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  • Writer's pictureKaty Stanlake

The importance of vaccination

What diseases are we protecting against with vaccination?

The initial puppy and kitten vaccines and continuing yearly boosters give your pet protection from several life threatening diseases.

We vaccinate your dogs against:

Leptospirosis, distemper, hepatitis, and parvovirus via injection, and kennel cough via a small amount of liquid administered intranasally. Rabies and leishmania vaccinations are available for travelling dogs that may be exposed to these diseases abroad.

We vaccinate your cats against:

Flu viruses and panleukopaenia. Outdoor or at risk cats against feline leukaemia (FeLV).

There is much controversy surrounding vaccination.

Vaccination gives us the unique opportunity to be able to prevent fatal diseases in our pets and this should not be underestimated. However this needs to be weighed up against potential vaccine reactions. Vaccination reactions are very rare but the risk can be minimised by not over vaccinating.

At Penbode we realise the importance of not over vaccinating. Research shows that as long as an initial primary vaccine course and the 1st year booster have been administered, immunity to distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus in dogs lasts at least 3 years. Therefore these are vaccinated against only every third year.

Leptospirosis immunity is thought to wane after one year and so dogs require an annual leptospirosis vaccine to prevent this disease. The duration of immunity that vaccination gives our feline friends is not well established yet and so boosters are done annually against all diseases. As more research is done we will change our protocols in line with up to date information as necessary.

Why you should vaccinate your dog


Leptospirosis immunity is an important thing to have as a dog. It is a disease which is throughout the UK. Rat and other rodent urine is a frequent source, and puddles and waterways are commonly contaminated with it. The causative organism can survive happily for months in water. Dogs develop kidney and liver failure and sometimes clotting problems causing them to bleed spontaneously. There can be a sudden onset of signs or a more gradual progression, but either way it carries a guarded prognosis and is often fatal. It can also be passed to humans causing serious disease. Because of the severity and prevalence of leptospirosis a yearly vaccination is really important.

Kennel Cough (or infectious tracheobronchitis)

Kennel cough is a contagious disease that causes a harsh, retching cough for several days to weeks depending on the severity. It is caused by a collection of different viruses and the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica. It is this bacteria which tends to make cases more severe and potentially develop into pneumonia in very young, old or immune-compromised dogs. Kennel cough is highly infectious, it spreads easily from dog to dog and the causative organisms can survive for short periods in the environment, on toys etc A kennel or show situation where there are a lot of dogs in close proximity is a common place for it to be contracted, however your dog can pick it up just as easily from meeting an infected dog anywhere, even briefly out on a walk. We see outbreaks commonly, several times a year, and often in dogs that have not been kennelled.

Bordetella bronchiseptica can cause whooping cough in humans. It is possible for the condition to pass from dog to human, however this is rare and usually only immune-compromised people or the very young are susceptible.

The annual kennel cough vaccination is recommended for dogs that come into contact with other dogs regularly, particularly if your dog is kennelled, visits shows or goes to hunts. It is administered separately to the injectable booster vaccine and so you may need to ask your vet to include it.

The vaccine is in the form of a spray of liquid, into the nostril, which creates localised immunity in the respiratory system. Kennel cough is not generally life threatening but it can make your dog feel unwell, require rest, keep him up coughing at night, and often lasts a few weeks. There are often queries about the safety of the kennel cough vaccine because it is a modified live vaccine. This means that the bacteria and virus have not been killed but have been changed in such a way that they cannot survive for long and replicate in the body, and so do not cause disease. Modified live vaccines are often more effective at creating immunity than a killed vaccine. It is recommended to have the kennel cough vaccine in addition to the injectable vaccines if you feel your dog is at risk, but ask one of our vets if you are unsure.

Why you should vaccinate your cat

Cat flu

Vaccines for Feline herpes virus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV) are always combined, as these two viruses together are the main causes of upper respiratory tract infections in cats (cat flu). Affected cats typically show sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, eye discharge, and mouth ulcers. Clinical signs vary from mild to extremely severe, and occasionally other complications may develop including viral pneumonia. With FHV-1, even after the initial signs subside, most cats will remain permanently infected with the virus and some go on to develop recurrent eye infections or other signs.

The viruses are often transmitted by direct or close contact between cats (eg, in sneezed droplets), but they may also survive for short periods in the environment. Both of these viruses are ubiquitous in cat populations, and because infection is so common, and can often be quite severe (especially in younger cats), vaccination is considered important for all cats. Although vaccination does not always prevent infection with these viruses, it will help greatly in reducing the severity of disease if a vaccinated cat does become infected.

Feline panleucopenia

Feline panleucopenia virus (also known as feline parvovirus or feline infectious enteritis) is a severe and frequently fatal cause of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Outbreaks of infection with this virus are common and a high proportion of affected cats can die. Vaccination against this virus is highly effective and has a critical role in protecting cats against infection, especially as the virus is highly contagious. The virus can also survive for long periods in the environment so vaccination is the only real way to protect cats.

Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)

FeLV is an important disease that can be spread through fighting, through mutual grooming, and through sharing of food/water bowls and litter trays. Kittens may also acquire infections from the queen before birth. FeLV causes a wide variety of problems in persistently infected cats including immunosuppression, anaemia, and lymphoma. Most persistently infected cats will die as a result of their infection. It is possible to perform blood tests to identify cats that are infected with this virus, and isolating such cats and preventing them from coming into contact with others is one way of preventing infection.

Generally cats that go outside and may come across other cats of unknown status may be at risk of being exposed to FeLV, and vaccinating such cats may be very valuable (although the risks will vary between different regions). It has also been strongly recommended that all kittens are vaccinated against FeLV on the basis that younger cats are more susceptible to this infection and it cannot usually be predicted what the risks for the cat would be as it grows up.

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