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  • Vaccinating Your Dog

Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting your dog throughout their life against many of the most serious infectious and fatal diseases.

These include:

  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine Parainfluenza

In the first few weeks of life, puppies are normally protected against disease by antibodies (immunity) from their mother's milk. This decreases over time and has usually disappeared by 12 weeks of age.

Vaccination then protects your puppy against disease. They receive a course of 2 vaccinations, one at 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 weeks to ensure their immune system has the best chance of mounting a strong, protective response.

After 12 months the immunity levels drop and a regular, annual booster is required to maintain the highest possible level of protection against serious disease. This should be continued throughout your dog's life.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is characterised by:

  • severe, smelly, bloody vomiting and diarrhoea
  • weakness
  • abdominal pain
  • rapid, severe dehydration and ultimately death

The virus is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for months or even years. Parvovirus is still relatively common and we regularly see outbreaks of the disease. Puppies are especially at risk and rarely survive despite intensive care treatment although all unvaccinated dogs will be susceptible.

Some breeders will vaccinate against Parvovirus early but these puppies will still require the full vaccination course starting at 8 weeks of age.

The main source of infection is the faeces of infected dogs, but the virus can also spread on shoes and clothing and on the coat and pads of dogs. It can therefore easily be picked up by a dog just on a walk in the park.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is characterised by:

  • runny eyes and nose
  • coughing
  • depression
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • thickening of the foot pads (hard pad) and nose which can be painful

Dogs which survive the disease may show serious neurological signs including seizures.
The virus is highly infectious and can be fatal. Vaccination has resulted in a decrease of this disease over recent years but there are still pockets of infection in areas where a large number of unvaccinated dogs live. Dogs under a year are most commonly affected, although any unvaccinated dog or a dog with a weakened immune system will be susceptible.

It is spread by an infected dog shedding the virus in their bodily fluids as well as dog to dog contact through inhaling infected virus particles.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Hepatitis is characterised by:

  • lack of appetite
  • fever
  • pale gums
  • conjunctivitis
  • coughing
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • jaundice (yellow discolouring)
  • death can occur in severe cases

The disease affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of a dog. Some dogs can die within hours of becoming infected. Dogs under a year are most commonly affected but all unvaccinated dogs of any age are susceptible.

It is spread by direct contact with infected urine, saliva and faeces. The virus is hardy and can survive months in the environment so it can be picked up by a dog during a normal walk without coming in to direct contact with an infected dog. Dogs which recover can remain infectious for more than six months.


Leptospirosis is characterised by:

  • lethargy and depression
  • abdominal pain
  • jaundice
  • liver damage
  • death

Leptospirosis is the only bacterial disease included in your dog's routine annual vaccine. It is spread via the urine of infected animals and is a serious zoonotic disease. This means it can be spread to humans as well by contact with infected urine.

Rats are the main carrier of the disease and transmit it to dogs by either direct contact with their urine or indirectly by contact with contaminated water eg drinking or swimming in canals or rivers inhabited by infected rats. The bacteria can survive for a long time in damp or wet surroundings so your dog is potentially at risk every time they go for a walk.

Infected dogs shed large amounts of the bacteria in their urine and although many recover with intensive treatment, they will be left with liver or kidney damage. All unvaccinated dogs are at risk at any age.

In humans leptospirosis is known as Weil's Disease and there is no vaccination available.

Canine Parainfluenza

Parainfluenza virus is characterised by:

  • harsh, dry cough
  • occasional retching
  • loss of appetite
  • mild temperature
  • nasal discharge

Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus which on its own can cause a mild cough and runny nose. The disease is usually transmitted through the air. Protection against the virus is routinely included in your dog's annual booster vaccination.

The bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica is not routinely vaccinated against unless requested. This bacteria along with the Parainfluenza virus are often found to be present in the disease known as Kennel Cough. Protection against this bacteria requires an additional nasal vaccination which provides 12 months protection. Please see Kennel Cough for more details.

At your dog's routine booster vaccination appointment, your vet will also perform a thorough healthcheck to ensure your dog is fit and well. These healthchecks are vital to allow us to spot any problems early on and to offer help with routine healthcare issues.

Useful links:
Vaccination and Your Puppy
Vaccinating Your Older Dog