups eg. catteries. We do not routinely recommend vaccination against this disease unless it has been diagnosed in a multi cat household or cattery. It is treatable with antibiotics.
We routinely recommend an F3 vaccination that protects against Feline enteritis virus, Rhinotracheitis virus and Calicivirus. An F3 should first be given to a kitten at 6-8 weeks of age with a boosters at 10-12 weeks, 16 weeks of age or older, and then annually. Recommendations for vaccination against other feline diseases depends on individual circumstances.
If you would like to vaccinate your cat against any other disease please discuss this with one of our vets.
Rabbit calicivirus is a lethal virus that was introduced to Australia to control the feral rabbit population. A vaccine is available to protect against this viral infection. It should be given at 12 weeks of age and then every 9 to 12 months. Government regulations mean that we are unable to vaccinate pet rabbits against Myxomatosis, another highly fatal disease. The best method of protection is to prevent exposure to mosquitoes.
Ferrets can be infected by the same Distemper virus that infects dogs. GVH recommends annual vaccination of ferrets against Distemper .