What Do We Vaccinate Against?

In the UK, there are four major killer diseases that we vaccinate against; these are the important
infectious killer diseases:

Then there are two minor diseases, both of which are causes of a syndrome which we call “Kennel

Vaccination Regime

Between 6 and 8 weeks of age, a single injection of Leptospirosis vaccine is given.
At 10 weeks of age, (which must be at least 2 weeks after the first vaccine), a single injection of
Leptospirosis, Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis and Parainfluenza vaccine is given.

Rabies vaccines can be given from 3 months old. Only one dose is required.

A Brief Description of the Diseases


Also known as “Hardpad”, this is a virus closely related to the human measles virus. Unlike measles,
distemper is nearly always fatal. The virus enters the body via the tonsils, and quickly spreads to
the intestines where it causes diarrhoea. It goes on to the lungs, causing pneumonia, and a very
characteristic conjunctivitis. Eventually, it reaches the brain, causing fits. The small percentage of
dogs which survive, often suffer fits long term, or develop a continuous muscular twitch. This can
involve any muscle, but typically it is one of the leg or face. The footpads become thickened and hard,
hence the term hardpad. Vaccination is very effective at preventing distemper.


This is a relatively new virus. It first appeared in 1979, and was the cause of death of millions of
dogs worldwide. It causes a severe sort of dysentery (bloody diarrhoea), where the whole intestinal
lining is destroyed, and invaded by bacteria. Although death is very common with parvovirus, it is not
inevitable. Very young pups stand little chance of survival, but larger ones frequently do survive with
prompt treatment. Vaccination is very effective at preventing parvovirus disease.


This is a viral infection of the liver, also known as “Rubarth’s Disease.” Jaundice and rapid death are the main symptoms. Vaccination is very effective at preventing this disease.


This is a bacterial disease, contracted typically from areas frequented by rats, and other small
rodents, especially dirty water courses. There are two distinct strains of leptospirosis. One causes
a hepatitis, resulting in jaundice and rapid death. The other, more common form affects the kidney.
The only symptoms may be a raised temperature, and the dog may appear to be only slightly unwell.
Recovery is common, especially with antibiotics, but a cycle of continuing, irreversible renal damage
is set in motion, which will not become apparent until about 75% of the kidney’s functional capacity
has been destroyed. Affected individuals eventually die of kidney failure. Vaccination is very effective at preventing this disease.


This is a viral disease, one of the more important causes of “Kennel Cough”. It is generally a mild
cough that spreads rapidly where dogs are kept closely confined. A small proportion of dogs will
develop a much more serious cough which may last for many months.


This is a bacterial disease, probably the most important cause of “Kennel Cough”, also known as
infectious bronchitis. It generally causes a more severe disease than parainfluenza, with harsher
coughing and debilitation in some individuals. Most dogs make a good recovery, but coughing can
persist for many months.

Vaccination against parainfluenza and bordetella is best achieved by an intranasal vaccine. This is
not essential for most dogs, except where there is increased risk. This is typically just before going
into boarding kennels, or perhaps dog training classes. The parainfluenza vaccine administered with
the routine vaccination course should not be relied upon.


We are fortunate in the UK in that we have been rabies free since the 1920s, except for a couple of
isolated cases in bats. It is to prevent the introduction of this disease that the UK (and many other
countries), imposes a 6 month quarantine period on certain mammals entering the country. The
requirement for quarantine changed on 28 February 2000, and under certain circumstances it is now
possible to avoid quarantine.

Rabies is a viral disease, that usually enters the body via the skin due to an infected bite, although
spread through the air can also occur. The virus infects the nervous system, and slowly spreads
to the brain. This process can take many months, and results in excessive salivation, paralysis,
behavioural changes, fits, and eventually death. This virus is readily transmissible to humans, and
humans are fully susceptible to this virus. Vaccination is very effective at preventing this disease.