Dogs Vaccinations 

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Why Vaccination is important

Dogs can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination every year.
Regular vaccination can protect your dog from infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, canine parainfluenza and rabies.

This page contains information on each of these diseases. By preventing these diseases you ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.

Why you need to vaccinate your dog regularly

Primary Vaccination

For the first few weeks of life, puppies are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk. However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity declines to a sufficiently low level for the animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible to start the vaccination programme.

Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.

Annual Vaccination

Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when they are puppies the immunity they receive will protect them for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.

Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.

How vaccines work

Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your dog´s body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular organism if your dog comes into contact with it again.
Fatal diseases of dogs

There are four major infectious diseases affecting dogs today. Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis. All are highly contagious and difficult and expensive to treat.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is perhaps the most common canine infectious disease. Parvovirus was first recognised in the late 1970´s and rapidly became an epidemic. Many hundreds of dogs died before an effective vaccine could be produced. Sadly, this disease remains a major problem. Outbreaks still occur regularly across the country.

The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.

Once a dog becomes infected by parvovirus, the virus invades the intestines and bone marrow. This leads to sudden and severe bleeding into the gut, resulting in dehydration and shock and damage to the immune system. Death is common and frequently rapid unless emergency veterinary treatment is received.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper, sometimes referred to as ´Hard Pad´, is caused by a virus very similar to the measles virus, although it is not a risk to humans.

Although less common than it was 20 or 30 years ago, outbreaks still occur, mainly in urban areas where a large unvaccinated population of dogs and foxes exists. These tend to be ´explosive´ in nature, causing death or permanent brain damage. Transmission of the virus is by inhalation and direct contact.

The distemper virus attacks most parts of the body, including the spleen and bone marrow. This makes it easier to catch secondary infections. As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to the lungs and gut, the eyes, skin and brain.

The classical signs are of a dog with a high temperature, a discharge from the eyes and nose, a cough, vomiting and diarrhoea. Hardening of the skin may occur, in particular the nose and pads, hence the term ´Hard Pad´. The virus can reach the brain causing permanent damage, ranging from involuntary twitches to fits. Dogs that recover may be left with some permanent disability such as cracked pads and nose, epilepsy, and damage to teeth enamel.

Once again, treatment is lengthy, expensive and most importantly, often unsuccessful. As the incubation period is long - often about three weeks - it is usually too late to vaccinate when an outbreak occurs.

Canine Hepatitis

As the name suggests, canine hepatitis attacks the liver. Some dogs may become infected but show no obvious signs, but in acute cases the death of your pet can occur within 24-36 hours.

The disease is spread by direct contact and from faeces, saliva and urine from infected dogs. The virus is carried to the liver and the blood vessels where the major signs of the disease appear.

The symptoms are very variable depending on the severity of the infection. Some animals may show a slight temperature and at the other extreme may die suddenly. Intermediate cases exhibit fever, vomiting, pale gums, jaundice, abdominal pain and internal bleeding. The less severe form of the disease has been associated with "Fading Puppy Syndrome".


Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria that are spread in the urine of infected animals.

Two major forms of the disease exist in dogs. One (L.icterohaemorrhagiae) causes acute illness and jaundice and is usually caught from rats - either by the animal being bitten or coming into contact with rat urine. L. icterohaemorrhagiae infection usually produces a sudden disease with fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, thirst, bleeding, and jaundice. The outcome is usually fatal and death can occur within a few hours.
The other type (L. canicola) can also cause acute disease but frequently takes a more prolonged form. This leads to the slow destruction of the kidneys and renal failure can occur many years after the original infection. Even animals that show no signs of illness may still go on to develop chronic disease.

Kennel Cough

The other major infectious disease of dogs is Kennel Cough. This is caused by two viruses, two bacteria and a mycoplasma (between a virus and a bacteria ). It causes a honking cough as if something was stuck in the dog’s throat. It is unpleasant for most dogs and can occasionally be serious in young dogs, dogs with heart disease and small dogs predisposed to develop a syndrome called Collapsing Trachea Syndrome (typically Yorkies).

One of the viruses, Parainfluenza is  included in the standard vaccine. One of the bacteria, Bordatella bronchiseptica can also be vaccinated against with a nasal spray vaccine. This Kennel Cough vaccine is best given 4-6 weeks before going into kennels or to a dog show. The immunity is short lived and lasts one year at best. There are no vaccines against the other causative agents.

If your dog develops a honking cough you should rest it, make the food soft and sloppy, give honey and glycerine (1-4 tablespoons daily) and seek veterinary help.

Booster vaccinations

Following any vaccination, your pet will need a regular booster vaccination. Your vet will advise you further.

Please don’t be tempted to think that you never hear of these diseases anymore so I don’t need to vaccinate. The reason you don’t hear of them much is because of vaccination and is proof that vaccination programmes do work. There are still outbreaks among unvaccinated animals in the community and they do still cause deaths

Canine Herpes Virus

The virus

Canine herpes virus (CHV-1) is a virus that has been largely ignored for many years. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus causes many more problems than was first thought. Like all herpes viruses, CHV is highly infectious, and a recent study showed that more than 80% of dogs in England have been exposed to the virus at some time in their lives.

The problem

For most dogs CHV is not thought to cause any significant problem and so for a long time is has largely been ignored by both breeders and vets. However, it is now clear that CHV can be a significant cause of death in young puppies, and also smaller litter size and weight.

The unborn puppy

CHV attacks the placenta of the mother, starving the foetus of nutrients. This can lead to abortion, stillbirth or re-absorption of the foetus (seen by the breeder as infertility).

The newborn puppy

If the puppy is infected before birth and survives, it may be underweight at birth and have a weakened immune system, making it vulnerable to early puppyhood infections. If the puppy is infected soon after birth, CHV is known to be one of the factors in "fading puppy syndrome", in which the pup fails to suckle, loses weight and fades away despite intensive care.

The adult dog

In the dog, CHV can cause painful lesions on the genitals. In the bitch, there may not be any external signs, but the bitch seems infertile or gives birth to undersize and weak litters. In both males and females, CHV is also known to be a cause of kennel cough.


There is no cure for an animal that has CHV - infection is probably lifelong and can flare up repeatedly during periods of stress. Antiviral drugs do not appear to be effective and are very expensive.


A new vaccine has just been launched in the UK by Merial Animal Health Ltd, best known as the makers of Frontline®. The vaccine, Eurican® Herpes 205, cannot prevent infection but if given during pregnancy it has been shown to significantly improve fertility rates and reduce early puppy death. Even bitches that already have the virus can be vaccinated.

The vaccine is available from veterinary surgeons now and for more information about this new vaccine, or any of the Eurican dog vaccine range, contact your local veterinary surgeon or log on to or

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