1. Annual Health Assessment & Vaccinations

1. Annual Health Assessment & Vaccinations

Key Points

  • All Puppies & Kittens should be vaccinated – the diseases vets can vaccinate against can kill!
  • Pets need regular booster vaccinations which can be done at the Annual Health Assessment.
  • The Annual Health Assessment allows your vet to find small problems before they turn into big, serious and expensive ones!
  • No reputable boarding establishment will take your dog or cat if their vaccinations have lapsed.
  • Remember to ask your vet about Kennel Cough vaccination if your dog is going to kennels.

Just like your car’s MOT, an Annual Health Assessment is essential for your pet. Pets get older more quickly than we do and although average life expectancy differs from dogs to cats and breed to breed, on average one pet year equals about seven human years! So a thorough check every year is a good idea.

Our aim is to pick up small problems – which you may not even have noticed – before they get a chance to turn into big ones. These include signs of early heart problems, arthritis, tumours or dental disease. Plenty can be done about these conditions if we pick them up early, but if left untreated any or all of these could cause pain, discomfort, infirmity and even premature death. Early diagnosis of a condition is generally the key to a successful outcome!

Another key procedure at each annual check is vaccination which keeps your pet safe from a range of often fatal diseases. Not so long ago, before widespread vaccination was the norm, diseases like distemper and feline leukaemia killed thousands of pets each year.

When it comes to your pet’s health and well-being, prevention is better than cure – so regular checkups and vaccinations make sense.

Here are some of the commonest questions about vaccination and your pet.

Vaccinations Q & A

Why do I need to vaccinate my pet?
In the days before widespread vaccination, thousands of animals died an often slow and painful death from diseases which are easily preventable nowadays. Vaccination will protect your pet from illnesses like leptospirosis, parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis in dogs or feline panleukopaenia and the Feline Leukaemia Virus in cats. Vaccination is the biggest success of modern veterinary medicine and, because it will prevent your pet dying from many of these potentially fatal diseases, it is the cornerstone of responsible pet ownership.

Now that most pets are vaccinated thankfully vets see fewer and fewer animals affected by these diseases, and this explains why it is so vital your pet is vaccinated, and protection kept up to date by regular (usually annual) ‘boosters’.

At what age can my baby pet be vaccinated?
Puppies and kittens need to receive a course of at least 2 injections to ensure they are fully protected.

Depending on the brand of vaccine used, as well as species and breed, the first injection of the full vaccination course can be given at 6-9 weeks of age followed by a second injection 2-4 weeks later.Your pet has to be at least this age before the vaccines will be effective so there is no point in giving the vaccines any earlier. Your veterinary practice will discuss the exact timing of when they can give the vaccines with you but we it’s important to get them done as early as possible.

My pet was vaccinated when I got him by the breeder/rescue centre – what do I do?

Vets find that a lot of pets present having been ‘vaccinated’ by the breeder, or in a rescue centre. If this was one by a vet and you have been given a vaccination certificate then all should be fine in, and it may well be that your pet will only need one extra ‘booster’ vaccine. However vets often find it was actually the breeder or a lay-person in the rescue centre who administered the vaccine, not a vet, and in these cases it is not possible to be sure of what vaccine was given, if it was given correctly, was it stored correctly etc. For that reason the recommendation is generally to ignore what was (or wasn’t) done before, and to recommence the vaccination course and do it correctly to ensure your pet is fully protected.

Best thing to do is to go to your vet as soon as you get your new pet, bringing all the paperwork with you, and they will advise you what needs to be done next.

Then what is needed in the years after the first vaccinations?
Because the immunity your pet gets from the first vaccinations does not last for life, regular booster vaccinations are needed to ensure your pet continues to be fully protected. These are done at the same time as the Annual Health Assessment.

Just like humans, the older your pet is the more common it is for ailments to occur. So, older pets still need their vaccinations – indeed, the older the pet the more important they are seen every year, if not more often, for a health assessment.

It’s never to late to get your pet vaccinated. Even if your pet has not been to the vet for years there’s no problems. At worst they will need a course of 2 injections to get them fully protected, and on top of that you’ll get the added bonus of a full health check at every vaccination.

Are the vaccines safe?
Yes they are. As with any drug there is always the possibility of some side effects but they are very rare. Put into context, the risk of death from not vaccinating is far, far higher than any potential risk from administering the vaccines, and even when there is a reaction it is generally mild and short-lived.

What is needed for my pet to go into a kennels or cattery?
No reputable boarding kennels and catteries will admit your pet without an up to date certificate of vaccination. In addition to the core vaccines which all pets should have, dogs will also require ‘Kennel Cough’ vaccination before they can go into kennels. Kennel Cough is similar to Whooping Cough in humans and while generally not fatal it is very infectious in locations where dogs share an airspace (such as kennels and dogs shows) and can take a very long time to resolve.

If your kennels or cattery do not insist on seeing your vaccination certificate every time you take your pet there – be very wary. It means they are potentially letting in other unvaccinated pets, thus leaving your pet at a higher risk of contracting disease. They must ask to see your pet’s vaccination certificate and check that he or she has been vaccinated within the last 12 months – simply asking you if your pet is vaccinated is not good enough.