The importance of preventative healthcare

Preventative healthcare is important for both your pet and your family. It consists of routine vaccination and anti-parasitic treatments (against fleas, worms and ticks).

Vaccination

Vaccinating your dog or cat will reduce the chance of them catching a number of serious and occasionally fatal infectious diseases. Larkmead recommends that your pet receives a routine yearly health check and booster to help protect against the most common and the most serious diseases. Many unpleasant illnesses can be prevented by regular vaccination, however no vaccine guarantees complete protection. In the unlikely event that a vaccinated pet does contract an infection, the symptoms and the duration of the disease will be significantly reduced.

As in humans, vaccinations are very safe and side effects are rare.  The most common side effect from vaccination is your pet being tired and quiet afterwards but this should last no more than 24 hours.

Why yearly boosters?

Unlike some human vaccinations, animal vaccinations are only able to convey a short period of immunity before requiring re-stimulation of the patient’s immune system. The duration of the immunity depends on the type of vaccination and the disease being vaccinated against but is generally between 1 and 3 years. For both cats and dogs there are components that need annual boosting and those that don’t, so each year your pet’s vaccinations will be slightly different depending on their individual requirements.

Older pets still need to be vaccinated regularly.  As your pet ages its immune system (the system that protects your body against diseases) becomes less effective.  Older pets may actually be more susceptible to the diseases that we vaccinate against, making vaccinations for your older pet just as important as for puppies and kittens, which are completely naïve to these diseases.  In addition, we recommend that older pets have a health check at least every 6 months.  The annual vaccination visit will always include a full health check so is counted as one of their 6 monthly visits.

Whatever their age, a yearly health check and preventative healthcare helps keep your pet in top condition and hopefully prevents small niggling health issues from getting out of hand or going unnoticed.

Routine Dog Vaccinations

Your dog’s yearly booster provides protection against: Distemper virus, Infectious hepatitis (Adenovirus), Parvovirus, Para influenza virus, and Leptospirosis.

Puppies need two injections to gain full immunity. These can be started from 8 weeks of age, with the second injection given 2-4 weeks later, followed by a yearly booster for Leptospirosis, Para influenza +/- Kennel cough, and every 3 years a top-up with Parvovirus, Distemper and Infectious Hepatitis.

We recommend that you include Kennel Cough in their vaccination regime as it is becoming increasingly prevalent outside a kennel environment. Whilst it does not always cause serious disease, it can cause respiratory signs for up to 6 weeks.

In areas of the country where the uptake of vaccination is not widespread we do see these diseases more commonly. Parvovirus, Leptospirosis and distemper can all cause severe disease and even be fatal.

Routine Cat Vaccinations

Your cat’s routine yearly vaccination provides protection against: Feline viral rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus), Calici virus, Feline Panleucopenia virus, and Feline Leukaemia virus.  Kittens need two injections to gain full immunity. These can be started from 8 weeks of age; the second is given 3-4 weeks later (the 2nd vaccination must be given at 12 weeks of age). After this, adult cats will have the cat flu (Herpes and Calici virus) and leukaemia components every year and the enteritis (panleukopenia) fraction every 3 years.   

We commonly see cat flu and feline leukaemia virus in unvaccinated cats.  Cat flu causes respiratory symptoms which in severe cases may be fatal.  In cats that survive, a good proportion of cats develop a chronic condition where they can suffer with ulcers in the nasal passages and mouth for the rest of their life. Feline Leukaemia virus is a virus which predisposes a cat to develop cancers and is commonly seen in the stray cat population and for which there is no effective treatment. Feline Leukaemia virus is the 2nd most common cause of death in cats under 4 years old after car accidents.

What if my pet has missed its booster vaccination?

If your cat or dog has missed its booster vaccination, it may need to start the vaccination course again from the start. Larkmead is currently running a special "vaccine amnesty" promotion. If your pet hasn't been vaccinated in the last 18 months or more, we are offering a two-vaccination restart package, plus a health check, for the price of just a single booster. This offer is for a limited time only. To book, call your local branch on 01235 814991 (Didcot) or 01491 651379 (Cholsey).

Parasite treatment

Larkmead recommends regularly treating your pet (how often depends on the product, usually monthly or 3 monthly) against fleas, ticks and worms, to prevent your animal from getting an infestation in the first place and to protect them from the diseases that these parasites can cause and spread.

It is important, especially in homes with young children, to keep up-to-date with routine anti-parasitic treatments; animal fleas can bite humans and some forms of worm are transmissible to humans from our pets.black and white cat in tree

Cats and dogs are exposed to fleas everyday, whether we see them or not, we bring them into homes on our clothes and shoes and they live on wild animals in our parks and gardens. Once an infestation establishes itself, it can be very difficult to get rid of, with the flea burden on the pet being only the tip of the iceberg and the majority of the other life stages of the flea living in the environment. Unfortunately for some of our pets they can be hypersensitive to fleas and one bite is enough to cause them to have intensely itchy skin reactions. It is especially important to keep up to date with flea treatment in these animals.

Many of our pets love to hunt and scavenge, through these behaviours they will likely pick up fleas, ticks and various types of worm. Fleas can transmit tapeworms and much of the wildlife that our pets hunt will have their own worm burden.

Different parasites affect different body systems, therefore parasitic diseases can be responsible for a range of clinical signs from diarrhoea and vomiting, to coughing and breathing difficulties, to clotting or bleeding abnormalities.

Worm treatment is important in puppies as they are very susceptible at such a young age but also because they can be born with worms passed on from the mother, if appropriate worm treatment has not been administered during the pregnancy. We recommend that puppies are treated for worms once monthly until they are 6 months old.

Two examples of diseases that have received recent media coverage that can be prevented by a good parasite treatment regime are Babesiosis (a parasitic disease that is spread by ticks) and lungworm (spread when dogs eat slugs and snails). We are seeing both these diseases in increasing numbers in the UK, although currently this is quite regional.

As well as giving a preventative treatment to cover ticks, it is a good idea to keep a tick remover handy at home to remove any ticks that you notice on your pet. We would not recommend squeezing, suffocating, burning or pulling at ticks without a tick remover as this can cause them to regurgitate into the blood, making them more likely to pass on any diseases they carry. If you are worried about removing ticks from your pet, please contact the practice and we can help you.

If the choice of treatments seems overwhelming, please consult your vet or a member of Larkmead staff for advice about the best option for you and your pet.