Distemper, infectious hepatitis and parvovirus are three viral diseases of dogs, which are frequently covered in a single vaccination.
They are all severe, and potentially fatal diseases, but thanks largely to an effective vaccination programme, cases of distemper and viral hepatitis are now rare in the UK, so much so that last year two cases of distemper merited a report in one of our professional journals.
We still see sporadic cases of parvovirus, and this is partly because the organism responsible is a small virus, which is very hardy and can remain in the environment for a long time.
Affected dogs show signs of a severe gastroenteritis, passing blood, and young or debilitated animals are most at risk.
To protect your dog against parvovirus, and to keep distemper and viral hepatitis at bay, an effective vaccination programme is vital.
We strongly advise that all puppies receive a course of vaccinations when they are between two to four months of age, and – importantly – a booster a year later.
This will set up a solid immunity against these diseases in most dogs, and the good news is that with modern vaccines the immunity should last at least three years.
Theoretically you can have your dog blood tested after this time to check when the immunity wanes. But in practice we know that vaccination is very safe.
A recent study by the Animal Health Trust including over 4,000 dogs found no evidence of increased ill-health as a result of vaccination, so we are happy to recommend regular vaccinations as the most cost-effective way to maintain your pet’s immunity, with protection against these diseases given every three years, whilst leptospirosis cover is given every year.
Do please ask your vet if you have any questions about vaccination.
Next week, we’ll look at protection against kennel cough.
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