Why is vaccination so important?

Over the last few decades vaccination has provided the single greatest contribution to the health of our pets. It is absolutely essential if we are to prevent major epidemics such as parvovirus or distemper. Vaccination not only protects your animal from infection but also helps to stop spread of infection to other animals. The other major benefit of yearly vaccination is that your pet is given a full MOT in the form of a clinical healthcheck. Beacause pets can't tell us when something is wrong with them we rely on this annual check to detect any early signs of disease to ensure either preventative treatment or early medication. Diseases are far easier to treat if caught early.

What do we vaccinate against?

For dogs  we vaccinate against parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis virus, parainfluenza virus, leptospirosis, coronavirus and in some dogs kennel cough.

For cats we vaccinate against flu, enteritis, leukaemia and Chlamydia.

Why do we need to boost every year?

Any of you who have been travelling will know that you need to boost your own immunity to such diseases as typhoid (3 years), hepatitis (4-5 years) and polio. Every winter people most at risk of flu are vaccinated (elderly, asthmatics etc). This is because immunity is not lifelong. Booster vaccination intervals tend to be set on the safe side as not everyone produces the same degree of antibody response. This way protection can be insured. In the same way with annual vaccination of our pets we can ensure full antibody protection.

What if my dog doesn't need a booster?

There is some evidence to suggest that some fractions of the vaccine may not need to be boosted every year e.g. distemper. We can even do a blood test to check which components need boosting. Certain components of the vaccine such as the life threatening leptospirosis definitely do need to be boosted each year. By stopping vaccinations we run the risk of a previously protected pet contracting serious and life threatening disease.

But is vaccination safe?

YES. A recent independant study by the Animal Health Trust called POOCH concluded that there was no significant association between number of vaccinations and ill health. You can view this study on their website:

So, even if antibody levels are already high enough, boosting them does no harm. With any injection, penicillin or otherwise there is always a very small chance of an allergic type reaction. It must be emphasised, however, that these reactions are extremely rare and are also easily treatable.

Some people have tried to link autoimmune disease with vaccination, and although there has been no significant link reported it may be prudent in breeds predisposed to autoimmune disease e.g. bearded collies, spaniels, old english sheepdogs and poodles to avoid vaccination coinciding with other trigger factors i.e avoid oestrus and perhaps avoid vaccinating during the summer months.

One needs to bear in mind how devastating, debilitating and deadly some of the diseases we are vaccinating against are. You only have to see one dog suffering with parvovirus to be a lifelong campaigner for annual boosters.


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