Me and my wife have just got a Cockerpoo puppy and he had his first vaccinations at the breeder and his second lot when we had had him a couple of weeks. We're taking him to puppy classes and one of the other owners said dogs don't need annual vaccinations.
Please could you tell me if this is true?
Jim MacColl, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Alison Logan, vet, advises...
Vaccinations have brought us to today’s situation where the incidence of diseases which were the scourge of our dog population has fallen to a, thankfully, very low level. I remember when canine parvovirus was first identified in the UK, and the fear that it would wipe out our nation’s dogs. Thankfully, a vaccine became available, but not before many canine lives had been lost. I did see distemper in an unvaccinated dog whilst training during the 1980’s, but have not seen it since. In 1991, I battled unsuccessfully to save four unvaccinated farm dogs from leptospirosis.
In recent years, there have been localised outbreaks of parvovirus, and there really is nothing quite like the frustration at nursing a puppy with parvovirus, knowing that vaccination could have prevented it. It is a truly horrible illness to witness…
The annual vaccination visit is also an opportunity for your dog to be examined by a veterinary surgeon for health problems, and a chance for you to air any concerns you may have. There are many dogs who are fortunate enough to have only vaccination visits recorded, having not needed veterinary attention for illness, accidents or other reasons. These visits provide a baseline for health, with bodyweight recorded and monitored on an annual basis. I enjoy vaccination visits - you would be amazed what can be found by a veterinary surgeon of which an owner may not have been aware, such as dental disease, heart murmur, early signs of arthritis, and even obesity.
We are as a profession seeking to base our vaccination protocols on best research and also tailored to the particular life style of each dog, so that we do not over-vaccinate for an individual’s level of risk. The first annual vaccination, after your puppy’s first birthday, is now seen as an important part of the puppy vaccination course, providing a vital boost to that initial level of protection. Rather than worrying about other dog owners’ views, ask your veterinary surgeon for his or her opinion, either now, or when you see him at an appointment for something else, or at that first annual booster visit.
Our priority as veterinary surgeons is your dog’s health and wellbeing.
Richard Allport, vet, advises...
Quite true, Jim, the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) has published advice for dog vaccination which states categorically that for what are known as the ‘core vaccines’ (Distemper, Parvovirus and Canine hepatitis) dogs that have had puppy vaccinations followed by a booster a year later will have protection for many years and need revaccination only after three years or more. Also the advice states, equally categorically, that if dogs have had puppy vaccinations and a booster a year later, but no subsequent boosters, it is only ever necessary to give a single shot to achieve full protection and not (as many vets seem to suggest) another course of two vaccinations.
Vaccines for other diseases, such as Leptospirosis, Rabies and Kennel Cough do not give protection for as long, but are not classified as core (essential) vaccines. They should only be given to dogs at particular risk of these diseases.
Leptospirosis vaccine is particularly associated with adverse effects, doesn’t necessarily give protection for a full twelve months, doesn’t give protection against all types of Leptospirosis (there are many different strains), and is inadvisable to give to toy breeds unless they are in an environment of especially high risk.
Rabies, in the UK, is only given to dogs that will be travelling abroad. It is also a vaccine associated with a higher risk of side effects, and in my view it is far better to keep your dog in the UK than to risk not only side effects from the Rabies vaccine but also that of contracting unpleasant diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Ehrlichiosis which your dog can contract on the continent.
The Kennel Cough nasal vaccine is unpleasant to administer (it has to be squirted up the nose), often causes side effects (symptoms of coughing and sneezing) and isn’t guaranteed to prevent kennel cough occurring anyway, although it may minimise symptoms.
Do not, under any circumstances, allow your Cockerpoo to have a full booster every year.