Diseases to Vaccinate Against

Making sure your animals are vaccinated against common diseases is an important part of owning pets, it can save their lives from these potentially fatal diseases found in New Zealand.

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Dog Diseases

Core Vaccines:

Canine Parvovirus
Parvovirus is a serious disease affecting primarily young dogs (6 weeks to 6 months of age) although dogs of any age can be affected. The virus is highly resistant and can remain in the environment for many months. Dogs contract the disease through exposure to infected dogs or infected stools. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing loss of appetite, lethargy, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease is highly contagious and can be fatal if not treated promptly. Vaccinations have proven to be very successful in preventing this disease.

Canine Distemper
Distemper is another serious viral disease affecting primarily young, unvaccinated dogs. The disease affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract, and also often the nervous system. Symptoms include discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, weight loss, vomiting, in appetence, hardening of the foot pads or neurological symptoms such as seizures. Distemper is a highly contagious disease. The virus is spread by contact with secretions such as discharges from the eyes and nose, vomit, diarrhoea or urine. The disease is often fatal.  If a dog survives the disease, it can have permanent damage to its nervous system, sense of smell, sight and sound. Prevention of the disease by vaccinating is therefore extremely important.

Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis
Canine Adenovirus type 1 causes a disease called Infectious Canine Hepatitis. This viral disease affects the liver and other organ systems, causing illness which can be fatal. Symptoms may include respiratory tract abnormalities (discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing) or evidence of liver and/or kidney disease (jaundice, loss of appetite, vomiting, change in drinking or urination behaviour). Occasionally an affected dog develops a “blue eye” (corneal oedema). The disease is transmitted by contact with secretions such as saliva, infected urine or faeces. 

Canine Adenovirus type 2 causes respiratory illness and can be involved in the development of kennel cough. Vaccination against Canine Adenovirus type 2 protects against both adenovirus types 1 and 2.

Canine parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is frequently confused with kennel cough. While the symptoms are very similar, canine parainfluenza is actually a major factor that can cause kennel cough, which is an acute inflammation of the upper airways. The disease can progress to pneumonia in puppies or chronic bronchitis in older dogs.

Puppies are routinely vaccinated for parainfluenza when they get their “puppy shots.” Then on it is included in the kennel cough vaccination.
The virus is transmitted through contact with the nasal secretions of dogs that are infected with the disease. There are a few factors that can increase the risk of a dog contracting the virus such as high humidity and exposure to drafts.

Symptoms include an unproductive, but persistent cough, runny nasal discharge, trouble breathing, lethargic and can have a low-grade fever. The cough and labored breathing can be worsened with physical activity and excitement.

Alone, the canine parainfluenza virus is usually not a serious problem. However, when it teams up with other pathogens, it can turn into a serious case of kennel cough. Pneumonia can develop but only in a small percentage of dogs.

Good hygiene is one way to avoid both diseases. Don’t let you dog frequent places such as public parks or dog parks where they may be exposed to dogs that have not been vaccinated for the canine parainfluenza virus.

Non-Core Vaccines:

Kennel Cough (Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis)
Kennel cough is caused by various airborne viruses and bacteria, including Canine Parainfluenza virus, canine Adenovirus type 2 and Bordetella bronchiseptica. Symptoms include a dry, hacking cough and sometimes nasal discharge, sneezing and loss of appetite. Kennel cough is highly contagious and is spread through sneezing, coughing and contact with infected nasal secretions. Kennel cough is most commonly transmitted when dogs are in close proximity to each other, such as at dog shows, in kennels, at dog parks etc. In most cases kennel cough lasts 1-2 weeks, but can last longer. Dogs usually recover fully from this disease. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects several organs including the kidneys and liver. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, lethargy, jaundice, vomiting, diarrhoea and seizures. The symptoms may vary in severity, and the disease can be fatal. Wild and domestic animals (pigs, cattle, and dogs) may act as reservoirs for infection. The disease is transmitted by contact with the urine of infected animals. Leptospirosis is only a risk in certain geographic locations.  This should be considered a core vaccine in the North Island. 


Cat Diseases

Core Vaccines:

Feline Viral Rhinothracheitis (“Cat Flu”)
Feline herpesvirus causes upper respiratory-tract infections in cats. The virus is widespread and easily transmitted. Symptoms are flu-like such as fever, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, sneezing or coughing, and range from mild to severe. A high percentage of cats that recover from the disease will remain life-long carriers of the virus. These carrier cats can intermittently shed the virus and have flare-ups of symptoms, especially in periods with stress.

Feline Calicivirus
This virus is the other main virus that causes upper respiratory-tract infections (“cat flu”) in cats. Like the Feline herpesvirus this virus is also widespread and easily transmitted.

Feline Panleukopenia
This disease is sometimes called feline infectious enteritis or feline distemper. It is a viral disease that causes fever, severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The disease can be fatal, especially in younger cats. The virus can survive for long times in the environment, and the disease is highly contagious. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is now uncommon.

Non-Core Vaccines:

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus can lead to feline AIDS, a potentially fatal disease that interferes with the cat’s immune system. The virus is spread primarily through bite wounds.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
This virus can cause a variety of severe conditions in cats, including cancer, anaemia and suppression of the immune system. The virus is transmitted between cats through bite wounds, mutual grooming and (though rarely) shared use of feeding dishes and litter boxes. Kittens are more susceptible to infection than adult cats.

Feline Chlamydiosis
This is a bacterial disease that can cause conjunctivitis and respiratory disease. It is mostly seen in multi-cat environments, and kittens are most susceptible.

Rabbit Diseases

It is recommended for pet rabbits to be vaccinated against Rabbit Calicivirus (RCD) also known as viral haemorrhagic disease caused by rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (rhdv). This disease affects wild and domestic rabbits. It is highly contagious and often fatal.

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