Vaccinations have become a point of discussion over the last few years in both the animal and human world. Concerns over vaccination timing, vaccinating too much and are they really necessary are among those that have been raised.
Vaccinations have been developed for both humans and animals and have been proven to help prevent many diseases that have the potential to lead to disastrous and often fatal outcomes. In the human world, many diseases have been eradicated in populations due to vaccinations.
In our companion animals there are many vaccinations available of which our ‘core’ vaccinations are those recommended to prevent against the most common deadly diseases. There are also many diseases which we still do not have vaccines as an option for prevention.
But I’ve never had issues by not vaccinating my animals…
There are people out there whom have never vaccinated their animals and have never had a problem, however there is a reason for this. The concept of herd immunity – your unvaccinated animal still has some protection because the majority of the population has immunity. This means there are less diseased individuals hence the likelihood of encountering disease is lower. Geographical location will also play a part in this as there are certain areas in Australia where you are more likely to encounter disease such as parvovirus in dogs.
Disease eradication has been demonstrated in animals in Australia. As a Veterinarian we rarely see distemper virus, a horrible deadly virus that acts within our dogs. Prior to a vaccine being available for this, it was a reasonably common disease
Do I really need a yearly vaccination?
New vaccine technology is constantly being developed in both humans and animals. In our dogs, we now have triannual (three yearly) vaccinations available for some diseases, however other disease still require annual vaccination. In our cats and rabbits we do not have these options yet.
Can we test to see if our animals need to be vaccinated?
The short answer is possibly! We now do have titre testing for dogs to look at their antibody (immune) levels for distemper virus, parvovirus and hepatitis virus – the components of our C3 vaccination. This test involves a blood sample being taken and sent to the lab whom will send a report. This may take up to a week to receive. The cost to test antibody levels has reduced over the past few years and is now much more affordable.
In Australia, our core vaccinations for our canine companions are called a C5 vaccine. This vaccination often consists of a combination of vaccine products to protect against 5 diseases (thus the C5). Traditionally this was given annually, however we now have a triennial (3 yearly vaccine for three of these diseases). We now recommend your pet gets the full C5 every three years (C3 + C2) and just the C2 vaccine in the other years.
Our C3 vaccination consists of distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus and is given as an injection under the skin every three years. The kennel cough component is provided as either an intranasal / oral drops or an injectable vaccine depending on your dog’s disposition. The kennel cough vaccine provides immunity to parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica, however isn’t a complete vaccination for all things kennel cough. Kennel cough may be caused by a number of other viruses and some bacteria thus we look at it similar to a human flu vaccination – it will reduce the likelihood of severe disease if encountering infected animals but will not eliminate the possibility of contracting the disease.
A C5 vaccination is required for all reputable boarding facilities for your dog.
For puppies, our vaccination schedules may differ depending on their initial vaccine given by the breeder or shelter. Please bring in all paperwork on your first visit so we can ensure we are providing you and your pet with the best option!
In Australia we have a number of vaccination disease for our feline friends. The core vaccinations for our cats are called an F3. This includes panleukopaenia, calicivirus and herpesvirus. This vaccine should be given yearly as there is currently no testing to say that immunity is longer than this.
There are option additional vaccines for cats of which we recommend the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) vaccine for cats whom spend time outside. This virus is spread through fighting usually and most common in entire male cats however any cat that spends time outside potentially getting into fights may be affected. The virus itself doesn’t directly cause problems but will lower your animals immune system as they age making the more likely to succumb succumb to other illness.
Kitten vaccinations depend on their initial vaccines from the breeder or shelter.
In Australia we have two main viral diseases that are preventable by vaccinations however we only have one that has a vaccine available in Australia. Myxomatosis is spread by mosquitos and direct contact or by aerosol (air bourne spread). We have no vaccine at all and the disease is 100% fatal. The only real protection is trying to keep your rabbits indoors and away from these pests.
We have a single calicivirus vaccination available by the name of Cylap. This vaccine is only registered to provide protection to type 1 calicivirus. However, it has been noted anecdotally by veterinarians in Australia that there appears to be some cross protection with type 2 and K5. We recommend 6 monthly vaccinations for rabbits.