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Vaccinations

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There are often a lot of instructions that come your way when you pick up your new cat or dog, and somewhere in there you are told the animal "must be vaccinated". So just what are the diseases that pets can be innoculated against?

For dogs, standard vaccination is against:

1) Distemper - a usually fatal viral disease that attacks mucous membranes and nerves, initially causing runny nose and eyes but leading on to muscle twitching and ultimately convulsions.

2) Parvovirus - a virus causing severe gastro-enteritis which can be fatal in the young.

3) Infectious Canine Hepatitis - yet another virus, this one affecting the liver.

4) Canine Adenovirus and Canine Parainfluenza - two of the organisms causing respiratory disease in the dog.

In addition, dogs may also be vaccinated against:

1) Leptospirosis - this is a serious disease, primarily affecting the liver in dogs, that is caught from rats or rat urine. If your dog frequents places inhabited by rats - the bush, creeks and streams, farms, parks - or if you know there are rats around your home, your dog should be vaccinated, especially if it is of a breed such as a terrier that enjoys hunting rodents. Leptospirosis is also a zoonosis i.e. it can be passed on to humans, although this particular form of it is not as serious as that which is caught from cows.

2) Bordetella - another of the causes of Kennel Cough which can be given to dogs if they are going into kennels, or to a dog show - any situation where large numbers of dogs are gathered together.

Vaccination programmes vary depending on the type of vaccine your vet uses, but pups should have their first vaccination between six and eight weeks, with boosters up to sixteen weeks. You should remember that your pup will only become fully immunised two weeks after its final shot and should be kept away from public places until this time. Do remember though that this is the important age for socialising your pup, so that contact with other (vaccinated) dogs is essential, but must take place on private property. Once the initial course of vaccinations has been completed, your dog will need an annual booster to maintain its immunity.

The standard vaccination for cats is against:

1) Panleukopenia - also known as Feline Enteritis, this is a viral disease causing severe vomiting and diarrhoea especially in young kittens.

2) Rhinotracheitis - a Herpes virus causing respiratory disease, commonly known as Snuffles.

3) Calicivirus - another virus which attacks the respiratory system and can also cause mouth ulcers. Note: The calcivirus which affects cats is quite separate from the one used for rabbit control.

Other vaccinations, mainly used by owners of breeding cats, protect against:

1) Chlamydia - which causes conjunctivitis, abortion and infertility.

2) Feline Leukaemia - a virus that suppresses the immune system.

Initial vaccinations for kittens are usually given at around nine weeks of age with a booster four weeks later. Once again, annual vaccination is necessary, with the added recommendation that cats going into a boarding establishment or to a cat show should have been vaccinated within the previous six months.

- Virginia Williams & Bert Westera