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Vaccinations

Vaccination is vital:

Anyone who's ever had a dog knows the enormous enjoyment they can bring. But of course, along with the pleasure, comes a certain responsibility particularly where your dog's health care is concerned. So ,when your puppy arrives, the first and most important thing to do is to register it with a vet, and then find out about vaccinations.

 

Vaccination is vital. Both puppies and adult dogs have a insatiable curiosity, and as they investigate the world around them, they are almost certain to come into contact with infection of one kind or another. You've only to watch your pet patrolling its patch for evidence of other dogs, scampering off to explore some new experience or greeting another dog with boisterous energy to realise that potential exposure to diseases is an everyday part of every dog's life. Given that, you can understand why vaccination is so vital,

because quite simply it's the best way to protect your dog against a whole range of distressing and possibly fatal diseases that are common in the UK. In fact, where most viruses are concerned, there aren't any treatments available, so if you want your pet to be safe, follow the old saying : Prevention is better than cure.

 

Remember too, that while you're protecting your own pet through vaccination you're also helping safeguard other dogs as well, since yours is less likely to become an unwitting carrier of disease with the potential to spread infection far and wide. As you can imagine, if more and more dog owners take their responsibility seriously, we've a much better chance of controlling the impact of disease and avoiding all the problems and worries that go with it. And that has to be good for every dog and every owner in the country.

Natural immunity:

When puppies are born they receive some natural protection against disease from their mother's milk, through what are known as Maternally Derived Antibodies (MDA). This protection however, is only temporary and it declines quite rapidly - so that by the time your puppy is a few weeks old, it will probably have lost all of that protection, and be in danger of infection and disease.

 

Puppies are only able to absorb MDA during the first few days of their lives, and obviously, the level of protection they acquire depend s entirely on the amount of mother's milk they've consumed. So, the strongest puppy in the litter - the one which has suckled well - will have the greatest immunity, whereas the smallest and weakest may have very little. And , of course, the mother can only pass on the immunity she actually has herself - her ability to do that will be affected by whether or not she has been properly vaccinated and regularly boosted. So, as you can see, every puppy will soon need vaccination to take over from the protection it received from its mother.

The immunity gap:

Whether they're intended for children, adults or animals, all vaccines contain a harmless form of the virus or bacterium which causes a particular disease.

 

The vaccine stimulates the dog's natural mechanisms to set up a protective screen against the disease and from then on, the same protective response is remembered and triggered whenever that specific disease is encountered.

 

You might think that means your puppy would need a separate vaccination for each different disease, but in fact, modern vaccines provide simultaneous protection against no less than five common diseases - so a single course of vaccination is all that's needed to keep your dog safe.

 

You might be surprised to learn that the natural protection your puppy receives from its mother can actually be a hindrance to effective vaccination. That's because high levels of the MDA we mentioned earlier can 'block out' some brands of vaccine. So, to counter that, primary vaccination in puppies always consists of two separate doses - with the second dose designed to catch all those that didn't respond to the first.

 

The problem is that during the 3-4 weeks between doses, your puppy's MDA will be declining and its temporary immunity may even disappear altogether. So until it receives the second dose, there could be an 'immunity gap', during which your puppy is at real risk of catching any disease it encounters.

When to vaccinate your puppy:

To be effective then, vaccination must be carried out before your puppy loses the temporary immunity it gained from its mother. It should certainly begin by the time your puppy is 7-8 weeks of age.

 

The initial course of vaccination is completed with a second dose at 10 weeks of age - not only to ensure that your puppy's level of MDA hasn't blocked the vaccine, but also because satisfactory, long-term protection against some diseases can't be achieved with a single injection.

 

Like any other vaccine, those given to your dog need time to take effect. We recommend waiting for 7 days before you can safely consider your dog immune. While the vaccine is taking effect it is essential to minimise the risk of infection by keeping your dog away from other dogs (except the mother) and places where they might have been - and obviously, the shorter the time you have to do that, the easier it is for both you and your puppy.

Early socialisation very important:

As you may have realised, both the time that a vaccine takes to work and the 'immunity gap' are important considerations where your puppy's socialisation is concerned. It's now generally accepted that early socialisation is one of the key factors in shaping the temperament and behaviour of your dog.

 

Indeed, some of the most recent research has shown that the later socialisation begins, the more likely it becomes that the adult dog may display fear or aggression, suffer stress and be difficult to control.

 

That said, you obviously can't let your puppy mix with other dogs or let it run around the park at a time when it's particularly susceptible to disease. You can safely start your puppy's socialisation from as early as 12 weeks of age(1 week after the puppy's final vaccination).

Annual boosters are essential:

Like the human vaccines we use for diseases such as 'flu, tetanus and cholera, those given to your dog also require regular boosters.

 

Because dogs inevitably come into contact with more disease through their natural habits and activities, their need for such boosters is that much greater - and the time between them is a good deal shorter.

 

It's also the case that the UK's major diseases are a risk to both young and adult dogs and so continuing vaccination is necessary. Whichever vaccine your dog is given, the immunity certainly won't last throughout its life. Moreover, the duration of protection varies from one dog to another, and it's impossible to know if a dog is still safe from a particular disease without a series of blood tests.

 

Since these would be stressful for your dog - and quite expensive for you - by far the best option is to have your dog re-vaccinated every 12 months. Then you can be absolutely sure that it's properly protected against the major diseases from which it could suffer.

 

Your vet will send you a reminder about re-vaccination a few weeks in advance, and as long as it's carried out at the right time, a single dose will be all that's required. However, if you're late for any reason, a second dose of vaccine - and a second visit to your vet - may be necessary to restore your dog's immunity to the appropriate level. Kennel Cough vaccinations may not last as long as 12 months and require boosters much more often.

 

That's especially important if you intend to put your dog into boarding kennels at any time, when their contact with other dogs will be much greater than in the normal course of events.

 

Obviously, as your puppy grows up and mixes with more and more dogs, it's increasingly likely to be exposed to some form of disease, and missing its annual booster could mean illness or even death - a prospect that's best avoided by adopting the motto 'Once a year and it's in the clear'.

alternatives to vaccination:

If you discuss the subject with some people, you may well hear about homeopathic alternatives to the vaccines your vet uses. However, until there is scientific evidence that any of them actually work, any claims for effective protection should be treated with caution.

 

In addition, conventional vaccines are approved by government 's licensing authorities and are also what are known as Prescription Only Medicines - which means that, by law, they can only be obtained from vets and nowhere else at all.

Vaccination record:

When your puppy's first course of vaccination is completed, you will be given a unique Doglog book by your vet, detailing the diseases it has been vaccinated against, and the date when its yearly booster is due.

 

Like any other important document, you should always keep this in a safe place and readily to hand - and you will certainly be required to produce it before your dog can enter some shows or go into properly run obedience classes.

 

Reputable boarding kennels have always recognised the potential disease risk that's posed by keeping a large number of dogs in close proximity. So before accepting your dog, they will insist on seeing an up-to-date Record Log , with full details of the vaccinations it has received during the past 12 months. It may seem like a strict requirement, but only by adhering to it rigidly can boarding kennels be confident of the good health of all the dogs in their care.

 

Which diseases are important:

With many people now having their dogs vaccinated regularly, the general incidence of disease has been greatly reduced. However, outbreaks are still common in areas where unvaccinated dogs are to be found - and it is vital that your puppy is protected against the diseases described here.

 

Canine Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus first appeared in the late seventies, causing the deaths of thousands of dogs and since then, regular outbreaks have been common throughout the UK in areas where unvaccinated dogs are to be found. It is transmitted through contact with infected faeces and can also be carried on the dog's hair, feet and feeding utensils. The virus is extremely difficult to eliminate and can persist in the environment for many months. Many normal disinfectants will not kill the virus.

 

Although dogs of all ages can become infected, puppies are particularly susceptible to the disease, and the symptoms include a sudden onset of vomiting, high temperature and foul smelling, bloody diarrhoea. Dogs rapidly dehydrate, may collapse and can die within 24 hours of the symptoms appearing, even with hospital treatment.

 

Canine hepatitis

Canine hepatitis is a disease which attacks the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of infected dogs. The disease can develop extremely rapidly, often within 24 to 36 hours, and can cause respiratory failure and death in a significant proportion of cases. Canine hepatitis is spread by direct contact with infected urine, saliva or faeces and the symptoms commonly include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

 

Dogs which survive the disease sometimes suffer from clouding of the cornea ('blue eye') during recovery. Many will become symptomless carriers of the disease for many months and be a potential threat to every other unvaccinated dog they come into contact with. There are many causes of hepatitis in dogs - including bacterial and viral infection, drugs and other toxic substances - the most common is the canine adenovirus, and it is this particular, highly contagious form of hepatitis that vaccines are designed to prevent.

 

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which occurs in two different forms in the UK. The first is picked up from the urine of infected rats, most often through dogs drinking from or swimming in canals and rivers inhabited by rats, or by chasing rats or sniffing where rats have been. The symptoms include a high temperature, depression, severe thirst, lethargy, vomiting and jaundice. The disease results in serious liver damage in unvaccinated dogs and is frequently fatal. This form of Leptospirosis can also be transmitted to people - an additional, compelling reason to vaccinate your dog against the disease.

 

The second form of Leptospirosis can be contracted in the first year or so of a dog's life from the infected urine of other dogs and the damage it causes usually only appears as the dog gets older, manifesting itself as kidney failure.

 

Canine distemper (Hard Pad)

Although many people assume distemper - or Hard Pad as it is commonly called - is a thing of the past, localised outbreaks still occur sporadically, with the disease spreading through unvaccinated dogs. Distemper is also carried by foxes and, in urban areas in particular,

this can be a source of infection for your dog.

 

The disease is transmitted through moisture droplets, with dogs usually picking it up when sniffing where infected dogs have been - and since the incubation period can be as long as three weeks, it is usually too late to vaccinate once any outbreak has begun.

 

The symptoms include a wet cough, diarrhoea, high temperature, loos of appetite, sore eyes, and a runny nose. In some instances, the dog's nose and foot pads can become hard and cracked- hence the common name - while in severe cases, the disease can lead to pneumonia, fits, muscle spasms and paralysis. Distemper is often fatal and even those dogs that survive can be left with brain damage and permanent disabilities such as deformed teeth, nervous twitches, epileptic fits and complete changes of personality.

 

Kennel Cough

Despite the name, Kennel Cough can be contracted in any situation where dogs are brought together - obedience classes, parks, camp sites, dog shows, popular walks and the like. It is caused by a variety of infectious agents - including canine parainfluenza virus and the Bordetella bacterium - and is passed on by breathing in contaminated airborne droplets or direct contact with infected dogs.

 

It is highly contagious and can spread rapidly through any area where infected dogs are present. The main symptom of kennel cough is a harsh, dry cough without mucus or phlegm, and one of the most typical signs is gagging or retching as though the dog has something stuck in its throat. This may last for any period from a few days to several weeks, and during this time, secondary infections may also lead to pneumonia.

 

Because of its highly contagious nature, you should always warn your vet in advance if you think your dog has the disease, so that arrangements can be made to treat it in isolation from other dogs which may be at the veterinary surgery.

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