Diseases we vaccinate against

Dogs

Parvovirus

What is it?

It’s a very contagious virus that affects the intestines. Although all unvaccinated dogs are susceptible, very young and old dogs can be worst affected. This disease can be fatal.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Diarrhoea (bloody, foul smelling)
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (low energy, tired)
  • Reduced appetite

How does it spread?

By contact with infected individuals or items that have been in contact with an infected individual. It is a tough virus and it can live in the environment for a long time. Any contaminated items should be thoroughly disinfected. Dogs can still carry and spread the virus up to 6 weeks after recovering.

Treatment and prevention?

Keeping your dog up to date with vaccinations is the best way to prevent this disease.

There is no specific treatment, intensive nursing and medicines can be given to help support the dog as it’s body fights back against the virus. This supportive treatment will likely include:

Careful feeding

A drip for fluid therapy

Antibiotics

Other medication

Kept in isolation

 

Leptospirosis

What is it?

It is a nasty bacterial disease that affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and nervous system.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness

How does it spread?

The bacteria can be spread through contaminated water or from contact with urine from an infected animal. Rats and mice found near waterways are common carriers of the disease. It can also infect people, this is termed ‘Weil’s Disease’.  Dogs can also potentially shed the bacteria and therefore pose a risk to humans in their household as this disease is a zoonosis.

Treatment and prevention?

If it is a mild case, antibiotics and a fluid drip can be administered to help the dog fight the disease.

In more serious cases, leptospirosis can cause sudden death.

A yearly vaccination will give your dog the best protection from leptospirosis. There are different types to cover different strains, so check with your vet as to which one would be recommended.

 

Distemper

What is it?

Distemper is a virus that can spread and attack different parts of the body including the intestines, heart and immune system.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Tremors, fits and seizures
  • Hardening of paw-pads
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite

How does it spread?

The disease spreads easily between unvaccinated individuals through the air and bodily fluids. Young dogs are more susceptible.

Treatment and prevention?

There is no treatment for distemper and it can be fatal in the early stages. Vets will offer treatment to support the dog fight the virus.

Vaccinations will keep a dog safe and prevent it contracting distemper.

 

Infectious Hepatitis (Adenovirus)

What is it?

Infectious hepatitis is caused by a serious virus that targets the liver as well as other organs. Young and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk of contracting the disease. The virus is tough and can survive in the environment for months and shed in a dog’s urine for over 6 months after recovery.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Fits and seizures
  • Pale or yellow gums
  • How does it spread?
  • The disease spreads through contact with an infected dog’s bodily fluids (urine, saliva) or from the environment.

Treatment and prevention?

There is no cure, but similarly to the above: hospitalisation, medicines and intense nursing will be given to help support the dog when fighting off the disease.

Keeping up to date with vaccinations is the best prevention measure.

 

Kennel Cough

What is it?

Kennel Cough is a very contagious condition cause by a few different pathogens. It is rarely serious but does irritate the throat causing a nasty hacking cough. Young puppies and older dogs may experience a more serious illness as it may develop into pneumonia.

Signs and symptoms?

  • A cough (can be made worse with excitement or exercise)
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Most dogs seem well enough in themselves apart from the cough.

How does it spread?

It spreads easily through the air from dog to dog, not just in kennels but in any environment where multiple dogs gather. It can live in the environment for weeks and can be spread through contaminated objects (toys, food bowls). Dogs can still spread the disease a few weeks after recovery.

Treatment and prevention?

Kennel cough generally gets better on it’s own but the vet may recommend some medication to make the dog feel more comfortable (cough medicines, antiinflammatories). Antibiotics are rarely indicated except in certain circumstances. Keep infected dogs away from other dogs and avoid using a collar or lead that may irritate the windpipe.

The vaccination is not generally part of the core vaccinations for dogs but is commonly given on request. Kennels and day-care will often request it to be given 2-3 weeks before a stay. The vaccine is not fully preventative but greatly reduces the risk of catching kennel cough and reduces the severity of symptoms.

 

 

 

Cats

Infectious Enteritis (Feline parvo or panleucopenia)

What is it?

Feline infectious enteritis is a very serious disease caused by a virus that is similar to parvovirus in dogs. It attacks the intestines and sometimes the heart muscle.  Kittens are more affected than adult cats and it can cause them to have brain damage (Wobbly Kitten Syndrome)

Signs and symptoms?

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

How does it spread?

The disease spreads through contact with an infected individual or contaminated environment or object.

Treatment and prevention?

There is no specific treatment for the disease and sadly it is often fatal. Intensive nursing including fluid therapy and treating any secondary infections with antibiotics is recommended.

Vaccination is the best prevention for this disease.

 

Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)

What is it?

Feline leukaemia is an infection caused by a virus and it can lead to the development of different tumours. Young, unvaccinated and unneutered cats are most at risk. Sadly 80-90% of infected cats die within 3-4 years.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Frequent infections
  • Weight loss
  • Anaemia
  • Cancers
  • Death

How does it spread?

The virus spreads from the infected individual’s bodily fluids when in close contact. This could be licking, biting or sharing bowls or litter trays.  Cats can also spread this disease to unborn kittens if pregnant.

Treatment and prevention?

There is no cure but early diagnosis and treatment for the symptoms is best.  Individuals with FeLV need to be kept indoors and as a single cat in the household. They require regular vet checks and detail to their care to help minimise the risk of picking up infections or spreading the infection.

Vaccination for leukaemia is not 100% effective but still offers a valuable level of protection especially for kittens. Once older, the vet will likely assess if further vaccinations need to be given based on risk of exposure (e.g a single house cat is low risk).

 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

What is it?

‘FIV’ is a virus that causes damage to white blood cells over time and is similar to HIV in people. It targets the immune system and causes progressive damage over time. Unneutered males are at the highest risk.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Initial mild signs including fever and swollen lymph nodes
  • Cats will be more susceptible to infections and disease which may get worse over time. This could include weight loss, skin disease, respiratory disease and intestinal disease among others.

How does it spread?

The virus spreads via the saliva and commonly spread through cat bites. It does not survive well in the environment and can be killed by disinfectants.

Treatment and prevention?

Infection is permanent but infected cats can still live a good life.  Secondary infections and diseases that develop can be managed and treated accordingly to provide infected cats with a good quality of life.

Unfortunately there is not a vaccine for FIV available in the UK currently; measures should be taken to help reduce the risk of infection.  It is wise to have male cats neutered to reduce the risk of catching FIV and spreading the disease. Those infected should be kept indoors and away from uninfected cats.

 

Feline Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (Cat Flu)

What is it?

Mostly cause by either feline calicivirus, feline herpes virus and feline chlamydia. The disease is fairly common in the cat population and it varies in the severity. Very young and old cats will likely be worst affected. The disease spreads quickly through environments where there are lots of cats together for example, catteries and rescue centres.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from eyes and nose
  • Conjunctivitis
  •  Fever
  • Depression
  • Secondary infection

How does it spread?

Cat flu spreads through the direct contact with the discharge from an infected cat, a carrier or anything that has been in contact with an infected individual. The pathogens can survive for a number of days in the environment.

Treatment and prevention?

Treatment will usually mean treating the symptoms and making the cat as comfortable as possible while they recover. They will need to be kept in an isolation cage and care taken to keep the virus contained (separate bowls/blankets, changing clothes, gloves and strict hygiene measures). Cats will often remain carriers once recovered from the symptoms and will still shed the virus intermittently through their life.

Vaccination will greatly reduce the risk of contracting this disease.

 

 

 

Rabbits

Myxomatosis

What is it?

Myxomatosis is a deadly disease caused by a virus. It is common in wild rabbits and can spread easily to pets. Symptoms of the virus can take up to 14 days to show and rabbits can be very good at hiding their pain.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Swollen eyes, face, ears and genitals
  • Running nose
  • Ulcers
  • Milky eyes
  • Lethargic
  • Fever

How does it spread?

The virus is spread through contact with an infected rabbit or from an insect bite.

Treatment and prevention?

If the rabbit is unvaccinated, it is unlikely they will survive and euthanasia often the kindest route. If vaccinated the as a much better chance of surviving (about 50:50) and intensive treatment can be given but recovery can be very long.   Vaccinations are therefore advised to minimise the risk of myxomatosis.

 

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease: Strains 1 & 2

What is it?

VHD is a quick acting virus which can cause the death of a rabbit in only a couple of days.

Signs and symptoms?

  • Internal bleeding
  • Nose bleed
  • Often no outward signs and what appears to be sudden death

How does it spread?

The virus spreads through direct contact with an infected individual. The environment, clothing or objects that have been in contact with infected urine or faeces can also spread the disease. The virus can survive for months.

Treatment and prevention?

Vaccination is the best prevention and is found to be highly effective. Also care taken to disinfect any clothing or objects that may be harbouring the virus.

 

References:

https://icatcare.org/advice/

https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/all-pets/why-vaccinating-your-pet-is-important

https://www.vets-now.com/pet-care-advice/vaccinations-for-dogs/

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/puppy-and-dog-vaccinations

https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/kitten-and-cat-vaccinations

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