One of the very best things you can do to give your dog a long and healthy life is to ensure that he or she is protected against common canine infectious diseases. When puppies are born, the mother passes on immunity from disease by providing disease-fighting antibodies in her milk. After that period when the puppies have weaned from mum, it’s up to you, as a pet owner, to provide that protection, with the help and advice of your veterinarian.
Vaccinations and Titre testing for Immunity
There is little doubt that widespread and regular vaccination of pets has had significant benefits in the control of major infectious diseases. We have seen the practical eradication of canine distemper and hepatitis from some urban dog populations and a significant impact on the severity and extent of parvovirus infection due to widespread use of vaccination in dogs in Australia.
At Mona Vale Vets, we believe in tailoring the vaccination schedule to each individual dog. Such factors as species, breed, age, disease status, presence of inter-current diseases, vaccination history of in-contact animals, and life style all are important in determining the appropriate vaccination strategy for your pet. We also offer titre testing if reduction in the frequency of vaccination is desired or deemed necessary for your dog.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or “killed” viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. When administered, they stimulate your dog’s immune system to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins – or antibodies – to protect against disease.
When should my dog be vaccinated?
The immunity that a puppy gains from its mother’s milk begins to diminish sometime after 6 weeks of age. It is then time to begin the initial vaccinations, usually a course of 2 or 3 injections given approximately 4 weeks apart.
Thereafter, your dog will likely require repeat vaccination at regular intervals for the rest of his or her life. As vaccines vary in the duration of immunity they provide, together with you, our veterinarian’s will discuss and tailor each individual dog’s vaccination schedule to the individual.
Which vaccinations should my dog receive?
Your pet should be protected against those diseases which are most common, highly contagious and which cause serious illness.
Such diseases include Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parvovirus and Canine Tracheobronchitis (Canine Cough). Other vaccinations may be recommended, based on your veterinarian’s evaluation of the risks posed by such factors as your dog’s particular heredity, environment and lifestyle.
Vaccination against this often fatal, hard-to-treat disease is absolutely essential. Highly contagious, it is spread by discharges from the noses and eyes of infected dogs. Symptoms can include listlessness, fever, coughing, diarrhoea and vomiting; convulsions and paralysis may occur in the disease’s final stages. The distemper virus attacks many organs, including the nervous system, which may be permanently damaged, even if the dog recovers.
Canine Tracheobronchitis (CANINE COUGH):
Just as with the human common cold, this respiratory-tract infection is easily transmitted from one dog to another, so vaccination is imperative if your pet will come in contact with many other dogs in such situations as obedience training or boarding at a kennel. Caused by various airborne bacteria and viruses, including Canine Parainfluenza virus, Canine Adenovirus Type II and Bordetella bronchiseptica, you’ll first notice its onset by your dog’s dry, hacking cough.
Very contagious, debilitating and widespread, the disease caused by this virus emerged in many parts of the world only in 1978. Spread through infected faeces, the highly resistant virus can remain in the environment for many months. Symptoms include high fever, listlessness, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Vaccination is the only certain method of preventing this potentially fatal disease, which is most severe in young pups and elderly dogs.
Infectious Canine Hepatitis:
Caused by Canine Adenovirus Type I, this disease is transmitted among dogs by contact with secretions, such as saliva, infected urine or faeces. Its symptoms are similar to those of the early stages of distemper. Causing liver failure, eye damage and breathing problems, the course of this disease can range from mild to fatal. Vaccination remains the best protection.
Like any drug treatment or surgical procedure, vaccinations cannot be 100% guaranteed. However, used in conjunction with proper nutrition and acceptable sanitary conditions, vaccination is clearly your pet’s best defense against disease. Plus, when you consider what treating a serious illness can cost you and your beloved dog in terms of both money and distress, prevention through vaccination is extremely cost-effective.
What about Titre Testing vs vaccination?
Whilst vaccination has unquestionable benefits, the subject of annual revaccination is being increasingly examined. Recently published laboratory studies have shown that some vaccinations in dogs and cats may provide significant serological titres lasting for at least 3 years and longer. Whether the current low levels of these diseases in cats and dogs will remain after introduction of less frequent vaccination strategies will only be known after many years.
In some diseases, immunity is short-lived and so not all vaccinations can be administered on a less frequent basis and still confer preventative immunity. In such cases there still needs to be an annual vaccination schedule.
Side effects may occur after vaccination with all vaccines; these side effects are uncommon, short lived and cause little discomfort in healthy animals. However, vaccinating animals which are immune compromised or suffering disease states goes against manufacturers’ recommendations, and can cause more severe acute or long term side effects.
In these cases we will weigh the risk of side effects against your pet’s illnesses and likelihood of catching the disease against which we want to vaccinate. In such cases the use of antibody titres to determine the need for vaccination becomes important.
What is titre testing?
A titre test (pronounced TIGHT er) is a laboratory test measuring the existence and level of antibodies in blood. Antibodies are produced when a foreign substance like a virus or bacteria provokes an immune response. Responses can come from natural exposure or vaccination.
Should I test for all diseases? The most recommended test examines antibodies for both Canine parvovirus and Canine distemper, the two most important viruses- Canine herpesvirus (adenovirus) can also be tested for. For most dogs, tests for other diseases are generally not considered useful or necessary.
Why test? The Parvovirus/Distemper ( +/- Herpesvirus) test can help you or others (vets, groomers, kennel owners, etc.) determine if your dog requires additional vaccination, and may save your dog unnecessary shots. Testing is especially useful when making a decision about vaccinating an animal with unknown vaccination history, or for determining if puppies have received immunity from vaccination .
Do not expect, however, that everyone will accept test results in place of proof of vaccination. The subject of immunity is complicated, and we are programmed to think of vaccination as “the gold standard” even when confronted with proof to the contrary.
How often should I test titres? Some vets test yearly, others test every three years. Still others test five to seven years after vaccination.