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Needling Worries

New vaccines for dogs give better and longer disease protection

Are your dog's vaccinations up to date? If beads of guilty sweat are appearing on your furrowed brow, then worry not. Your vet will be happy to solve this needling worry.

What you may not know is that there are new vaccines available that will provide even better protection to your pooch, at a younger age and for a longer time.

For many years, your vet has had vaccines to protect your dog from distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and canine cough. Now, new vaccines are available to give protection against two other diseases. One disease is coronavirus and the other is leptospirosis.  

In addition new vaccines are now available in Australia that give puppies full protection by ten weeks of age, rather owners having to wait until their pup is sixteen weeks of age - which has been the need up until now.

New vaccines are now available in Australia that give puppies full protection by ten weeks of age

Lastly, with adult dogs, vaccines are now available that will give three years protection with one injection rather than just twelve month protection.

So, what are the diseases vaccines eliminate and how dangerous are these disease?

Distemper

Distemper has been around for years, but has now been all but eliminated due to the effectiveness of current vaccines. The characteristic signs of distemper are a yellow, purulent discharge from the dog's nose and eyes combined with coughing and vomiting.  Pneumonia usually follows and the dog develops muscle spasms, convulsions and progressive paralysis.  If it recovers, permanent brain damage may occur.  Dogs affected by distemper usually die.

Hepatitis

Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a disease of the liver and is also rare.  It causes a loss of appetite and a form of diarrhoea that often contains blood.  Enlargement of the liver occurs and this causes abdominal pain. When the condition is mild, the dog may only show lethargy and loss of appetite but if a dog has a severe infection, death may occur within 24-36 hours.  A condition called 'blue eye' may follow infection.  'Blue eye' is caused by cloudiness that develops in the cornea of the eye.

Parvovirus

Unfortunately, Parvovirus still rears its ugly head. It is a relatively new virus and first appeared in the late 1970s. It is closely related to the feline enteritis virus that causes a similar disease in cats. The virus is highly contagious and survives for a long time when free in the environment.  It spreads between dogs via small amounts of contaminated faeces that you can carry, for instance, on your shoes.  The main sign of parvovirus disease is profuse, watery diarrhoea that contains blood.  The diarrhoea has an awful smell and affected animals look extremely unwell. Severe vomiting occurs and the animal suffers from abdominal pain.  It is very common for affected dogs to die.

Canine Cough

Canine Cough is a very contagious disease, but thankfully is not usually as dangerous as the previous three. This disease was often called Kennel Cough but this title is misleading as dogs can become infected at any canine gathering.  This includes kennels, parks, obedience classes and dog shows.  It is a complex disease mainly caused by a combination of a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica and a virus called the Canine Parainfluenza Virus. 

Dogs with Canine Cough usually show harsh, hacking coughs that often finish with gagging or retching where the dogs produce frothy phlegm.  The condition can persist for several weeks. Sneezing is common, and affected dogs can develop tonsillitis and pneumonia.

Canine Coronavirus

Coronavirus was first reported in Germany in 1971.  The virus causes gastroenteritis which is similar to that caused by parvovirus but it is not as severe or as serious and it does not commonly cause death. While it can affect dogs of all ages, it is more common in young pups.

Coronavirus is a very contagious bug and is therefore particularly common in kennel environments.

Vomiting and diarrhoea are the main features of the disease. The diarrhoea is watery and jelly-like and is sometimes streaked with blood. It is particularly malodorous.

Affected dogs usually recover within a week but can take several weeks to return to full health.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is worldwide bacterial disease that occurs in many animal species, including humans. Dogs develop kidney and liver disease and abortions may occur in pregnant dogs.

While it is not a common disease in Australia, it can be serious and fatal.  Dogs that are affected loose their appetite, develop a fever, and are reluctant to move due to muscle pain. Vomiting, diarrhoea and frequent urination may occur.

Sometimes haemorrhages appear on the gums of affected dogs and conjunctivitis and a cough are common.

The disease is spread by wildlife, especially rodents, and is harboured in still water such as ponds and dams. The disease also occurs in humans and so there is a potential for an infected dog to cause disease in its family.

An Ounce of Prevention

Thankfully, vaccinations are available for all of the above diseases, including new vaccines for coronavirus and leptospirosis.  

You should consult your vet for full advice on when these vaccines are given and annual health care checks are still essential, no matter what vaccine your dog is given but a general summary of your duties as a pet owner are:

  1. Have your pup vaccinated at six weeks of age
  2. At twelve weeks of age, your pup can have its last puppy vaccination
  3. Adult dogs can be protected with one vaccination every three years for some of the above diseases - but not necessarily all.
  4. Annual health care checks are vital to ensure full health of your dog and particularly for your dog to receive its annual heartworm injection. At that time your vet can advise on the balance between yearly and three-yearly vaccinations.

Don't take the chance - these diseases are fatal. Your veterinarian will be able to advise further.

Further reading

AVA Policy on Vaccination (Australia)

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