Why should I vaccinate my animal?
Why are we vaccinated as children? This is the same answer to why we vaccinate our animals. There are numerous life-threatening diseases to which our animals are at risk from and as an owner you have to decide whether or not to take that risk and not vaccinate. Vaccinations do two things, they prevent an animal from getting a disease, which they could die from, and they also prevent that disease from spreading and becoming an epidemic. You also need to think about your own health as some diseases can be spread from animal to human. This is why vaccinations are a critical component to preventative care.

How do vaccines work?
Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to a disease organism so that the animal is protected against various pathogens in its environment. If the immunised animal is later exposed to the infectious agent these antibodies react quickly to attack and neutralise the disease.

At what age can I vaccinate my animal and what are they vaccinated against?
DOGS  Dogs are normally protected against Parvo, two forms of Leptospirosis, Distempter, Infectious hepatitis and Parainfluenza (kennel cough). A vaccine against Bordetella bronchiseptica would be recommended if your dog was going into kennels and Rabies is a must if your animal is to travel abroad.

Puppies start their vaccination course at 8 weeks of age, with a second injection two weeks later. Annual boosters are recommended after that.

Adult dogs also have the same vaccines as puppies, again two weeks apart with recommended annual boosters after that.

CATS  Cats are normally protected against Panleucopenia (infectious enteritis), cat flu and Leukaemia. On request we also provide Chalmydia and again Rabies for if your pet is to travel abroad.

Kittens start their vaccination course at 9 weeks of age, with a second injection three weeks later. Annual boosters are recommended after that.

Adult cats also have the same vaccines as kittens, again three weeks apart with recommended annual booster after that.

RABBITS  Rabbits can be vaccinated against myxomatosis from the age of 6 weeks. This is a single vaccine followed by a six monthly booster. Also available for rabbits is the viral Haemorrhagic Disease vaccine. For this the rabbit must be 12 weeks of age, and again this is a single vaccine followed by an annual booster. Unfortunately these vaccine cannot be given together, they have to have a two-week gap.

FERRETS  Ferrets can be vaccinated against distemper. For details contact the surgery.
Should you have any concerns about vaccinating your animal then please contact the surgery for further advice.

Listed below are some of the main infectious diseases, how they are spread and what signs to look for. Unfortunately not all diseases have a vaccine, but there are suggestions on how to limit your animal to the exposure of the disease.

Back to top

Infectious diseases in dogs
  Infectious diseases in cats
  Infectious diseases in rabbits
  Infectious diseases in ferrets


These diseases are highly contagious, and need extensive and expensive treatments and with the exception of kennel cough may be fatal. None of them needs to be a problem when your animal is covered by vaccinations.

Parvo  This disease is spread in faeces. It is transmitted by either direct or in-direct contact. This means either your dog can pick it up by walking in an area that another dog has infected or you could walk in that same area and bring it into your home. Parvo virus is highly resistant compared to other canine viruses and can remain viable off the host for up to one year. The incubation period is between 3 and 5 days with the classical clinical signs of vomiting and foul smelling profuse liquid diarrhoea, which can be reddish brown in colour. Any surviving animals can be left with intestinal damage. Prevention is to vaccinate

Distemper  This disease is spread in vomit, saliva, faeces, nasal and ocular discharge. It is passed on by dog-to-dog direct contact or dogs in close contact. Incubation period for this disease is 7 to 21 days, and the presenting clinical signs can be conjunctivitis, rhinitis, vomiting, diarrhoea, pyrexia, fits and hyperkeratosis of the nose and footpads. This virus can affect a wide range of organs including the eyes, skin, brain and the intestinal and respiratory tracts. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Infectious Hepatitis  Transmission of this disease is by dog-to-dog contact or contact with infected material. It is excreted in saliva, faeces and urine. The incubation period is 5 to 9 days with clinically signs of haemorrhagic diarrhoea, abdominal pain, jaundice, anorexia, depression and pyrexia. This disease primarily affects the liver. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Leptospirosis  There are two forms of this disease, one affects the liver and kidneys and the other causes kidney inflammation. It is passed on by coming into direct contact with infected urine or rats. The incubation period is 2 to 14 days, with clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhoea, jaundice, petechial haemorrhages, pyrexia, anorexia, depression and polydipsia.
This disease is of particular importance as it can pass on to humans. If your dog becomes infected with this disease it is recommended that you contact your doctor immediately. Prevention is by vaccination.

Kennel Cough  This is a highly infectious bronchial disease. The Parainfluenza vaccine is given as an injection, while the Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine is administered via the nasal passage in droplet form. Infection follows either direct dog-to-dog contact or aerosol transmission, especially where dogs are housed within the same air space. Incubation period for this disease is 5 to 7 days, with the classical clinical sign of a dry non-productive cough. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Back to top

These diseases are killers in cats and treatments can be extensive and expensive.

Panleucopenia (Infectious Enteritis)  This virus is very resistant and can survive for many months off the host. It is shed in saliva, vomit, faeces and urine. Transmission can be through direct or indirect contact, that is cat-to-cat or touching infected materials, bowls etc.Incubation period is 4 to 5 days, with clinical sings of vomit, liquid yellow-brown diarrhoea that may also contain blood, painful abdomen, depression and anorexia. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Cat Flu  It is spread between cats by direct contact or through sneezing. The incubation period is 2 to 10 days, with the classical clinical signs of sneezing, conjunctivitis with serous ocular discharge and nasal discharge. Cats can become rapidly weak and dehydrated due to not eating and drinking. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Leukaemia (FeLV)  Infection is transmitted in the blood and saliva when cats fight, groom or mate. It can also be transmitted in the uterus from queen to unborn kittens and in the milk she produces to feed them. The disease can take months to develop after infection and once infected the cat never becomes free of it.  Feline leukaemia damages the immune system and predisposes to other diseases causing secondary infections and tumours and ultimately greatly shortens the life expectancy. Prevention is to vaccinate and it is also advisable to neuter your cat to reduce the tendency to fight.

Chlamydia  This disease can cause recurrent bouts of sneezing, conjunctivitis and also infertility/abortion in breeding queens. Incubation period of this disease is 4 to 10 days, with clinical signs of ocular discharge, blephrospasm, hyperaemia and chemosis, nasal discharge and sneezing. Prevention is to vaccinate.

Infectious Anaemia (FIA)   Flea control is most important in controlling this disease. The infected flea bites the cat and the cat becomes infected. Once a cat is infected it can pass it on to others through cat bites, mother to unborn kittens and via the milk. Many adult cats may be exposed to it without showing clinical sings, but unfortunately for kittens it is life threatening. Clinical signs include onset of weakness, lethargy, anorexia, pale mucous membranes and anaemia. There is no vaccine available, so as well as flea control it would also be advisable to get your cat neutered to reduce the tendency to fight.

Immunodeficiency virus (FIV)  The most important route of transmission is direct contact with salvia, but sexual transmission may also be of some importance. Within two weeks of being bitten the infected cat will show evidence of antibody production and the virus may be detected in circulating lymphocytes. After a further four weeks the cat may develop pyrexia and generalisation of lymphadenopathy, which can last for many weeks, followed by asymptomatic phase which may last for years before clinically detectable. Due to this disease being immunosuppressive clinical signs can vary from weight loss, chronic diarrhoea, chronic gingivitis, chronic skin disease, to neoplasia, especially lymphoid tissue and ultimately decreases life expectancy. There is no vaccine available so it would be advisable to get your cat neutered to reduce tendencies to fight with other cats.

Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)  This disease is passed on by coming in contact with urine or faeces from an infected cat, even though mode of transmission is not fully understood. The incubation period is extremely variable. FIP has two forms, one is called wet FIP which is where fluid accumulates in the abdomen and in some cases also the thorax; and the second is called dry FIP where granulomatous lesions form on any abdominal organs, particularly the spleen, liver and kidneys. Organs often become swollen, palpable and eventually there is organ failure, again ultimately decreasing the life expectancy. There is no vaccine available so it would be advisable to get your cat neutered to reduce tendencies to fight with other cats.

Back to top


Myxomatosis  This disease is passed on by the rabbit flea and mosquitoes. The incubation period is between 5 to 14 days, with classical clinical signs of puffy eyes, swellings on the inside of ears, and puffy swellings around the anus and genitals. Death usually occurs about two weeks after onset of clinical signs. Prevention is to vaccinate and also use flea control.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease  Spread by direct contact with infected rabbits or indirect contact (clothing, shoes) and fleas. Symptoms may be loss of appetite, difficulty breathing and dullness through to sudden death. The disease can progress very rapidly. Prevention is to vaccinate and also use flea control.

Back to top


Ferrets and Distemper  Distemper is an airborne virus that is always 100% fatal to ferrets if not vaccinated against it. This virus can be picked up from grass, weeds, trees, shrubs, animals etc, that you or your pet may come into contact with. The incubation period can be up to 10 days, with clinical signs of anorexia, fever, eyes blinking and serious nasal discharge. A rash can develop on the chin and spread to the groin area causing additional infections. As the disease progresses the nasal discharge eventually turns brown and becomes encrusted around the lips, nose chin and eyes. Secondary bacterial infections can develop such as pneumonia and black tarry stools indicating possible ulcers. Ferrets can go on to having convulsions and become comatose. Euthanasia is normally recommended. While this vaccine is vital to protect your ferret, it is not without controversy as some ferrets can have adverse reactions to some of the components of the vaccines available; and because of this it is wise to stay at the veterinary practice for 15 to 20 minutes post injection to monitor for signs of anaphylactic shock.

Back to top


Rabies  Rabies is one of the best known of all the viruses. It is caused by a virus that spreads round the body within the nerve fibres rather than by blood or lymph. Transmission between mammals is mainly by saliva, usually through bites. The time between exposure to the virus and the first appearance of clinical signs can range from days to months. Clinical signs come in three phases:
1. Prodromal phase: apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, solitude and fever. Friendly animals may become shy or irritable, whereas aggressive animals may become affectionate and docile.
2. Furious phase: restless, irritable, hyperresponsive to auditory and visual stimuli. As they become more restless, they begin to roam and become more irritable and vicious. Animals progress to become disoriented and then have seizure and eventually die.
3. Paralytic phase: animals may develop this phase either after the prodromal or furious stage. Animals may begin to salivate as a result of their inability to swallow. Deep laboured breathing and a dropped jaw may result as the diaphragm and face muscles become increasingly paralysed.

There are a variety of different symptoms, and once contracted there is no cure and death is almost always the outcome. Vaccination is the only prevention. Remember that this disease can be passed on to humans.

Back to top

website by metanym
raoul dowding veterinary surgeons

© Raoul Dowding Veterinary Surgeons    find us on facebook!    find us on twitter!