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The importance of vaccination

I have been researching how best to care for my two-month-old Yorkshire Terrier puppy. I have been told about vaccinations, but I’m still unsure. What are the benefits?

Paul Manktelow advises...

Vaccinations are usually started in puppies as two injections, one at six to eight weeks old, and then again at 10-12 weeks. After this, they are protected from particular viruses from one week after the second vaccination, and then only require yearly boosters after that. The main vaccinations cover dogs against five main diseases – parvovirus, leptospirosis, canine distemper virus, infectious canine hepatitis, and parainfluenza.

  • Parvovirus is a very common disease, usually seen in unvaccinated younger dogs.  The symptoms range from severe vomiting and bloody diarrhoea to seizures and eventually coma. It is a disease that young unvaccinated dogs will commonly die from, even with veterinary intervention.  The only method of protection against it is vaccination.
  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that causes stomach pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, and can be potentially fatal if not treated quickly.
  • The symptoms of distemper are similarly severe, and include mucus-like discharges from the nose and eyes, coughing and fever, then eventually seizures, coma and often death.
  • Infectious canine hepatitis is not as commonly seen at present; however, it is still found in unvaccinated dogs.  The symptoms include fever, inflamed tonsils, vomiting and diarrhoea. Young dogs especially can become very ill.
  • Canine parainfluenza can affect all dogs. It is highly contagious, although not commonly fatal, and symptoms include a dry cough, sneezing, wheezing and runny eyes.

A further vaccination can also be given against kennel cough. This is delivered up the nose, rather than as an injection, and provides protection against some milder strains of the disease for up to a year. Symptoms of kennel cough are similar to our common cold, including long-term coughing and occasionally fever and unwillingness to eat. Despite the name, it can be found anywhere where other dogs are present, not just in kennels. I would recommended it for all dogs, particularly for those in regular contact with others, and especially for young or old dogs who are generally more susceptible to infection.

The side effects of vaccinations are minimal providing your dog is otherwise healthy; before any vaccination, your vet will do a health check to ensure this is the case. Most boarding kennels, day-care facilities and so on will require dogs to be fully vaccinated, and insurance companies will also require you to ensure your dog is vaccinated as part of the policy agreement. In any case, it is always recommended that your dog is fully vaccinated to ensure he doesn’t contract, or pass on, these diseases.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and the cost of having your dog vaccinated is much cheaper than treating him for a potentially fatal illness. If you have any further questions or concerns, please ask your vet for advice.