Vaccinations……… Why do our pets need them?

Why do we vaccinate our pets? What is the concern about over vaccinating? Why is social media scaring owners into thinking vaccines are bad? What is the truth about vaccination….

As a vet on a daily basis we are asked about vaccinations, whether your pets need them annually or can they have them every 3 years? We see it as part of our job to educate our clients, even more so in this day and age with ease of access to information about many scientific topics.

What are the diseases we vaccinate for in dogs?

(The clinical signs listed are not exhaustive for each disease if you have any concerns please contact your local swaynes branch)

Canine distemper virus – This can be fatal. It causes vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing and weight loss. This can progress to seizures, blindness and paralysis.

Leptospirosis – This is the equivalent of Weil’s disease in humans. It is carried by rats and excreted in rat urine. Leptospirosis can cause liver and kidney damage, causing vomiting, diarrhoea and increased drinking. The disease can be fatal and it can be transmitted to humans.

Parvovirus – This is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal. Puppies are most at risk of the infection especially if they are unvaccinated. Symptoms include lethargy, bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, collapse and sudden death. The virus can exist in the environment for up to a year.

Parainfluenza virus – This maybe one of the components of the disease kennel cough. The infection is generally not life threatening but can contribute to a persistent cough that can develop into chronic bronchitis.

Canine adenovirus – Causes infectious canine hepatitis, liver disease. This can cause lethargy, fever, vomiting and bleeding disorders. Death can occur from liver disease or due to bleeding.

How about cats?


Feline leukaemia virus
– This can cause immunosuppression, leukaemia (which is a form of cancer) and death. This disease cannot be cured and is transmitted between cats.

Feline panleucopenia virus – This causes a disease called feline infectious enteritis which can show clinical signs including anaemia and bloody diarrhoea.

Feline herpes virus – This is one component of cat flu. Symptoms can include red eyes, discharge, sneezing and nasal discharge. Once the cat is infected they carry herpes virus for life – similar to human cold sores.

Feline calicivirus – This is the second component in cat flu. This virus can contribute to poor dental health and causes similar clinical signs to herpes virus.
As you can see there is a long list of diseases we can prevent. The problem is the more people stop vaccinating the more likely we are to see these diseases more frequently. Most vaccines provide immunity for one year, they do not provide a life-long immunity. Many people stop vaccinating their pets after their first vaccines as puppies and kittens. The concern is developing one of the above diseases which in many instances can be fatal.

If you have any questions about vaccinations please contact your local Swaynes branch.

Article by Aimee Barker MA VetMB MRCVS