Why kitten and puppy vaccinations are so important

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Like any member of our family, we want to keep our pets healthy and well looked after. For new and seasoned pet owners alike, kitten and puppy vaccinations should be a key consideration for your pet’s health and welfare. By vaccinating your pet, you’ll help to keep them and other animals safe and free from infection. 

Puppies and kittens are protected against many infections by their mother’s milk, if she has been regularly vaccinated. But this maternal immunity only lasts for the first few weeks after birth, so it’s important to make sure your pet stays protected once mum’s work is done. 

When to vaccinate

The primary course of vaccinations is performed in two stages. For puppy injections, it is recommended that the first is administered at 6-8 weeks old; for kitten injections, 8-9 weeks is the recommended age. 

The second stage should take place two to four weeks after the first. You’ll need to check with your vet when booster vaccinations are due, but most will be required once a year while some will be every three years.  

The risks of not vaccinating

The unfortunate truth is that the less owners vaccinate their animals, the higher the risk of an infectious outbreak. 

But why would owners choose not to vaccinate? One of the main reasons is cost, which unfortunately can be a major factor. The price of kitten and puppy vaccinations varies around the UK, but even if the cost seems prohibitive in your area, vaccinating your pet is crucial. Those dangling fish and plaited ropes can wait. 

It’s also true that only 30% of dog owners and 16% of cat owners have pet insurance. But keeping up to date with vaccinations and insurance payments could save you from a hefty vet bill – £676 a visit on average (research carried out in 2017). 

Some owners avoid vaccination due to concerns that their companions might develop a horrible reaction to the vaccines. While this is a possibility, it’s a rare occurrence. Thousands of pets are vaccinated without issue every single day, so the risk here is very low compared to the risk of your pet becoming very unwell if they do contract an infection.  

It’s worth mentioning that some of the infections contracted by your pets could be passed onto humans, and putting yourself and your loved ones at risk is the last thing you want. 

For dog owners: the details on puppy vaccinations

Unvaccinated dogs can easily become infected, and spread serious diseases to other dogs via direct or indirect contact with saliva, faecal matter or infected water. 

You can protect your pet by ensuring they have the following core puppy vaccinations:

  • Parvovirus – a highly infectious disease that is spread through faeces and can survive in the environment for many months. Causes vomiting, diarrhoea and subsequently, dehydration. Parvovirus can be fatal.
  • Canine hepatitis – this, the first of two strains of a disease known as adenovirus 1 and 2, is a disease of the liver. The second strain causes respiratory problems. In both cases, the virus is transmitted through bodily fluids and can survive many months.
  • Canine distemper – spread by saliva and urine, distemper starts with relatively mild symptoms like eye and nose discharge, coughing and fever, but soon progresses to vomiting, diarrhoea and hardening of the paw pads. Later, it can lead to problems with the nervous system and is sometimes fatal. There is no medicinal cure, only prevention, which makes early vaccination very important.
  • Leptospirosis – spread through urine which can infect water or soil, this disease can lead to organ failure in your pet. Symptoms include thirst, muscle pain, vomiting and fever. It can also be passed on to humans, which makes prevention by vaccination doubly important.  
  • Canine parainfluenza – though not usually too serious, this is a highly infectious airborne infection. Vaccination will reduce the likelihood of your pet having to suffer through an infection. 

Other puppy vaccinations to consider include kennel cough, if your dog is visiting kennels. Breeding females should also be given the herpes vaccination, while vaccinating against rabies is required if your pet is due to travel overseas. 

Until your puppy has been fully vaccinated – usually when they’re about three months old – it’s advisable to avoid taking them to public spaces where they may come into contact with other unvaccinated dogs or sources of disease. 

For cat owners: the facts on cat vaccinations

Our cats can easily catch infections from direct or indirect contact with other infected animals, as well as through bodily fluids. 

To protect your pet, it’s really important that they have all of the following core vaccinations: 

  • Panleucopaenia – a very serious disease related to canine parvovirus, which can often be fatal. It’s spread in urine and faeces and can survive for long periods in the environment. It causes severe vomiting and fever and can progress very rapidly, especially in kittens.
  • Feline herpes – one form of what is known as cat flu, this relatively severe version has symptoms including sneezing, conjunctivitis and discharge from the eyes and nose. Though most cats will recover, some will be left with eye problems and inflammation of the nose.
  • Feline Calicivirus – a milder form of cat flu, with mouth ulcers often the most troublesome symptom. Most cats will recover after a few days, though vaccination can save them from unnecessary discomfort. 

Further cat vaccinations to consider are feline leukaemia – for cats in frequent contact with other cats – and bordetella bronchiseptica, for cats in multi-cat households, visiting shows, or in contact with dogs. Chlamydophila is recommended for multi-cat households, and the rabies vaccine is essential for cats travelling overseas.  

We love our pets and they’re an important part of our family – they're reassuring and a constant presence in our lives. Pet Insurance provides peace of mind and can help to cover the cost of unexpected vet fees when your pet needs treatment due to an accident or illness.

Please note:  You must keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date, as recommended by your vet. If you go against your vet’s advice, the disease can be excluded from your policy.

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