Vaccinations

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A large range of safe, efficacious, vaccines are now available to vaccinate your puppy and adult dog against the five major infectious diseases, which they can potentially suffer from, including:
  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine infectious Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Kennel Cough

Some commonly asked questions about Vaccination:

What is immunity

Immunity to disease simply means that an individual (animal or person) is highly resistant to a particular disease. A fully vaccinated dog, provided that it has responded to vaccinations, should be capable of withstanding normal exposure to those diseases against which it has been vaccinated.

It is possible for immunity to develop in a non-vaccinated animal, but for this to happen, the animal must first encounter the disease and then survive the encounter. For the potentially life-threatening diseases that we routinely vaccinate against, this is not a serious option.

So immunity does not just happen and yet in many ways nothing could be more natural....

Maternally Derived Antibody (MDA)

Nature has equipped the bitch with the ability to pass on some of her own immunity (in the form of antibodies) before and shortly after giving birth (these are called Maternally Derived Antibodies) Whilst some of this immunity passes across the placenta to the young in the later stages of pregnancy, most is passed on in the first milk, known as colostrums. It is important that puppies suck early because MDA levels in the colostrums are at their highest at the time of birth. Furthermore, the newly born puppy is only able to make best use of MDA at this time; the ability to absorb antibodies directly from the gut into the bloodstream is lost.

So if all goes well the young puppy will have received adequate "natural" maternal immunity from their mother to enable it to resist disease for a period of some weeks.

However, the extent of the protection depends on the immune status of the bitch (as she cannot pass on what she does not have) and how quickly and how well the puppies have sucked.

In turn, the immune status of the mother is nowadays highly dependent on whether she has been properly vaccinated up to date. The better protected the bitch, the more opportunity she has of passing good levels of immunity to her offspring.

How long does "natural" maternal immunity last?

Some puppies levels of MDA vary from pup to pup, even in the same litter. MDA is also know as "passive" immunity, (which you may be familiar with) it is not actively produced by the puppy, thus it decays over a period of some weeks.

It is possible to predict the point where the puppy is no longer protected, by a blood test, but this is not practicable, on a routine basis. Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation of may owners, a leading pharmaceutical company in the UK called Intervet has researched, (with the assistance of independent laboratories) and examined over 3,000 dogs to help to establish the timings of MDA decay for various diseases.

It is important to understand these timings because:

  • It provides a guide to the "average" age at which a puppy is no longer protected by the bitches immunity and is therefore at risk.
  • It gives an indication of the best time to start the vaccination course.

How do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce it's own defence against infection. One of the key components of this "defence" is antibody. Whilst MDA protects the young puppy, MDA can actually interfere with successful vaccination. This is because, although a vaccine is a modified harmless form of the disease, it is seen by MDA as an invader. MDA therefore assumes it's protective role and neutralises the vaccine.

Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the puppy respond to vaccination andther's role in providing protection.

When to give the first vaccination?

In general the earliest age for vaccination of puppies is between 6 and 12 weeks.

It is important to note that the primary course always consists of two or more vaccinations. This is because: -

  • Timing for effective vaccination varies from puppy to puppy (because of unknown MDA levels)
  • Some vaccines, such as Leptosproisis need to be administered twice in order to achieve high enough level of immunity.

Based upon local experience, the Veterinary Surgeon will advise you on the best schedule to adopt, but the aim will always be to provide your pet with the best possible protection.

Why give regular boosters?

As MDA in the puppy declines, so too does the protection produced as a result of vaccination, only more slowly as this is "active" immunity.

A dogs "active" immunity can be topped up in two ways:

  • By exposure to disease.
  • By means of a booster vaccination.

The first, goes without saying is an impractical way of ensuring continued immunity, especially nowadays.

Vaccines today, are very effective and have are remarkably high safety record, Millions of doses are used annually in the UK alone. The use of live, modified vaccines in particular have brought about levels of disease control, against for example Canine Parvovirus, that would have been almost undreamt of a little more than a decade ago.

Because of the incidence of these diseases has fallen as a direct result of widespread use of efficacious vaccines, the chances of an adult dog encountering them have also been reduced. Paradoxically, this is a dangerous situation for the pet which has not had a booster on a regular basis, because of the dog has not met all of the diseases on a regular basis, it may be unprotected. Sooner or later an encounter with a massive disease challenge could prove fatal.

What if my dog's booster has lapsed?

If you have forgotten to take your dog back for a booster, seek advice and guidance from the vet straight away, as the longer the delay, the more at risk your dog will be. The added benefit of regular boosters are the preventative health checks given by the Vet at the time of vaccination. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns about your pets well being.

If you have any further concerns about vaccination, speak to the Veterinary Surgeon or visit: www.noah.demon.co.uk, which is The National Office of Animal Health. They have two briefing documents available of dog and cat vaccinations.

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