Vaccination involves the administration of a substance which stimulates the body to mount an immune response and develop immunity to the disease being vaccinated against. In dogs, most vaccinations are given by injection and will be a killed or weakened form of the virus or bacteria being vaccinated against.
Vaccinations are vital in protecting individual dogs against disease, and also in reducing the amount of virus in the environment (herd immunity). Vaccinations are generally very safe and have had a major impact in improving the quality of life of dogs. Some diseases which dogs are vaccinated against are also potentially transmissible to humans so vaccinating the dog also helps to protect the human population (e.g. rabies and leptospirosis).
There is often much publicised about the supposed ‘dangers’ of vaccination and, while it is true that some animals do have bad reactions, the vast majority do not and regular vaccination is very important in protecting against potentially fatal diseases. A lot of work has been done in the animal and human fields to increase safety and the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) publishes regular guidelines for vets to determine the best vaccination protocols. The document for owners and breeders can be found here – WSAVA 2015 Vaccination Guidelines for the Owners and Breeders of Dogs and Cats. Please note that not all vaccinations are available in the UK and the licensing of individual vaccinations may differ from the guidelines. You should discuss the best vaccination protocol for your dog with your veterinary surgeon.
The vaccinations available for dogs in the UK are as follows, classified in their WSAVA groups:
Core vaccinations (i.e. every dog worldwide should be vaccinated against)
- Canine Distemper virus
- Canine Parvovirus
- Canine Adenovirus (Infectious Canine Hepatitis)
Non-core vaccinations (depends on likely exposure of your dog to disease – discuss with your vet)
- Leptospirosis (is considered a core vaccination in the UK by the British Association of Small Animal Veterinary Surgeons (BSAVA))
- Rabies(core vaccination in many parts of the world but not in the UK)
- Bordetella bronchiseptica(Kennel cough)
- Canine Parainfluenza virus (Kennel cough)
- Borrellia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
- Canine Influenza virus (only in the USA)
- Canine Coronavirus (vaccination no longer recommended)
- Canine Herpes virus