Advise On Vaccinations

Advise On Vaccinations.

A number of dangerous diseases can affect your pet in the UK. Vaccination is the only safe way to provide immunity against all these diseases. If carried out regularly, according to your vet’s advice, it can protect your pet for life.

Immunity and vaccination
Immunity is the body’s natural ability to fight infection. Vaccination confers immunity by exposing the body to a small but entirely harmless dose of the disease in question.

Record of vaccination
You will be given a certificate that contains a record of the vaccination and tells you when the next booster is due. Boarding kennels / catteries, dog / cat shows, training classes and, of course, your vet will need to see this certificate, so always keep it in a safe place.

Immunity in young animals
Young puppies, kittens and rabbits are usually protected during the first few weeks of life, thanks to immunity passed through the mother’s first milk (colostrum). However, this immunity fades rapidly, leaving the animal susceptible to disease within a few weeks. At this point, vaccination can take over from the mother in providing protection.

The first vaccination
For more information about vaccinations for rabbits please see below.
The first time a puppy or kitten is vaccinated, a course of two injections is usually given, separated by two or more weeks. This primary course can be started as early as six weeks of age for puppies and at nine weeks of age for kittens. If you puppy or kitten is older it is vital to talk to your vet as soon as possible about vaccination timings. The vet will also want to give your new puppy or kitten a general check up.

When can my puppy or kitten meet other animals?
It is especially important for young puppies to socialise with other animals – it improves their behaviour in later life. Vaccination doesn’t work immediately: it takes a week or so for immunity to develop in puppies, a few days for kittens and rabbits. Your vet will advise you on when it is safe to let your new puppy, kitten or rabbit meet other animals.

Immunity to disease may fade leaving your dog, cat or rabbit at risk. For some diseases, boosters may be needed every 3 or 4 years but most need a booster annually. An annual visit to your vet will allow for a general health check and for necessary boosters to be given.

What diseases can you vaccinate against?
Modern vaccines usually cover more than one disease so that you pet may only need one or two injections each year. Your vet will be able to advise you on what vaccines are recommended for your dog, cat or rabbit.


Canine Parvovirus
A hardy virus that can survive for long periods in the environment. Caused major epidemics in the 1970s and remains widespread in pockets throughout the UK. Usually fatal.

Canine Distemper (Hard Pad)
Another severe, usually fatal disease, mercifully rare in the UK in recent years due to vaccination. However, major outbreaks have occurred in Europe.

Infectious Hepatitis
Still exits in the UK, although now rare due to vaccination. Often fatal.

Contracted from the urine of rats and/or other dogs. Canals and rivers can be contaminated, and forms of the disease are widespread in the UK. Can also cause severe disease in humans (Weil’s disease).

Kennel Cough
Extremely unpleasant whooping cough-like infection usually transmitted in places where dogs gather together (kennels, shows and also in parks where a lot of dogs are walked). The disease may occasionally be life threatening in young puppies.

A fatal disease, not found in the UK. Vaccination is mandatory if your dog is travelling abroad.


Cat ‘Flu’ (Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Disease)
Remains depressingly common in the UK, and can be very serious, especially in kittens and elderly cats. It is spread between cats by direct contact or through sneezing. Several microbes are known to cause the disease, all producing similar symptoms such as a runny nose and eyes, high temperatures and extreme lethargy. Injectable vaccines are available for the viral agents that cause cat ’flu’, as well as an intranasal vaccine against Bordetella bronchiseptica. Regular vaccination is the best means of keeping the disease at bay.

Infectious Enteritis (Feline Panleucopenia)
An unpleasant and often fatal disease. Fortunately vaccination has been extremely successful in controlling the disease and is now relatively rare.

Feline Leukaemia
A viral disease, transmitted when cats fight each other – or even during grooming. The disease can take months to develop after infection but then it begins to suppress the cat’s immune system, causing secondary infections, tumours and death. Not long ago, feline leukaemia was both widespread and common, but vaccination is now gradually bringing it under control.

Chlamydophlia felis
Can cause conjunctivitis. It is mainly seen in kittens and multicat households.

A fatal disease, not found in the UK. Vaccination is mandatory if you plan to take your cat abroad.


Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD)
This is a deadly disease that any rabbit over 6 weeks old can catch. It kills most of those that become infected. First seen in the UK in 1992, this disease has since spread remarkably rapidly throughout the country. The acute form of the disease can be very distressing, attacking the liver and causing severe bleeding that kills the rabbit. Most infected animals die very quickly, often with no warning at all or only a very short period of obvious illness.

The virus that causes this disease is particularly persistent and survives for a long time in the environment. Because of this persistence, it can be spread very easily on clothing and footwear. Birds and insects can also transport the virus and therefore even the contained “House Rabbit” is at risk.

There is no effective treatment and the only way to ensure that your rabbit is not at risk from this virus is to make sure it is vaccinated by receiving a single injection at 10 weeks of age.


This is disease that many people will have seen, afflicting both wild and domestic rabbits. Unlike VHD, affected rabbits can be ill for some time. The virus is spread by blood sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitos. When the insect bites the rabbit, small amounts of the virus are introduced into the rabbit. The virus multiplies in the skin of the face, ears and anus causing large swellings. These swellings make it difficult for the rabbit to see, eat and drink. Death takes about 12 days but a small percentage may recover. Expert medical care will mean that a greater number recover but many still die. Those that do recover can be left with significant scaring.

Prevention of the disease relies on insect control and vaccination. Annual booster vaccinations are recommended and, where there is a high disease risk, this may be more frequent. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you if this is necessary.

Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks of age. It is important to vaccinate as early as possible as any delay may leave your rabbit vulnerable to infection. Booster vaccinations are essential and are usually needed annually.

Don’t Forget:
  • Regular boosters are vital to maintain protection
  • Your record of vaccination is an important document. Please keep it in a safe place.
  • Consult your veterinary surgeon if your dog, cat or rabbit appears unwell – you could save its life