Vaccinating Your Dog

Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting your dog throughout their life against many of the most serious infectious and fatal diseases.

These include:

  • Canine Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis
  • Canine Parainfluenza

In the first few weeks of life, puppies are normally protected against disease by antibodies (immunity) from their mother’s milk. This decreases over time and has usually disappeared by 12 weeks of age.

Vaccination then protects your puppy against disease. They receive a course of 2 vaccinations, one at 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 weeks to ensure their immune system has the best chance of mounting a strong, protective response.

After 12 months the immunity levels drop and a regular, annual booster is required to maintain the highest possible level of protection against serious disease. This should be continued throughout your dog’s life.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is characterised by:

  • severe, smelly, bloody vomiting and diarrhoea
  • weakness
  • abdominal pain
  • rapid, severe dehydration and ultimately death

The virus is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment for months or even years. Parvovirus is still relatively common and we regularly see outbreaks of the disease. Puppies are especially at risk and rarely survive despite intensive care treatment although all unvaccinated dogs will be susceptible.

Some breeders will vaccinate against Parvovirus early but these puppies will still require the full vaccination course starting at 8 weeks of age.

The main source of infection is the faeces of infected dogs, but the virus can also spread on shoes and clothing and on the coat and pads of dogs. It can therefore easily be picked up by a dog just on a walk in the park.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is characterised by:

  • runny eyes and nose
  • coughing
  • depression
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • thickening of the foot pads (hard pad) and nose which can be painful

Dogs which survive the disease may show serious neurological signs including seizures.
The virus is highly infectious and can be fatal. Vaccination has resulted in a decrease of this disease over recent years but there are still pockets of infection in areas where a large number of unvaccinated dogs live. Dogs under a year are most commonly affected, although any unvaccinated dog or a dog with a weakened immune system will be susceptible.

It is spread by an infected dog shedding the virus in their bodily fluids as well as dog to dog contact through inhaling infected virus particles.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis

Hepatitis is characterised by:

  • lack of appetite
  • fever
  • pale gums
  • conjunctivitis
  • coughing
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • jaundice (yellow discolouring)
  • death can occur in severe cases

The disease affects the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs of a dog. Some dogs can die within hours of becoming infected. Dogs under a year are most commonly affected but all unvaccinated dogs of any age are susceptible.

It is spread by direct contact with infected urine, saliva and faeces. The virus is hardy and can survive months in the environment so it can be picked up by a dog during a normal walk without coming in to direct contact with an infected dog. Dogs which recover can remain infectious for more than six months.


Leptospirosis is characterised by:

  • lethargy and depression
  • abdominal pain
  • jaundice
  • liver damage
  • death

Leptospirosis is the only bacterial disease included in your dog’s routine annual vaccine. It is spread via the urine of infected animals and is a serious zoonotic disease. This means it can be spread to humans as well by contact with infected urine.

Rats are the main carrier of the disease and transmit it to dogs by either direct contact with their urine or indirectly by contact with contaminated water eg drinking or swimming in canals or rivers inhabited by infected rats. The bacteria can survive for a long time in damp or wet surroundings so your dog is potentially at risk every time they go for a walk.

Infected dogs shed large amounts of the bacteria in their urine and although many recover with intensive treatment, they will be left with liver or kidney damage. All unvaccinated dogs are at risk at any age.

In humans leptospirosis is known as Weil’s Disease and there is no vaccination available.

Canine Parainfluenza

Parainfluenza virus is characterised by:

  • harsh, dry cough
  • occasional retching
  • loss of appetite
  • mild temperature
  • nasal discharge

Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus which on its own can cause a mild cough and runny nose. The disease is usually transmitted through the air. Protection against the virus is routinely included in your dog’s annual booster vaccination.

The bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica is not routinely vaccinated against unless requested. This bacteria along with the Parainfluenza virus are often found to be present in the disease known as Kennel Cough. Protection against this bacteria requires an additional nasal vaccination which provides 12 months protection. Please see Kennel Cough for more details.

At your dog’s routine booster vaccination appointment, your vet will also perform a thorough healthcheck to ensure your dog is fit and well. These healthchecks are vital to allow us to spot any problems early on and to offer help with routine healthcare issues.

Useful links:
Vaccination and Your Puppy
Vaccinating Your Older Dog 

Vaccinating Your Puppy

This information sheet contains advice regarding vaccination of puppies to ensure that they are protected from major diseases.

Your puppy’s first visit to the vet

When you first get your new puppy, your vet will need to perform a health check to make sure that they are fit and well. Your vet will be able to give you advice and discuss vaccination in particular as well as parasite control, insurance and diet.

When your puppy is 8 weeks old

Your puppy is now old enough to start their vaccination course. Puppy vaccinations are very important to protect against a number of diseases and to limit the spread of disease in the dog population. Vaccination has been very successful in decreasing the number of animals we see suffering from these diseases. At your puppy’s vaccination appointment you will receive a free puppy pack containing information on how best to care for your puppy.

Your puppy vaccination course

The puppy vaccination course requires two injections: the first at 8 weeks and then a second injection at 12 weeks of age. These protect against Distemper (Hardpad), Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and ParaInfluenza.
Puppies get some short term immunity to infections from their mother’s first milk (maternally derived antibodies).These antibodies can interfere with their response to vaccination but by 12 weeks of age most puppies will have low enough levels of these antibodies to allow a good immune response to vaccination.
There are some vaccines available that allow a second injection at 10 weeks. However, we recommend that your puppy vaccination course should not finish before 12 weeks since earlier finishes will require detailed knowledge of the level of maternal antibodies present which is impractical.

Puppy Socialisation

Earlier vaccination course finishes were introduced to allow earlier socialisation of puppies. However, this process starts from around four weeks of age and continues into adulthood and a programme of increasing puppy exposure to various experiences is ongoing from birth. Soon after the first vaccination, puppies can have a degree of socialisation with other dogs where the risk of infection is very low, for example, at puppy parties or with fully vaccinated older dogs.
Onset of full immunity will vary for individuals but is typically 1-2 weeks after the second injection. Thus a 12 week second injection offers an ideal balance of socialisation and maximum protection against diseases.

Please discuss this with your vet at your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets.

We hope you enjoy looking after your new puppy.

Vaccination And Your Older Dog

Dogs of all ages can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. It is a common misconception that immunity from their primary puppy vaccinations lasts for life or is less important as your dog ages.

Older dogs are more prone to disease and as with everything prevention is always better than cure! Their immune systems become less efficient and weakened over time. Infections are picked up more easily and as a result, senior dogs may not be able to fight off disease as well as they could when they were younger.

The regular annual visits for a booster vaccination, also allows your vet to perform a full clinical examination and check up. This enables us to spot the early signs of any disease conditions which may be developing. The onset of many of these symptoms are often subtle and easy to miss. For example weight loss, increased thirst or changes in appetite and behaviour can all be closely monitored by regularly attending healthchecks for your older dog. Many diseases and conditions are much better controlled when they are diagnosed early for example renal and dental disease.

At Cinque Ports Vets we offer  Senior Clubs which offers you the opportunity to regularly attend check ups with your veterinary nurse.  These help you monitor your pets health in between their annual or six monthly checks with the vet.

Useful links:
Vaccinating Your Dog