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Vaccinating your pet

Approx. 5 minutes read

Correctly administered vaccines save our pets from horrific, often fatal diseases, such as Parvovirus(Cat Flu), Distemper in dogs and Panleukopenia and Feline Leukaemia in cats. These days there is more information about animals and the diseases they suffer from, and there are also means to prevent these fatal diseases. The most important means of disease prevention is available to our pets through vaccinations. A simple annual health check and vaccinations can help ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life. Other important means of prevention includes regular deworming as well as tick and flea treatment.

Here are just a few of the conditions our animals can be prevented from getting:


Rabies is a viral disease affecting the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and importantly humans as well. This is a fatal condition for which there is no cure, once infection has taken hold. Rabies is spread via the saliva of an infected animal. This usually occurs through biting a human or another animal. Transmission can also occur through saliva touching an open wound or touching mucous membranes. The symptoms of rabies can present themselves just a few days after a bite, or they might take as long as 12 weeks. The closer the bite is to your brain, the quicker the effects are likely to appear.

Initially, a pet who’s become infected may show extreme behavioural changes such as restlessness or apprehension, both of which may be compounded by aggression. Friendly pets may become irritable, while ordinarily excitable animals may become more docile. A pet may bite or snap at any form of stimulus, attacking other animals, humans and even inanimate objects. They may continuously lick, bite and chew at the site where they were bitten. A fever may also be present at this stage.

Infected animals may have excessive salivation, but not always. The animal may appear calm until approached and will then just as easily bite you. Both animal or human have the same result for the infected – severe inflammation and damage to the nervous system, resulting in death.

Treatment: None

Prevention: Vaccination


Distemper is a severe viral disease that is highly contagious and for which there is no known treatment. This virus is transmitted through direct or indirect contact with infected animals and may even be transmitted via the air. Young, unvaccinated puppies and non-immunised older dogs tend to be more susceptible to the disease. Canine distemper affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, lymphatic system (the body’s drainage and filter system), urogenital (kidneys and bladder system) and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.

In the initial stages of Canine Distemper, the primary symptoms include high fever, reddened eyes and a watery discharge from the nose and eyes. An infected dog will become lethargic and tired, and will usually become anorexic. Persistent coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea may also occur. In the later stages of the disease, the virus starts attacking the other systems of the dog’s body, particularly the nervous system. The brain and spinal cord are affected, and the dog may start having fits, seizures, paralysis and attacks of hysteria. Animals may also develop hard thickened foot pads. Most animals diagnosed with distemper need to be euthanised.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for canine distemper. Treatment for the disease, therefore, is heavily focused on alleviating the symptoms. A dog’s chances for surviving canine distemper will depend on the strain of the virus and the strength of the dog’s immune system. Recovery is entirely possible, although seizures and other fatal disturbances to the central nervous system may occur two to three months after recovery. Fully recovered dogs do not spread or carry the virus.

Treatment: None

Prevention: Vaccination

Parvoviral Infection (Cat Flu):

Parvovirus infection is mainly a problem in young unvaccinated puppies, but can also affect dogs of any age if they have not been vaccinated. Initially, it was thought that dogs contracted this disease from cats, but this is not true, and cats are not affected by this disease at all. There is no cure for canine parvovirus, but treatment will be aimed at replenishing bodily fluids, curbing other harmful bacteria and stopping underlying symptoms.

Treatment can help restore the dog’s functions that fight off disease and infection naturally. Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that spreads easily from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with the virus in faeces and infected soil.

The virus attacks rapidly dividing cells such as those in the lymph nodes, intestinal lining and the bone marrow. This results in depletion of the white blood cells necessary for the immune system to function, delaying the recovery of infected puppies. The rapid death of the intestinal cells results in the sloughing (breaking away) of the intestinal lining, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe intestinal bleeding. This may eventually lead to the passing of your puppy if left untreated.

Treatment: Vet can help restore the dog’s functions that fight off disease and infection naturally.

Prevention: Vaccination

Infectious Canine Hepatitis:

Infectious canine hepatitis is a disease which affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of a dog. The disease can develop very quickly, and some individuals may die within hours of becoming unwell. Canine viral hepatitis is a dog disease; it is not the same as hepatitis that humans get. The illness is far less common nowadays due to effective vaccination. However, this highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease is still seen occasionally in practice, especially in unvaccinated puppies.

The primary source of infection is by ingesting the urine, faeces or saliva of infected dogs. Recovered dogs may shed the virus in their urine for up to one year. The virus is resistant to many disinfectants and can persist in the environment for weeks or months. Dogs are most commonly infected by virus left surviving in the environment, rather than direct ‘dog to dog’ contact.

Treatment: Supportive and symptomatic treatment, which includes fluid therapy (placing them on a drip), antibiotics to prevent secondary invasion of the body by bacteria and to control the bleeding tendencies that result from the damaged liver, which amongst other things, produce the clotting factors which prevent an animal from bleeding spontaneously.

Prevention: Vaccination is the only sure way of preventing the disease, and with the many carriers of the disease it is crucial our animals are continuously protected.

Feline Panleukopenia:

Feline Panleukopenia is a severe, highly contagious viral disease of cats AND kittens. The panleukopenia virus tends to invade cells which are rapidly growing, such as those of the digestive system, bone marrow (which makes blood cells), lymph tissue and developing nervous system. This explains the common symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, low white blood cell count and seizures.

Treatment: Supportive and symptomatic treatment with fluid therapy, antibiotics (to prevent secondary bacterial infection), checking electrolytes and other body systems on an ongoing basis until the animal is better. Some animals may even require blood transfusions with severe anaemia. The outcome of treatment cannot be guaranteed.

Prevention: Vaccination.

If you are in any doubt as to when your animals should be vaccinated or what diseases they should be vaccinated against, please phone the veterinarian to book an appointment and to make sure you keep your animals safe from potentially fatal diseases.

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