Dogs can suffer from a range of nasty diseases, some which cause a lot of discomfort and others that can kill. The best way to protect your dog is to ensure him or her have their dog vaccinations by a vet as soon as they are old enough. Your pet will first have a primary course of two or three injections a few weeks apart, then they should have a booster jab each year to keep the immunity topped up.
The only dog vaccinations not given by injection is kennel cough. This is given via an annual intra-nasal vaccine – a squirt up the nose! This gets the vaccine right where it is needed to give local immunity.
When should I vaccinate my dog?
Once your puppy is 6 - 8 weeks old, they can have their first vaccinations – usually called the primary course. There are different courses for different breeds of dog. Remember that to maintain the protection throughout your dog’s life, they will need to have an annual booster vaccination.
Canine Parvovirus, commonly known as Parvo, is a highly contagious viral disease that can be life threatening to your dog. It is most likely to infect puppies up to six months of age, but can affect older dogs as well, especially dogs that at not vaccinated or up to date with their boosters. Unfortunately outbreaks are still commonly reported in the UK.
Parvo is spread by direct contact with saliva or faeces of an infected animal; humans can also carry the disease on their hands and clothing from one dog to another. Usually dogs will have severe vomiting and diarrhoea which is often bloody (haemorrhagic) and this will lead to dehydration. Anorexia, depression and fever are common signs as well.
Dogs with Parvo will require hospitalisation and will be put on a drip to correct dehydration. Antibiotics will be given to prevent any secondary infections as well as antiviral medication if available. Unfortunately a lot of dogs with Parvo won’t survive, even with intensive supportive treatment which is why it is so important to prevent the disease with vaccination in the first place.
Distemper virus can be fatal and attacks several body systems including the respiratory and nervous system, it can also cause long term neurological problems. The first signs of this disease are often sneezing, coughing and a mucus from the eyes and nose, followed by fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, depression and weight loss. Distemper is sometimes called ‘hard pad’ because the pads of the feet of affected dogs become very thickened.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with fresh urine, blood or saliva, plus sneezing, coughing and sharing food or water bowls.
Sadly there is no known cure for distemper, the only treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. Even if a dog survives distemper there are often long-term effects such as muscle spasms, epileptic fits and even limb paralysis.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a viral disease which affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of a dog. It is spread by contact with saliva, urine, faeces, blood or nasal discharge of infected dogs.
The urine of an infected dog can be infectious for up to a year, and the virus can survive in the environment for many months.
Signs can vary from slight fever to sudden death. Other signs include loss of appetite, pale gums, conjunctivitis, coughing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The disease can develop very quickly and sadly there is no specific treatment; however vets will try and alleviate the signs and dogs can sometimes survive with intensive supportive treatment.
Leptospirosis, often referred to as Lepto is caused by a bacteria not a virus. Dogs can become infected if they come into contact with infected urine, or by contaminated water, so if your dog likes to swim or is partial to drink from stagnant water or canals they can be at risk, especially in areas with high numbers of rats. There are many different strains of Leptospirosis and humans can get it as well (called Weil’s disease). It can be fatal in both dogs and humans.
The signs often start 4 to 12 days after exposure to the bacteria. Look out for fever, muscle pain, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, jaundice and lethargy. Lepto primarily affects the kidneys and liver so more serious cases will get kidney and liver failure.
Treatment will usually consists of antibiotics, fluid replacement, controlling the vomiting and other supportive liver treatments. Less severely affected dogs will recover but still carry the bacteria in their urine for months, posing an infection risk to other animals and humans.