In human health, vaccination has become such a routine word that we forget how powerful it can be.
Measles vaccination in children has been so successful that most doctors qualified within the last 10-15 years have never seen a case and in 1980 amidst great fanfare, it was announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the World. Polio has almost been wiped out.
The same is true in the animal world where the routine vaccination of our pets has led to such a huge drop in some preventable diseases that most vets qualified within the last 10 years have rarely seen a case of parvovirus and never seen a case of distemper.
And that is a problem!
When diseases fall to low levels – due to successful vaccination programmes, it is very easy to forget the threat of those illnesses, and the misery they can cause.
Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting pets from infectious diseases such as Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parainfluenza & Leptospirosis, Cat Flu, Feline Infectious Enteritis, Feline Leukaemia Virus and Chlamydophila and Myxomatosis in rabbits.
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to mount a protective response against these diseases. The immune system then remembers these diseases, enabling it to defend the body against any natural exposure to that disease in future.
Every vaccine lasts for different lengths of time, depending on the disease it is protecting against. Most animals require regular boosters to “remind” the immune system and enhance the level of protection.
Don’t forget that if you are taking your pet abroad the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) means that, before travelling, your pet needs to be vaccinated against rabies and remember that there may be other diseases which are not found in the UK.
Of course, vaccines are not without their risks: like any medicine, there is always a chance of reactions or side effects. These are very rare, and in general the benefits of vaccination vastly outweigh the risks.