Why should I vaccinate my pet?
Here at Beach and Bay Vet, we can’t overstate the importance of an appropriate vaccination schedule for your pet’s safety and wellbeing.
On the Central Coast, we intermittently see cases of the diseases against which we vaccinate, with the vast majority occurring in improperly vaccinated pets. Often, these illnesses require at least a veterinary consultation and medications to get your pet feeling comfortable and well again, so end up being a lot more expensive than the vaccine! However some of these diseases, especially in more vulnerable animals (such as puppies and kittens, old animals, and animals with other illnesses), can require your pet to have intensive care in hospital, or unfortunately can even be fatal.
It is very upsetting for us, let alone the heartbroken owner, to lose a pet due to an illness that could have been prevented.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a small quantity of a particular virus or bacteria. This virus or bacteria has been altered (modified live) or killed so that it should not actually cause the disease in your pet if your pet has a normal immune system. Controlled exposure to the virus or bacteria following a certain schedule allows your pet’s body to develop immunity to this particular illness, so if they are naturally exposed to it in the future, they should show no signs of illness or else significantly reduced illness.
Often vaccines are combined to protect against multiple common diseases.
What diseases does my dog need to be vaccinated against?
It is strongly advised that all dogs should be vaccinated against the core three diseases, because of their global distribution and the severity of illness that they cause. These core three diseases are:
- parvovirus (CPV) – causes severe bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, and weakening of the immune system, which can lead to anaemia, shock, blood infection, and death
- distemper (CDV) – affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and neurological systems, so can cause vomiting/diarrhoea, high fever, eye inflammation, severe pneumonia, seizures and death
- adenovirus (CAV) – causes inflammation in the liver, which can lead to fever, jaundice, abdominal pain, bleeding disorders, and, in severe cases, death
These three viruses are combined into a single vaccine, commonly referred to as the C3 or the core vaccines.
We also advise that dogs coming into contact with other dogs, or sharing the same public spaces (even communal water bowls) should also be vaccinated against two of the common causes of kennel cough:
- bordetella – (BB)
- parainfluenza (CPiV)
Both BB and CPiV can cause infectious tracheobronchitis (commonly known as kennel cough), which often causes a “honking” cough, with or without other signs such as fever, a runny nose or eyes. These symptoms are generally uncomfortable for your dog rather than being life-threatening, although very young or old patients are at risk of more severe pneumonia-type signs. Your dog doesn’t need to go into kennels to be exposed to this illness – only to be in close contact with an affected dog’s respiratory droplets.
Dogs going into boarding are generally required to be up-to-date with the full C5 (C3 + BB/CPiV) to be accepted into the boarding facility.
Dogs may also be vaccinated against some types of leptospirosis. This is considered a non-core vaccine, as there have not been any reported cases of leptospirosis on the Central Coast for a long time. However, if a dog is to be walked in the inner-city areas of Sydney, it may be advised that they are vaccinated against leptospirosis given the recent outbreak there. We advise discussing whether or not your dog is recommended to have this additional vaccination with one of our vets.
How often should my dog be vaccinated?
We recommend the following schedule for dog vaccination. This is based on the most current World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines developed to protect individual pets and prevent outbreaks of companion animal disease – see our Helpful Links page if you wish to view these guidelines. We use Nobivac vaccines, which are registered for core vaccination (C3) every 3 years in ADULT dogs, and annual BB/CPiV.
- 6-8 weeks old – C3 vaccination
- Most puppy schools will accept puppies after they have received this vaccine. This is the safest socialisation activity at this stage, as puppy schools are held in freshly cleaned areas.
- 10-12 weeks old – C5 vaccination (C3 + BB/CPiV)
- After this vaccination we recommend going to the wet sand at the tide zone of a dog beach for essential socialisation from 12-16 weeks old. Make sure to keep your dog away from other dog’s poo, as this is a parvovirus risk.
- Your pup may also have playdates with other dogs who are healthy and up-to-date with vaccines, in an enclosed private area.
- The Nobivac intranasal BB/CPiV (kennel cough) vaccine only needs to be given once during the puppy vaccines if given after 10 weeks old
- 16 weeks old – C3 vaccination
- Two weeks after this vaccination, your puppy should have good immunity, and can come on all your outdoor adventures with you!
- We sometimes get asked if this vaccine is really necessary, given some vaccine companies make claims that the puppy should be protected after their 10-12 week vaccination. We deem the 16+ week vaccination to be very important based on WSAVA guidelines, which state that maternally-derived protective antibodies (molecules in the pup’s bloodstream which give temporary protection against some common illnesses, obtained from feeding from the mother dog) may still be present in a puppies’ system up to 16 weeks old. If these antibodies are present above a certain level at the time of the 10-12 week vaccine, they can prevent the puppy responding properly to the vaccine and therefore stop them developing their own immunity. These antibodies naturally run out around 12-16 weeks old, and if a puppy hasn’t developed their own long-term immunity from vaccination in the meantime, they will be left susceptible to illness. Therefore, we advise the third puppy vaccine at 16-18 weeks to help ensure that each puppy is given good opportunity to develop their own immunity.
ADULT DOG VACCINATION:
At 15 months old, your dog will receive another C5 vaccination. From here on with the Nobivac vaccine we use, your dog can receive annual kennel cough vaccination (injectable or intranasal) and wellness checks, and tri-annual C3 vaccinations, and still retain full protection. Hence, their 3-yearly cycle will repeat throughout their lifetime as follows:
- Year 1: C3 + BB/CPiV (kennel cough) + wellness check
- Year 2: BB/CPiV + wellness check
- Year 3: BB/CPiV + wellness check
What diseases does my cat need to be vaccinated against?
If your cat goes to any areas accessible by other cats, comes into contact with other cats, or goes into boarding, we advise that they are protected against the core three diseases:
- panleukopaenia – causes diarrhoea, vomiting, and weakening of the immune system, which can lead to shock, blood infection and death, especially in young kittens. Also causes abortion or permanent neurological damage of foetuses in pregnant cats.
- herpesvirus (FHV) AND calicivirus (FCV) – two of the major causes of upper respiratory tract infection (cat flu) in cats – signs frequently include conjunctivitis, eye ulcers, sneezing, loss of appetite, fever and inflamed throat.
These three viruses are combined into a single vaccine, commonly referred to as the F3 or the core vaccines. There is also an F2 (cat flu) vaccine for intermittent use in adult cats.
Cats going into boarding are generally required to be up-to-date with F3 vaccination to be accepted into the boarding facility.
Cats may also be vaccinated against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). These are considered non-core vaccines, and these viruses are not common on the Central Coast. Given the vaccinations can present a small risk of vaccine site reactions in cats, we advise discussing whether or not your cat is recommended to have these vaccinations with one of our vets.
How often should be cat be vaccinated?
We recommend the following schedule for cat vaccination. This is based on the most current World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines developed to protect individual pets and prevent outbreaks of companion animal disease – see our Helpful Links page if you wish to view these guidelines.
- 6-8 weeks: F3 vaccination
- 10-12 weeks: F3 vaccination
- 16-18 weeks: F3 vaccination
ADULT CAT VACCINATION:
At 15 months old, your cat will receive another F3 vaccination. We use Nobivac vaccines, which are registered to provide full protection for ADULT cats with core vaccination (F3) every 3 years, and F2 annually in the years between.
Therefore, if your cat is deemed “high risk”, i.e. sharing outdoor spaces with other cats or going to boarding, your cat’s three-yearly vaccination cycle should repeat throughout their lifetime as follows:
- Year 1: F3 + wellness check
- Year 2: F2 + wellness check
- Year 3: F2 + wellness check
If your adult cat is deemed “low risk” i.e. indoors, never going to boarding, then it should be sufficient for them to receive an F3 vaccination every 3 years following their 15 month old vaccine.
What happens if my pet accidentally becomes overdue for vaccination?
The puppy and kitten vaccination series should be performed at 2-4 week intervals, with the final vaccine occurring no earlier than 16 weeks. If your puppy or kitten has had more than a 6 week gap between any of the initial doses, they should ideally receive 2 additional vaccines after this point, 3-4 weeks apart, to ensure they get a full immune response.
Because we use Nobivac vaccines which are live modified (and therefore more effective), if your adult cat or dog becomes overdue for their core vaccination booster (C3 or F3), a single dose of vaccine should get them back up-to-date, regardless of the time that has elapsed. For dogs overdue for kennel cough vaccination (BB + CPiV), a single dose of the Nobivac intranasal vaccine will be sufficient.
If you are confused about whether or not your pet is up-to-date with vaccination, please give us a phone call and we can advise you further.
Will you remind me to vaccinate my pet?
We will keep track of each patient’s vaccine schedule on their record, and so will advise you each year via email and/or SMS when your animal is due for vaccination.
Will the vaccination have any harmful side effects?
Vaccinations appears to be safe for the vast majority of patients. However, very occasionally we do see adverse reactions to vaccines. A 2005 US retrospective study of over 1.2 million animals receiving vaccines over a 2 year period in showed a 0.382% chance of an adverse event occurring (JAVMA Vol 227, No 7, Oct 1, 2005) so please be assured that whilst they can happen, they are very uncommon.
These adverse reactions most commonly occur within minutes to hours after the vaccination, so are fairly obvious. They can include signs such as:
- pain and swelling at the vaccination site
- generalised unwellness and lethargy
- facial swelling and/or hives
- collapse or difficulty breathing (anaphylactic reaction).
If you think your pet is suffering an adverse reaction to a vaccination, please phone us immediately to discuss your pet’s symptoms, to see if any treatment is required.
Research on any link between vaccinations causing autoimmune disease remains unclear. However, most vets err on the side of caution in animals who have previously suffered autoimmune disease, and recommend against vaccination in these animals due to potential risk of re-triggering the disease.
Does my rabbit require vaccination?
Rabbits in NSW who go outdoors or come into contact with other rabbits are recommended to be vaccinated against viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) virus. This is a very contagious virus and can be spread by:
- direct contact with infected rabbits (including wild rabbits)
- materials that have been in contact with infected rabbits
- mosquitoes or flies that have been in contact with infected rabbits
- the faeces of infected predator animals/birds
VHD causes liver failure. Infected rabbits can be found suddenly dead, or can suffer weakness, fever, inappetance, bleeding from the nose, mouth and genitalia/anus, and seizures, before dying.
Rabbits should receive their first vaccination at 10-12 weeks old. However, if your rabbit is deemed “high risk” (e.g. wild rabbits in close proximity to your rabbit’s outdoors area), it is recommended that they receive an earlier vaccination before 10 weeks, and then have a booster vaccine either 1 month later or at 10-12 weeks old (whichever comes first).
Adult rabbits are recommended to have an annual booster, or, if they are deemed “high risk”, a 6-monthly booster.
The other common rabbit virus in Australia is myxomatosis. This is a generally fatal disease which is intermittently released by the government amongst wild rabbits to control their numbers, in order to limit their damage to our environment and agriculture industries. Currently there is no vaccine registered for myxomatosis virus prevention in Australia. This is because the Department of Agriculture is concerned that if a vaccine is used in pet rabbits, then the modified virus in the vaccine may pass from vaccinated pet rabbits to wild rabbits, giving them immunity to the disease and allowing their population to get out of control.
Therefore, the best way to protect your pet rabbit against myxomatosis is to protect them from mosquito bites, which can transmit the infection. Ensure any outdoor hutch is covered with mosquito-proof mesh, and/or keep your rabbit indoors at night.