The importance of vaccinating children to prevent the spread of serious illnesses is very well known and documented, however vaccinating pets can sometimes be overlooked or forgotten. The nature of the way animals interact with each other makes them very susceptible to spreading illness and diseases, and this is why having your much loved pets vaccinated is so important.

There is a large range of vaccinations available for pets which guard against many different diseases. These vaccines are split into two groups, core and non-core vaccines. Vaccines are assigned to either group based on the likely exposure, the severity of the illness in the animal, and the transmissibility to humans. Vaccines in the core group are essential to your pet’s well being, and while non-core vaccines are considered optional they are still very strongly recommended by veterinarians and animal welfare groups.

Core vs Non-Core vaccines for Dogs In Australia

In Australia the core vaccines for dogs are canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, also known as hepatitis, and canine parvovirus. Canine Distemper is a highly contagious disease producing symptoms such as conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, convulsive seizures and spinal cord damage and is classed as a core vaccination due to the ineffectiveness of treatment. Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral gastroenteritis. Depression, loss of appetite, severe vomiting and diarrhoea containing blood are some of the symptoms. This is a core vaccination due to how quickly this virus can be fatal. Canine Adenovirus (Hepatitis) is an acute liver infection which can cause sudden death in puppies and, weakness, fever, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and bleeding in adult dogs. The virus is spread in the faeces, urine, blood, saliva, and nasal discharge of infected dogs and is very easily transmitted, hence why it is considered a core vaccine. Other non-core vaccines include parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica and Leptospira interrogans.

Core vs Non-Core Vaccines for Cats in Australia

In Australia the core vaccines for cats are feline parvovirus, feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus. Feline Parvovirus and feline herpes virus present similar symptoms and have similar risk profiles in cats as they do in dogs. Feline calicivirus infection is a common respiratory disease. The virus attacks the respiratory tract and the mouth, with ulceration of the tongue, the intestines, and the musculoskeletal system. It is highly communicable in unvaccinated cats, and is commonly seen in multicat facilities, shelters, poorly ventilated households, and breeding catteries. Non-Core vaccines for cats include feline leukaemia virus, Chlamydia felis, Bordetella bronchiseptica and Feline immunodeficiency virus.

The Importance of Vaccinations Schedules

Because of maternally derived antibody and the variability in its level and duration between individuals, vaccines should ideally be administered two to three times to puppies and kittens, with timing of the final dose being variable but not earlier than the age of 16 weeks (the suggested age varies with the manufacturer and the vaccine). If cost is an issue and only one vaccine is possible, it should be at the age of 16 weeks or older. These vaccines are then followed up with a booster approximately 12 months later. Vaccines are very effective and increasing an animal's immunity to the targeted diseases, however they do not last for ever. Regular boosters are required to keep up the effectiveness of the vaccine. Having your vet administer a booster when your pet goes in for it’s yearly health check is the surest way to ensure that the vaccines do not lapse. Of course individual animals will require assessment by a veterinarian to select the most appropriate vaccine and vaccination protocol. The veterinarian–client–patient relationship is important to fully understand the individual’s needs. Once your veterinarian has devised the right schedule for your pet it is your responsibility to adhere strictly. As you rely on your pet for love and companionship they rely on you to safeguard their health and wellbeing. Keeping up an effective and complete vaccination schedule is just one small part of maintaining a happy and healthy pet.