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Vaccinations for puppies

Before your new puppy can venture out and come into contact with other dogs, they will need a series of vaccinations. New born puppies receive some immunity from disease from their mother’s milk; however this protection only lasts a few weeks.

The latest vaccines are available for puppies as young as 6 weeks, but generally your veterinary surgeon will administer them when the puppy is 8 and 10 or 12 weeks old, depending on the vaccine. These vaccinations will usually take 7 to 14 days after both doses have been administered to become effective. It is important that during this time your puppy should be kept away from other dogs, to reduce the risk of infection.

These vaccinations will contain a harmless form of the bacteria or virus which causes the disease it is immunising against. They work by stimulating the dog’s natural defence mechanisms, which in turn forms a protection against the disease. This natural response is remembered by the puppy and triggered whenever they encounter that disease.

The main diseases that your puppy can be vaccinated against are:

• Canine distemper: is a highly infectious disease, which is transmitted through dogs sniffing droplets of moisture where an infected dog has been. Once an outbreak has started it is normally too late for vaccination. The symptoms of this disease include a high temperature, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea, a runny nose and sore eyes. Also the dog’s nose and foot pads can become cracked and hard (hence the disease also being known as ‘hard pad’) and in severe cases, fits and pneumonia can occur. This disease can often be fatal and dogs that do survive can be left with epileptic fits, permanent disabilities and nervous twitches.

• Infectious canine hepatitis: this disease attacks the eyes, lungs, liver and kidneys of dogs. It is contracted by direct contact with infected faeces, urine and saliva. Dogs under the age of 1 are most commonly infected, but dogs of all ages can contract hepatitis. Even dogs in recovery from this disease can be infectious for over 6 months. Symptoms include pale gums and conjunctiva, lack of appetite, high temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and jaundice. This disease develops quickly and can lead to respiratory failure and even death. Recovering dogs can suffer from a clouding of the cornea, ‘blue eye’, but this usually resolves itself over time.

• Leptospirosis: this bacterial disease is contracted from contact with infected animals’ urine. Dogs can contract it through rats, by swimming in waters that they live in or sniffing where they have been. Leptospirosis affects the liver and sometimes kidneys and the symptoms include lethargy, severe thirst, depression, vomiting, high temperature, bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, increase urination and jaundice. The disease can lead to serious liver damage and possibly death. This form of leptospirosis can be transmitted to people. Dogs can also contract the disease from the urine of other infected dogs. This form often causes damage to the dog’s kidneys, which can lead to problems in later life. Dogs that recover can be still infectious for up to a year, as they excrete bacteria in their urine.

• Canine parainfluenza virus: an infectious agent that causes kennel cough. It is transmitted through dogs inhaling contaminated airborne droplets or by being in direct contact with infected dogs. It is a very contagious virus and the symptoms include a harsh, dry cough which can cause retching and can last for several weeks. With treatment recovery can take up to 2 or 4 weeks, if no treatment is given secondary infections can develop which can lead to pneumonia.

• Parvovirus: is most commonly seen in puppies and dogs under one year old, although dogs of all ages can become infected. The disease is transmitted through contact with infected faeces and is carried in the dog’s hair and feet. The symptoms of parvovirus appear quickly and can include severe vomiting, depression, refusal of water and food, high temperature, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhoea. These symptoms can cause severe dehydration, which can lead to collapse and even death.

For the health of your dog it is necessary to vaccinate them against these major diseases. They protect your pet and prevent them from being a carrier and spreading the disease.

Your dog will require regular boosters, to maintain their immunity against these diseases. You will be given a vaccination certificate after your dog’s first course of vaccinations, which will include the dates of the initial vaccines and when the boosters are due. Many places, such as kennels and training classes will require you to show your up to date certificate before they accept your dog.