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Diseases that are caused by contagious viruses tend to cycle within a population. Sometimes there is a low incidence of the disease as the virus is not very virulent, most animals have been vaccinated, or other conditions don’t favour an outbreak. At other times there can be epidemics as a highly virulent strain of the virus emerges, or other factors change to support an outbreak.
The purpose of vaccinating your dog is to prevent the development of clinical disease by either preventing your pet from catching the virus - or if they do get infected - by limiting the severity and the effects of any infection. Our job, as your pet’s veterinarian, is to recommend what we think is the best vaccination course for your dog / puppy to ensure it can live a healthy and “disease free” life.
Recommended Vaccination Protocol
We recommend that all infectious dog diseases currently present in NZ should be vaccinated against. Dogs should have yearly health checks at which we will tailor the vaccination schedule to suite your dogs needs and maintain their protection against these diseases.
The ‘core’ infectious dog diseases currently present in NZ that WE RECOMMEND your cat should be vaccinated against are: Parvo virus, Hepatitis, Distemper and Kennel Cough
Primary Vaccination Course
Initially a primary course of injections will be given. The number and type will depend on the age of the animal, pre-existing immunity, general state of health, and overall risk factors.
- Baby puppy - 5 to 15 weeks old: Typically there will be 2-3 vaccinations needed to complete the primary course from when we first see the puppy.
- Older Pup/Adult Dog - 15 weeks or older: Two vaccinations/visits will be adequate to complete the primary course.
- Adult dogs whose vaccination cover has lapsed: Two vaccinations/visits will be adequate to complete the primary course.
Your dog will have NO lasting vaccination immunity if you don’t bring it in for its FULL course of vaccinations.
If you are having your pet vaccinated prior to going into kennels, please recognize that a vaccination course will NOT provide its maximum protection until 10 days after the final vaccination of the course!! Most kennels require a minimum of 2-4weeks between the date of the vaccination and the date your dog enters the kennels.
Protection against the lethal diseases-Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus will not be complete until 10 days following the last (DHP) vaccination in the series. Up to this time your pup/dog should remain on your property, or other ‘safe’ area, and avoid any direct contact with unvaccinated dogs.
Without regular booster vaccinations throughout its life your pets vaccination protection will decline to the point it is no longer protected.
There is a lot of discussion about long-term re-vaccination interval at the moment given that some vaccines might produce immunity that lasts more than one year, particularly if this immunity is ‘boosted’ by natural challenge ie. Exposure to disease!
BUT for conferred immunity from vaccination to last for more than one year the following has to happen:
- The dog must have been vaccinated as a puppy and its full vaccination series must be completed no earlier than 12 weeks old. ALSO the interval between the first vaccination and its booster must not be more than 6weeks.
- The dog must have received at least one ANNUAL booster at 12months after its ‘start-up’ series
- The dog must have been faced with natural ‘challenge’ by the disease in the wild state to boost immunity
- The dog must be healthy and have a normally functioning immune system. There are several life stages (very old, very young) where this may not apply, AND there are several diseases that can impair the immune system. Other nonspecific diseases might also affect the dogs ability to react to the vaccine and produce long lasting antibodies to infection.
NB. There is no guarantee your dog will receive a ‘booster’ by the ‘natural challenge’ of disease faced in the wild. As such there is no guarantee of protection beyond the minimum period offered by vaccination, and your dog would be completely exposed!
As you can see there are several areas where long term protection can become compromised and as such we recommend annual health checks, and annual re-vaccination against some of the canine diseases.
ALSO dogs going into kennels must be revaccinated annually AND vaccine manufacturers specify regular/annual boosters in most cases as well.
Another Advantage Of Annual Health Checks
Your dog ages seven years to every year of ours. Your dog’s annual vaccination visit will include a thorough ANNUAL HEALTH CHECK and will give you the opportunity to ask any questions on your pet’s health that have been concerning you.
Any problems discovered at examination will be discussed and attended to before they get out of hand.
Diseases Covered by Vaccination
Distemper is an uncommon viral infection that does not require direct contact among dogs for its transmission. Still considered on of the most serious diseases of dogs, distemper often causes death or permanent disability. Affected dogs usually develop nasal discharge and a cough that can progress to pneumonia and death. The cases that survive these signs will usually go on to develop nervous signs starting with muscle twitching and progressing to convulsions. Recovery is rare, the suffering is great and residual brain damage is common. Treatment in view of its poor long-term prognosis is questionable.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis (Hepatitis)
Hepatitis is a contagious viral disease spread primarily through urine, thus direct dog-to-dog contact is not a prerequisite for infection. Hepatitis will affect dogs of all ages but it is most severe in pups. The signs can be similar to distemper with additional signs of abdominal pain, due to enlargement of the liver and jaundice. The outcome of Hepatitis varies from slight fever to death. Corneal opacity or ‘blue eye’ may follow infection. Supportive treatment will consist of intravenous fluids and other medications. Some dogs will die from infection whether treated or not, and lasting organ damage can be consequence in dogs that do survive.
Since its devastating worldwide appearance in 1978 this disease has remained as a common cause of death in dogs. The disease is highly contagious, the virus is extremely resistant and capable of surviving long periods in the dogs environment (at least 1-2years), and infection requires very low numbers of virus. Affected dogs go off their food and become very depressed. Diarrhoea and vomiting follows, along with high fever and dehydration. Treatment options are limited. The virus attacks the rapidly dividing cells of the body those in the gut and the immune system. This means the body can’t fight infection, at the same time as toxins and bacteria are entering into the body through the damaged gut wall. Many of the dogs that receive treatment will still die, or suffer longterm complications from the disease.
Infections Tracheobronchitis (Infectious Cough / Kennel Cough)
This is a highly contagious disease of dogs that has more than one causative agent. Affected dogs have a persistent hacking cough that usually appears after exercise and that can be quite distressing to the dog and owner. It rarely progresses to a more serious disease but in some cases can progress into pneumonia if not treated. It is important to realize that not all members of the kennel cough complex have a vaccine. Also, because kennel cough is a localized infection (meaning it is local to the respiratory tract), it is an infection that does not lend itself to 100% prevention by vaccination. Because the viral component of kennel cough is constantly changing re-vaccination must be boosted annually, and even then it often vaccination simply muffles the severity of infection without completely preventing it.
NB. Vaccination is NOT useful in a dog already incubating kennel cough.
Kennel cough can be caused by several pathogens, often working ‘together’. The viral component is called Canine Parainfluenza Virus. This is vaccinated in combination with Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvo in a 4 in 1 injectable vaccine (DHPPi).
The bacterial component is Bordetella Bronchiseptica. There are two options for Bordetella vaccination - Injectable and Intranasal. Your vet will determine which vaccine is best to use for your pet.
Injectable Kennel Cough Vaccine
Injectable vaccination is a good choice for aggressive dogs who may bite if their muzzle is approached. For puppies, injectable vaccination provides good systemic immunity as long as two doses are given (approximately one month apart) after age 10 weeks. Boosters are generally given annually.
Nasal Kennel Cough Vaccine
Intranasal vaccination may be given as early as 3 weeks of age and immunity generally lasts 10 to 12 months. This vaccine is boosted annually. One advantage of intranasal vaccination is that it promotes production of antibodies that get secreted into the nasal cavity where a natural infection would be trying to take hold. A down side to intranasal vaccination is that some dogs will develop sneezing and nasal discharge in the week following vaccination. Also, most dogs resent nasal vaccine as it means holding their face firmly while blocking off one nostril with the syringe and pouring liquid into their nose.
It takes 3 days to generate a solid immune response after intranasal vaccination so it is best if vaccination is given at least 5 days prior to the potential exposure eg. kennels.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by a group of spiral-shaped bacteria in the genus Leptospira. There are many species of this bacterium, referred to as serovars, present in New Zealand, predominantly throughout the north island.
They are shed into the urine of infected animals, species such as pigs, cows, deer and rats. As such, dogs that live in areas populated by these other creatures may be at risk for contracting leptospirosis. This usually happens via contact with infected urine. Infection usually enters the body across mucus membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth, but it can also get in through damaged skin. Drinking, swimming, hunting, sniffing or walking through infected water are all ways of acquiring infection. Some infected animals act as reservoirs and shed the bactera intermittently for months or even years thus acting as long term risks to the dogs in the area. The organism thrives on its own in the soil for many months as well.
It is important to realise that leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, which means that humans can contract the disease directly from animals – our pets included. The disease is treatable but often affects organs like the liver or kidneys. Unfortunately it will often cause serious damage to the infected organs and can be fatal. Symptoms of leptospirosis can include fever, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, conjunctivitis and generalized pain. Frequent urination and dehydration can also occur if it infects the kidneys, and this can lead to a definite change in the colour of the urine. Affected animals can also become jaundiced, meaning their mucous membranes and the whites of their eyes turn a yellowish colour.
It is best to prevent this disease from happening altogether, and for dogs at risk of catching leptospirosis we recommend a yearly booster with the Leptospirosis vaccine (Leptoguard). If your dog is just starting out its vaccine program for leptospirosis, he or she will need to have a booster 2-4 weeks after the first injection. It is then protective for one year and will only require a single annual inoculation from then on, which is usually given in conjunction with any other required vaccines. Lepto Vaccine can be started for animals at 7 to 10 weeks of age or older as part of their primary vaccination regime.