Improved Dog Vaccine
As a Practice, over the years we have endeavoured to provide the safest, most effective, if not the cheapest vaccines, targeting the specific needs of the individual animal. Last year we changed the rabbit vaccination product and routine, when a more efficacious vaccine became available. This year has seen the improvement of one of the components in the dog vaccine.
The ‘core’ diseases for dogs are Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis. All these diseases can kill or permanently affect dogs. The first three are viruses specific to dogs. After the initial vaccination and first year booster, dogs only require boosters every third year to maintain immunity. Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium, and exists as several different variants. Until now, we have vaccinated against L. icterohaemorrhagiae and L. canicola. The former is the cause of Weall’s Disease, a zoonosis, and is spread by rats. The latter is spread dog to dog. Recent research has shown that the incidence of L. canicola has reduced, presumably due to vaccinations, but other variants have increased to a significant level. This, combined with dogs travelling to Europe, has necessitated expanding the cover of the Leptospirosis vaccine.
The new vaccine will protect against four serovar groups. It will have the same level of safety. We rarely have a vaccination reaction. And increase the protection to dogs from the most common of the four diseases in this area. It will still require yearly boosters that can be done during the yearly health check.
Changing the vaccine will mean changes to routine. For puppies and dogs starting their vaccination the doses have to be given 4 – 6 weeks apart. Vaccinations can start as early as 6 weeks of age, but most likely they will be given at eight and twelve weeks of age, meeting the public at thirteen weeks.
Those dogs that are already vaccinated can be boostered by the new vaccine; but to acquire the full benefits they will need to have a second vaccination of the new Leptospirosis vaccine four weeks after their booster on the first occasion.
A change to routine is always disruptive but this is something that we feel is very worthwhile in achieving.
To vaccinate or not vaccinate?
The very fact that we can ask that question has shown the very real improvement in most pets lives compared with twenty years ago. I can still remember when I started work as a vet, litters of puppies coming in initially with a mild rash in the groin, then pus-closed eyes and finally in convulsions being put to sleep. Distemper was not a rarity then; those surviving with hard pads and damaged teeth – a lot of them epileptic. Parvo viral enteritis was endemic, stripping the lining of the guts out then wringing their bodies empty. We would have over 20 dogs on drips in the early years. In South Cheshire, I have never seen a distemper case and the few Parvo viral enteritis cases recently have been brought in from south Wales or Telford area. This has been achieved by the high level of vaccination here.
There are two levels of vaccination in a population. If sufficient individuals are immune, then epidemics cannot occur. Individuals will be affected but we won’t see neighbourhoods of ill animals. A higher level is required if you wish to protect individuals in a community.
This was demonstrated with the recent drop in vaccination against measles (the human equivalent of Distemper); the number of severe infections increased, with deaths and permanent brain damage cases returning.
Why not vaccinate?
Adverse reactions. The list is long and alarming, especially if you add all the allege problems. My experience is that the early vaccines did occasionally cause a brief fever possibly with aching joints, but now it is fairly rare for the recipient to be a ‘bit quiet’. Yes, serious adverse reactions can occur, but they are rare. If the population vaccination level falls – recurrence of these serious diseases in this area will be a certainty. Research by The Animal Health Trust has shown that vaccination doesn’t increase the level of illness in dogs and that recently vaccinated dogs were the healthiest group in the study. Sometimes it is best not to vaccinate your pet. If you have concerns – talk it over with us
Make sure your dog has a collar tag with your current contact details. The Control of Dogs Order 1992 advises that any dog in a public place wears a collar with name and address including post code of the owner engraved on it.
Microchip identification is also advisable. It supplies a unique traceable code that is recognised for the PETS scheme. Have a current photograph, in case he strays.
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