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Vaccinations

A vaccine is a preparation used to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease. Combined vaccines are designed to protect against more than one disease or against one disease caused by different groups of the same pathogenic organism. 


Vaccination in dogs 
When should I start dog vaccination?  How often should I vaccinate my dog?                                       
A new born puppy receives natural immunity from its mother’s milk. However such immunity does not last long and therefore it is recommended to start the first dose for distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus vaccination, when your puppy  gets 6 weeks old followed by additional doses at 9 weeks and 12 weeks. Similarly, first leptospirosis vaccination can be given at 9 weeks followed by a second dose at 12 weeks of age. Older puppies (more than 9 weeks of age) still require 2 vaccinations for these diseases given at an interval of 3 weeks. After a complete initial course of vaccination, your dog usually requires booster vaccinations annually.

Which disease do I vaccinate my dog against?
Familiarization with the concept of core and non-core vaccines helps to make a decision regarding which disease to vaccinate your dog against. The core vaccines are those considered essential for all dogs, regardless of the circumstances. On the other hand non-core vaccines are those used only when your dog has a genuine risk of exposure to the disease that it will be vaccinated against. Hence the use of non-core vaccine is determined by factors such as your dog’s life-style and contact with other dogs.

What are core vaccines for dog?
Caine parvovirus (parvo)
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that can produce a life-threatening illness.  There are two form of this disease: intestinal and cardiac. The intestinal form is more common and is characterised by bloody diarrhoea, weight loss, severe vomiting, and lack of appetite. Dehydration as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting can be life threatening. The cardiac form attacks and damages the heart muscles of young puppies there by leading to death or life long cardiac problems.  Transmission can occur through direct contact with infected dog’s faeces or indirectly through contact with contaminated people or environment.  Although all dogs can get parvo, most at risk group includes unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months. Effective preventative components include routine vaccination and good hygiene.


Canine distemper
Canine distemper is another extremely contagious viral disease of dogs that can produce serious consequences including death in many cases. The disease attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs. The virus is transmitted through the air and by direct or indirect contact with the infected animal. Major symptoms include high grade fever, watery discharge from the eyes and nose, lack of appetite, coughing, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.  Signs such as circling behaviour, seizures and paralysis are seen at the latter stages of the disease. Usually Irreparable nervous system damage is usually observed in dogs that survive distemper. Effective measures for prevention include routine vaccination and avoiding contact with infected and unvaccinated animals and wildlife.

Canine infectious hepatitis
Canine infectious hepatitis is a viral disease of dogs that notably affects the liver, kidneys, and eyes. The infection commonly, but not exclusively, occurs in unvaccinated dogs younger than one year, but dogs of any breed or gender can get infected.  The virus is spread by body fluids such as urine and nasal discharges. Transmission can occur through direct contact with the infected dog or indirect contact through contaminated environment. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough or pneumonia. Vaccination is a highly effective preventative.

What are non-core vaccines for dogs?
Leptospirosis 
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease and can be transmitted from animals to humans. It can affect the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes, and/or reproductive system with varying degrees of damage depending on the immunity status of an individual dog. Infection with leptospirosis can be fatal in 50% of infected dogs. Major symptoms include sudden fever and illness, lethargy, weakness, diarrhoea, spontaneous cough, difficulty breathing, vomiting, jaundice, and kidney failure. Not all infected dogs show symptoms and these asymptomatic dogs can still be a source of infection for humans and other animals. Dogs can get infected when they come into contact directly with the urine of infected animals (particularly rats) or indirectly with contaminated environmental sources such as water, soil or mud the pathogen containing the bacterium. For dogs in New Zealand, vaccine is available against Leptospirosis icterohaemorragiae. Vaccination against this strain also gives cross-protection against Leptospirosis copenhageni, a strain that is very common in the rat population.

Kennel cough
Kennel cough is an upper respiratory tract infection and can be caused by different agents including virus, bacteria or mycoplasma. This condition is also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis and bordetellosis. The most common symptom is a persistent forceful (hacking) cough, but other symptoms of illness can include sneezing, fever, runny nose, lethargy, or pneumonia. In rare cases death might ensue.  The transmission occurs through aerosol route if susceptible host inhale the aerosolised respiratory secretions (for e.g. snot, phlegm) of an infected dog.  In most of the cases the condition is not serious and no treatment is required. As a standalone measure, vaccination does not provide protection against contracting the disease, but reduces the severity of infection.


Vaccinations in cats 

When should I start cat vaccination?  How often should I vaccinate my cat?                                       
A new born cat receives natural immunity from its mother’s milk. However such immunity starts to wane when it is 9-12 weeks of age and therefore it is recommended to begin the first vaccine dose around this age. Depending upon the type of vaccine, the initial dose is followed up by one or two booster vaccines given 3-4 weeks apart in order to provide sufficient levels of immunity.

Does my cat need a booster vaccine?
For certain diseases such as FIV, cat flu and feline infectious enteritis, a booster vaccine one year after the last kitten vaccination is highly recommended. Your pet vet will advise you a suitable vaccination protocol tailored for your cat based on its risk of exposure, overall health and age.

Which disease do I vaccinate my cat against?
Familiarization with the concept of core and non-core vaccines helps to make a decision regarding which disease to vaccinate your cat against. The core vaccines are those considered essential for all cats, regardless of the circumstances (for e.g. including indoor-only cats) and these vaccines protect your cat against diseases that are too dangerous to risk any absence of immunity. On the other hand non-core vaccines are those used only when your cat has a genuine risk of exposure to the disease that it will be vaccinated against. Hence the use of non-core vaccine is determined by factors such as your cat’s life-style, age and contact with other cats.

What are  core vaccines for my cat?
Core vaccines in cat may be used for the following diseases.                          

Feline upper respiratory disease
Feline upper respiratory disease or cat flu is a common disease mainly caused by feline calicivirus (FCV) or feline herpes virus (FHV or FHV-1). Infection with some bacteria and mycoplasma can also cause this disease. It affects cats of all ages, but unvaccinated young and purebred cats and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. These pathogens can easily spread via direct or indirect contact. General symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, lethargy, nasal discharge and depression. Individual symptoms might vary depending upon the type of the causative pathogen. For example calcivirus can cause mouth ulcer, transient arthritis or ulceration of the paw and herpes virus can cause eye ulcers. Specific antiviral treatment is not available, but antibiotics help to prevent complications caused by secondary bacterial infections.  Vaccination is an effective preventative against cat flu caused by FCV and FHV, but a cat could still be infected due to other causes.

Feline infectious enteritis (panleucopaenia)
Feline infectious enteritis is a highly contagious disease caused by feline parvovirus. The infection with this virus results in fever, vomiting, weakness, severe diarrhoea and death. The virus is spread by direct faecal-oral contact or indirect contact with contaminated hands, food dishes, grooming equipment or bedding. Specific antiviral drug is not available, but treatment measures include use of broad spectrum antibiotics, intravenous fluids and antiemetic drugs.

What are  non-core vaccines for my cat?
Non- core vaccines in cat may be used for the following diseases. 
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Cats commonly get infected with this virus through deep bite wounds during aggressive fights as the virus is excreted in large amounts in saliva. Free- roaming outdoor male cats are more vulnerable to the disease. There is no cure and vaccinating your cat is the best way of prevention. In order to ensure your cat is not infected, a blood test should be performed before vaccination. Moreover, vaccinated cats cannot be differentiated from infected cats based on blood test hence implanting a microchip in your cat will reduce the risk of your cat being mistakenly diagnosed as suffering from the disease. 

Feline chlamydiosis

Chylamydiosis is a type of chronic respiratory bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia felis. Conjunctivitis is a predominant clinical sign. Additionally, affected cat show signs of upper respiratory tract infections such as sneezing, discharge from eyes, watery eyes, coughing and low-grade fever. If left untreated, the infection could lead to pneumonia. It affects cats of all ages, but is more common in kittens. Transmission could result from direct contact with infected animals or indirect contact with contaminated environment such as bedding or feeding area. Antibiotic treatment is highly effective. Vaccination is available as a preventative, but in some cats vaccines may cause side effects and therefore vaccination is recommended for cats with high-risk of exposure only.