Vaccinating your canine companion against infectious diseases should be top of your pet priority list – here’s what you should know.

When should I vaccinate my dog?

Puppies need to be vaccinated against harmful diseases at six to nine weeks old; they will need a second set of vaccinations two to four weeks later. You puppy will then be protected against:

• Parvovirus
• Distemper
• Leptospirosis
• Canine hepatitis

Your dog will need boosters every 12 months after that to keep them infection free (or every three years, depending on the vaccine).

Not all dogs will need boosters – it often depends on the general health of your dog and how prevalent certain diseases are where you live.

How do vaccines work?

All vaccines work on the principle of injecting harmless viruses into the body in order to develop antibodies, which then fight off specific diseases. Just as with humans, vaccines are given to dogs to prevent potentially fatal illnesses, as well as to stop them spreading.

What vaccinations does my dog need?

There are four main diseases that dogs in the UK are vaccinated against, they are:

Canine parvovirus - This is passed on through infected dog poo; symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea containing lots of blood, as well as severe dehydration. Sadly, there’s no specific treatment for this, and puppies that contract this disease are particularly vulnerable.

Canine distemper -  This usually spreads through direct or close contact with an infected dog via bodily fluid – such as saliva from a bite. Symptoms vary but can include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and coughing. It can be fatal, but even if a dog survives there can be long-term neurological and mobility problems, such as seizures, or difficulty in walking.

Leptospirosis - Severe cases of this cause liver and kidney failure, and can be fatal in both dogs and humans. It’s contracted through infected urine or contaminated water (usually stagnant). It’s more common in areas with a high concentration of rats.

Infectious canine hepatitis - There are two strains of this virus: one results in a cough and the other causes hepatitis. Symptoms include tiredness, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. While it can be fatal in some dogs, the majority do recover.

Will vaccines hurt my dog?

All vaccines are rigorously tested before they’re allowed to be used but, as with any medication, there may be some side effects. There’s no specific aftercare if your dog is fit and healthy but look out for mild fever, loss of appetite, coughing or sneezing; your dog may also have some swelling at the injection site.

Most side effects will pass within a day or two but if they continue, or you’re concerned, then always speak to your vet.

Does pet insurance cover the cost of vaccines?

Pet insurance doesn’t usually cover routine care such as vaccinations, neutering or microchipping. The cost of vaccines will vary from vet to vet so if you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth comparing.

If you’re on a low income or receiving certain benefits, you may be eligible to low-cost vet care from some animal charities that could help with the cost of vaccinations. For example, the PDSA supports sick or injured animals if their owners are on means-tested benefits – check here to see if you’re eligible for their services.

Alternatively, the RSPCA also offers help to some pet owners. Depending on where you live, you might be able to take your dog along to one of its hospitals or mobile clinics. Check here to see if the charity offers help in your area.

Making sure you have appropriate cover for your dog will, however, give you peace of mind. Start a quote with us today and we’ll help you find pet insurance that suits your needs at a price you’re happy with.

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