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Vaccination FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need to vaccinate my pets?

Vaccination is essential to prevent potentially life threatening diseases and that is why we strongly recommend it. Animals age faster than humans and therefore annual health checks are strongly recommended (this is like seeing your doctor every seven years, and remember, you can tell him if you feel a little off colour or different).

Do you still see the diseases you vaccinate against?

Thankfully, many of the most dangerous diseases are rarer now that they used to be. This is solely due the use of effective vaccines. These diseases are still seen in unvaccinated animals. Stray dogs and cats are much more likely to carry these diseases, and it is impossible to be sure that you can prevent your pet from coming into contact with them.

Do vaccines really work?

Yes

Are vaccines dangerous?

Everything comes with a risk, and that applies to vaccination as well. The risk of harm is very low – less than 1/20 000 – and considerably less so than the risk of an unvaccinated pet becoming seriously ill from a preventable disease.

Do I need to give annual boosters to my old dog or cat?

Protection against some of these diseases is not particularly long (like the flu vaccine in humans which is given annually), and older pets are not any less likely to develop an illness. We therefore believe that annual vaccination is essential for the entire life of your pet.

How can I give less vaccine to my pet?

We know that protection against some of these diseases is relatively short (like the flu vaccine in humans, leptospirosis on dogs, and cat flu and leukaemia in cats) and annual vaccination for these is absolutely essential. It is possible to do blood tests to assess immunity levels for other diseases, however these are expensive, and will require further visits to the surgery for vaccination when the immunity levels become low or marginal. For most of our clients we do not believe that this is a practical option, and there is little or no benefit for the pet.

Why are annual health checks so important?

Even if you choose not to vaccinate your pet, we strongly recommend that you bring them in for an annual health check. Pets live for 10-20 years and so age much faster than human beings. Thus each annual health examination is equivalent to a human patient seeing a doctor every six or seven years. This health check enables the vet to examine your pet, advise you on preventative medicine or the treatment of diseases identified at an early stage, and help answer any questions you might have.

The Vaccination Debate

There is a great deal of confusing discussion (and misinformation) at present about annual booster vaccination. We would like to try to help clear up some of the confusion.

Vaccination is without doubt the most significant advance we have had in animal health care. Diseases that used to be real killers in dogs such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and leptospirosis (which can pass to human beings), and feline enteritis and feline leukaemia in cats are prevented by vaccination. We only see these diseases in unvaccinated pets, and those whose vaccinations have lapsed. Vaccination also helps prevent other unpleasant and debilitating diseases such as kennel cough in dogs, and cat ‘flu.

All treatment, whether medical or surgical, does carry a risk of side-effects and vaccination is no different. However, the risk of significant side effects is very low – less than 1 in 20 000. Mild side effects are a little more common in very young animals, but are generally short lived (about 24 hours) and far less serious than any of the diseases mentioned above (similar to people feeling faint or having a sore arm after a vaccination). The world renowned Animal Health Trust, an independent charity, showed in their POOCH survey of over 4000 dogs in 2004, that there is absolutely no link between regular vaccination and ill health.

We recommend that ALL puppies and kittens receive a primary vaccination course followed by the first annual booster. After that, what alternative is there? This is where it gets complex. We are protecting against seven different diseases in dogs and four in cats. Each animal may respond in a slightly different way to each different part of the vaccine.

To stay immune dogs must have an annual leptospirosis booster and cats must have annual cat flu and leukaemia vaccination. In some animals immunity against some of the other diseases may last longer, but to be sure that your animal is immune, we would need to test your pet’s blood yearly to see whether he or she is at risk. These tests are becoming available, but they are relatively new and we cannot be certain how reliable they are. For most of our clients we do not believe them to be a practical option, as they involve extra expense and visits to the practice, for little or no benefit to their pets. We do know that standard annual boosters will protect against all these diseases.

It is our strong advice that a thorough annual health examination together with an annual booster vaccination, from puppy- or kittenhood onwards, is the best way to ensure a high quality of life for as long as possible for your pet. We give every pet that comes for a visit a careful and thorough health check, whether they come for a vaccination, an abscess, or an ingrown toenail! We can then pick up any health problems and nip them in the bud, discuss diet, lifestyle, and other issues, and help promote a happy, healthy, and long life. We should not now be treating and losing pets to diseases for which there are such simple and cost effective preventions.

We would encourage you to raise any questions you may have with us. Our health team will be very happy to discuss these issues with you.