Owning a dog can be a very rewarding experience. Watching it grow physically and mentally, developing the unique bond that exists between you and your dog, and the constant companionship all add up to one of nature’s great experiences. But dog ownership confers responsibility, and regular and timely vaccinations are an important part of owning a canine. Like humans, animals are prone to illness and need protection against bacteria and viruses, some of which can cause permanent damage, or worse.
This protection comes in the form of vaccines, which imitate the anticipated virus or bacterium and prompt an immune response. This response will then be triggered in the event of an attack by real viruses or bacteria and help to minimize the ill effects.
Your vet should be the first port of call if you have any doubts about your dog’s current vaccination status. He or she will advise you on what your dog needs, and how often he needs it. After any vaccinations your vet will give you a card with a record of vaccinations to date, and when boosters are due. Keep this card in a safe place and consult regularly to ensure that your dog is up-to-date.
Some of the most prevalent diseases that canines require vaccinations against are:
Parvovirus is one of the most common threats to dog health and every canine needs to be vaccinated against this highly contagious, highly resistant, viral disease. It is transmitted through contact with dog feces and can survive for months on most common surfaces (floors, footwear, feeding bowls etc.). It primarily affects the intestinal tract, but in pups and younger animals it can cause permanent cardiac impairment and, in severe cases, death.
Symptoms include vomiting, listlessness, lack of energy, reduced appetite, and strong-smelling diarrhea with traces of blood that can lead to acute dehydration.
Parvovirus is most common among pups young dogs and unvaccinated animals, and high-risk breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and German Shepherds.
Canine distemper is a highly contagious, and sometimes fatal, viral disease that is spread through contact with an infected animals body fluid i.e. blood, fresh urine or saliva. Unvaccinated pups and young dogs are most at risk, with pups from an unvaccinated mother being most vulnerable.
Coughing, sneezing, heavy discharge from the nose and eyes, tiredness, loss of appetite, and vomiting and diarrhea are some of the danger signs from an infected animal.
Distemper weakens the canine immune system and affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory and central nervous systems. The animal’s conjunctival membranes can also be severely affected, resulting in eye discharge. Infected dogs are susceptible to secondary infections like pneumonia.
In addition to vaccination, regular cleaning and disinfecting of your dog’s bedding or kennel will ensure a healthy environment, but remember – time is of the essence if you suspect your dog has the virus. Distemper acts fast and spreads fast – so get your dog to the vet fast!
Transmission generally occurs from direct contact with infected urine or contaminated water, with rats the main carriers of disease. It is relatively rare in Western Europe due to effective vaccination, but if contracted it can cause rapid and fatal kidney and liver damage to your dog. Any animal suspected of contracting Leptospirosis should be treated with utmost caution, as it is possible for humans to contract this disease (the human form is known as Weil’s Disease) from an infected animal.
Latex gloves and an apron should be used when handling the dog, and any body fluids or dog waste should be treated as hazardous material. Scrubbing with Hibiscrub (or any chlorhexidine-based antibacterial cleanser) is essential after any contact with the animal.
Suspected Leptospirosis in a dog is a potential threat to the whole household – don’t hesitate to contact your vet, who will be able to diagnose, and hopefully treat, your dog.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Also known as adenovirus-1 (CAV-1), this contagious viral disease is seldom fatal, but can cause a host of symptoms ranging from thirst, loss of appetite and high temperature to hemorrhaging, ocular and liver problems. Canine Hepatitis is contracted through the consumption of the waste and fluids of an infected animal.
Canine Hepatitis has equal incidence across all breeds, and is most prevalent among animals under twelve months. Unvaccinated dogs are, as always, highly vulnerable. The symptoms vary and can depend on how far the virus has advanced. Some of the symptoms of early stage hepatitis are fever, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss (anorexia) and lethargy. Inflammation of the eyes can indicate late stage Hepatitis.
As some of these symptoms are common to other viruses, your vet will thoroughly examine your dog and conduct blood tests that can confirm the presence of Canine Hepatitis.
Kennel Cough is an infectious form of canine tracheobronchitis, a highly contagious respiratory canine disease. It affects the dog’s respiratory system and can afflict many animals more than once during their lifetime. Dogs with under-developed or vulnerable immune systems – pups, ageing and sick dogs and pregnant bitches are most at risk, and these groups are most prone to complications from Kennel Cough. Dogs can contract Kennel Cough after exposure to other dogs, for example when kenneled or at shows.
Constant coughing, retching and discharge from the nose are common symptoms, while high temperature, loss of appetite and listlessness can indicate a more severe form of Kennel Cough which would require urgent veterinary attention.
It has been known for children, and on occasion adults with deficient immune systems, to become affected.
It all sounds like scary stuff, but in reality, most dogs live a full, happy and healthy life. Why? Because they are regularly vaccinated! Vaccination not only protects our own animal – it also makes a valuable contribution to disease eradication and the health and welfare of other people’s pets.
Make your New Year’s resolution a good one – protect your dog and those around you with regular vaccination. You’ll save money in the long run and you’ll live up to your obligation a s a responsible pet owner.