Vaccinating Your Dog

As we discussed last week, a vaccination programme for your puppy will start at 6-8 weeks of age, with a course of vaccinations at 4 week intervals until 16 weeks of age. Following this, vaccination needs vary depending on your dog’s risk but normally revaccination occurs every 1-3 years.

Last week when we discussed vaccinating your cat we talked about the concept of “core” and “non-core” vaccinations. This same concept applies to dogs.

The vaccination that we give as part of the initial puppy course and three-yearly after that protects against the following:

-         Parvovirus

-         Distemper

-         Hepatitis (canine adenovirus)

-         Parainfluenza (see below in discussion about Canine Cough)

Parvovirus is something that sadly we still see in our community. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and is often fatal – even with treatment. It is highly infectious and commonly causes outbreaks, particularly in litters of puppies. As it lasts for long periods of time in the environment it is impossible to eradicate and vaccination is our only real form of disease prevention.

Distemper virus is also highly contagious, very often fatal and causes numerous symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, pneumonia and neurological problems. Even if the animal survives they can be left with lifelong brain damage and neurological problems. While it is rarely seen in New Zealand now, there have been significant outbreaks in the past.

Hepatitis is again highly contagious and often fatal. It causes severe liver and kidney damage and clinical signs include jaundice (yellowing of the skin), abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and clotting disorders. Again this disease is not often seen in New Zealand due to the use of vaccinations but outbreaks are possible and to be avoided.

There are two “non-core” vaccinations available for dogs in New Zealand (well actually three – Rabies vaccinations are available in New Zealand however they are only given to dogs travelling to other countries that require it). The other two are:

-         Canine cough

-         Leptospirosis

Canine cough (previously known as “kennel cough”) is caused by several viruses and bacteria. The two we can protect against are Parainfluenza and Bordetella. While canine cough is rarely fatal, it is highly infectious and causes a debilitating hacking cough that can last for several weeks. Vaccination against canine cough is generally required for staying at boarding kennels. As it is spread through close contact, vaccination is also recommended for any dogs going where other dogs congregate e.g. parks, dog trials, shows, obedience classes and agility. Annual revaccination is required.

Leptospirosis causes liver and kidney failure and again can be fatal. Thankfully the variety that causes disease in dogs has not been diagnosed in the South Island. Only dogs that are travelling to the North Island need to be vaccinated, with revaccination occurring annually.

Hopefully this has helped to explain why we vaccinate our pets – from personal experience I know how awful it is to see an animal suffering with a horrible disease like parvovirus when we know it can be prevented!