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Vaccines - Why Are They Important?

Just like us, our pets need vaccinations against viral and bacterial diseases. This article offers up all you need to know about vaccinating your pet.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Pet?

Vaccines offer preventative protection from harmful contagious diseases. Vaccines contain antigens that are weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism. When injected, these antigens trigger an immune response within the body similar to when exposed to the disease. By stimulating this through vaccines, it enables your pet to produce antibodies to the disease which helps them develop immunity if ever exposed in the future.

Not only do vaccinations protect your pet from lethal diseases, but they can also protect your family, other pets, and even wildlife from transmissible diseases such as rabies or leptospirosis.

When planning holidays, vaccinations are also often necessary. The majority of reputable boarding kennels and catteries require proof of vaccinations. Not only this but if you plan to take your pet abroad, they will likely need to be fully vaccinated.

To learn more about travelling abroad with your pet, click here.

What Do Vaccinations Protect My Pet From?

Scientific evidence has shown a correlation between the decline of common illnesses and vaccination rates rising.

So what illnesses do vaccinations protect your pet from?


Core Dog Vaccines:

  • Parvovirus: Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and fatal disease that attacks cells in a dog’s intestines and stops them from being able to absorb vital nutrients. Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk of parvovirus.

  • Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis (also known as Weil’s Disease in humans) is a bacterial disease that damages vital organs including the liver and kidneys.

  • Distemper: Canine distemper is highly lethal and contagious. Closely related to measles, distemper attacks multiple body systems, resulting in an infection that is often untreatable.

  • Infectious Hepatitis: Hepatitis spreads in bodily fluids and can attack the liver, bloody vessels, eyes, and kidneys. Symptoms can vary from fever to dehydration and sometimes even death.

As well as the ‘core’ vaccinations, there are additional vaccinations your dog may have.

  • Kennel cough: It’s a common misconception that kennel cough is only a necessary requirement if your furry friend spends time in kennels; it can be picked up on a park walk or when socialising with other dogs. We do see a lot of dogs affected by kennel cough regularly so we would always recommend that your dog is vaccinated.

  • Rabies: Most dogs in the UK shouldn’t require a rabies vaccine, however, if you plan on travelling outside of the UK, it is a legal requirement for your dog to be fully vaccinated.


Similar to dogs, cats also require ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vaccinations. Vaccinations should be given to both inside and outside cats.

Core Cat Vaccines:

  • Cat Flu (Feline Herpesvirus and Calicivirus): Cat flu can cause respiratory issues such as coughing, sneezing, and runny eyes. Cat flu accounts for around 90% of upper respiratory infections in cats.

  • Feline parvovirus: Similarly to canine parvovirus, feline parvovirus is also highly contagious and often lethal. Parvovirus infection has a high mortality rate, particularly in unvaccinated kittens.

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus: FeLV belongs to the retrovirus family, a group known as ‘oncornaviruses’. Oncornaviruses have the ability to cause cancer in felines.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Rabies: Similarly to dogs, cats also need protection from rabies if they are travelling outside of the UK.


We recommend all rabbits (both indoor and outdoor) are vaccinated against -

  • Myxomatosis: this man-made virus is a highly contagious disease in rabbits that causes swelling of the eyes, discharge from the eyes and nose, blindness and that is usually fatal.

  • Viral Haemorrhagic Disease Strain 1 (RHD1) & Viral Haemorrhagic Disease Strain 2 (RHD2): RHD tends to develop so suddenly that infected rabbits die before the owner notices any symptoms and any sudden death should consider this virus. There are cases within London and the surrounding areas so vaccinating against this is a must.

As both these diseases are spread by biting insects such as mosquitos and fleas, and RHD can survive in the environment for 3 months then be carried into your home on the soles of your shoes, we strongly advise all rabbit owners to have their rabbit vaccinated. Any reputable holiday boarding establishment will also require your rabbit to be vaccinated.

How Often Does My Pet Need Vaccinating?

Protection from vaccinations decline over time and therefore it is necessary to ensure your pet has booster vaccinations periodically to make sure the immune system produces enough protective antibodies.

Puppies, kittens, and unvaccinated adult cats and dogs should also be given a primary vaccination course before their boosters. Primary vaccination courses for cats and dogs are often 2-3 vaccinations, 3 weeks apart. After this, a booster vaccination should be given annually. If your pet misses a booster, they may need to complete the initial primary course again. At Roundwood, we can advise you what vaccines your pet may need.

Side Effects of Vaccines

Similarly to human vaccinations, pet vaccinations can also cause side effects. Symptoms are often mild and not serious. Mild symptoms should pass within two days.

Mild side effects include:

  • Tenderness or swelling around the injection site

  • Low energy

  • A reduced appetite or activity

  • A mild fever

Aforementioned, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare, however, if you are concerned about your pet after their vaccinations, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serious side effects include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

  • Swelling around the face, neck or eyes

  • Coughing

What Happens If I Don’t Vaccinate My Pet?

Despite the strong evidence surrounding vaccinations, recent research demonstrated that the ‘anti-vax’ movement has led to a spike in people refusing to vaccinate their pets. A 2018 survey carried out by Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that out of 4,600 pet owners, 25% of dogs had not had their necessary vaccinations when they were younger.

The danger of the ‘anti-vax’ movement means that we could see an increase in rare diseases making a return. Research by the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) found a steady increase in cases of Distemper and Parvovirus in the UK since 2014. Sadly both these diseases can be fatal to unvaccinated pets or result in long-term problems as a result of infection.

Whilst vaccinations are a personal preference, we strongly advise getting your pet vaccinated to help keep both them and you safe.

To talk to a member of our team about vaccinations, give us a call on: 020 8459 4729.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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