Dr Matthew Almond
BVSc MACVSc (Small Animal Medicine)
Consultations by Appointment
02 6262 2233
9 Carstairs Circuit Amaroo ACT 2914
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-6:30pm Sat 8:30am-1pm

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Vaccinations

Small friends are delightful companions and as owners we want to keep them happy and healthy. Unfortunately, there are some contagious diseases that can affect your cat or dog. Often there are no effective cures for these diseases and young animals will be permanently affected or may even die from them. Luckily, for many of these illnesses we can provide protection in the form of a vaccination.

Regular vaccinations and check-ups at the vet are a great way to ensure your special small friend remains fit and healthy. At Small Friends Veterinary Hospital, our vet, in conjunction with you, will tailor vaccination schedules to your small friend's specific needs - this is determined by many factors including their environment and lifestyle.

How do vaccines work?
Vaccines are given as an injection under the skin, introducing a small amount of a specific virus or bacteria into the body. These viruses and bacteria have been altered or killed so that they stimulate immunity but do not cause the disease. The immune system forms antibodies in response, which will attack the virus if re-exposed in the future.

When do I start vaccinating my small friend?
Pups and kittens are protected from birth by their mother’s antibodies, which they receive in mother’s milk. From around six weeks of age, the protection provided from the mother starts to decline. Therefore, from this age, pups and kittens need to begin a vaccination course to remain protected. Your small friend's age, lifestyle and health status will determine their specific vaccine requirements. We will tailor a vaccination program specifically for your small friend. Until they have completed their vaccination course, your small friend should not mix with other kittens and puppies unless you are certain their playmates are fully vaccinated and healthy.

Rabbits are usually protected by their mother's antibodies until approximately 10 – 12 weeks of age. From 10 - 12 weeks of age it is necessary to administer their first vaccination and then continue with annual boosters for life. If you adopt your rabbit before 10 weeks of age we advise vaccinating your rabbit immediately. Due to the early age they have left their mother, they may require two vaccinations.

What vaccination does my cat need to have?
The first thing to consider is whether your cat lives completely indoors, or spends time (however minimal) outdoors as well. This will determine the type of vaccinations required according to your small friend's potential disease exposure.
100% Indoor cats should be vaccinated against:

  • Feline Infectious Enteritis (Panleucopaenia) – a viral disease that causes varying symptoms from mild fever, lethargy, vomiting, profuse diarrhoea, severe dehydration to possible death. Feline Infectious Enteritis can live in the environment for many months and can be carried on shoes, clothing, litter trays and food bowls. For small friends that contract this disease the prognosis is very poor as it is very difficult to treat. 
  • Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease (also called “Cat Flu”) – a viral disease caused by Feline Herpes Virus (Rhinotracheitis) and/or Feline Calicivirus, that is spread by direct contact and sneezing. Common symptoms include tiredness, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, fever, conjunctivitis and occasionally coughing. Cats commonly develop painful ulcers on their tongue and lose their sense of smell, making eating problematic. Death may occur in very young or old cats, or in those with weakened immune systems. Affected cats that recover from infection often become lifelong carriers of the disease, and are susceptible to recurrent infections.
     

Cats that spend time outdoors or that may mix with other cats should be protected as above, and in addition it is recommended they be vaccinated against:

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) – a viral disease that causes suppression of the immune system leaving the cat susceptible to a variety of other diseases. The virus may also cause cancer in cats. Infection is often fatal as the small friend is unable to fight the disease effectively. This virus is spread through direct contact or fighting with affected cats or contact with infected saliva, urine or faeces.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – a viral disease that causes lifelong infection in cats, which suppresses the immune system and may result in Feline AIDS. FIV interferes with the immune system and causes many symptoms such as weight loss, sores in the mouth, loss of appetite and chronic infections. Infection with the virus may result in death in affected cats. There is no cure for FIV.
     

I am aware of other vaccines that are available for cats. Should my cat be vaccinated with all available vaccines?
Small Friends Veterinary Hospital recommends vaccination only against diseases which are prevalent in our geographical area; which can cause severe or life-threatening illness; and/or where vaccination has been proven to provide effective protection against a specific disease. We do not, however recommend vaccination against diseases where the vaccine itself causes severe illness; where geography or lifestyle makes infection unlikely; or when a vaccine provides no benefit to an individual animal.

Vaccinating against only necessary antigens is considered to be best practice. Increasing the number of vaccine components increases the likelihood of adverse events occurring, thus veterinary medicine (like human medicine) is moving towards vaccinating with fewer antigens less frequently.

Each patient at Small Friends Veterinary Hospital will have a vaccination schedule individually tailored to meet their specific needs relating to their age, lifestyle and disease risk.

Small Friends Veterinary Hospital does not recommend vaccination against the following diseases:

  • Chlamydia - Infection with the Chlamydia bacterium causes varying symptoms in cats ranging from conjunctivitis to bronchitis. It has been found that this vaccine can actually cause the disease to develop in a percentage of cats. Furthermore, vaccination against Chlamydia does not prevent infection; rather it merely reduces the severity of infection. Typically, there is an excellent response to treatment with antibiotics, with affected individuals making a full recovery.
     

We encourage you to discuss your small friend's vaccination requirements with Dr Matt at the time of your annual health check, where they will be tailored to the specific needs of your small friend.

What vaccination does my dog need to have?
It is recommended all dogs be immunised against:

  • Distemper – a viral disease that attacks the respiratory, nervous and gastrointestinal systems and can cause varying symptoms including nasal discharge, coughing, vomiting, tiredness, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, seizures, brain damage and even death. There is no effective treatment, making vaccination the best form of protection.
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis – a highly contagious disease that mainly attacks the liver but can also affect the kidneys, eyes and other organs. Early signs of the disease include loss of appetite and high fever, progressing to vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, jaundice and liver failure. It is very contagious and is spread in bodily fluids from an infected dog. There is no effective treatment. It is particularly severe in young dogs and often fatal in puppies.
  • Parvovirus – a highly contagious virus that attacks the intestinal tract of dogs, causing vomiting, profuse bloody diarrhoea, dehydration and death. The virus can survive for long periods in the environment. Parvovirus is still relatively common in Australia. The main source of infection is through faeces from infected dogs, however it can also be spread on shoes and clothing, or on dogs feet or hair. Treatment can be expensive and unsuccessful resulting in death. Vaccination is effective.
  • Infectious Bronchitis (also called "Kennel Cough") - a contagious upper respiratory disease, which similar to the human cold is passed easily from dog to dog by coughing and sneezing. It is particularly common where dogs are in close contact with other dogs. This may be in parks, boarding kennels, groomers, dog shows or even through the back yard fence. Affected dogs usually have a distressing and dry hacking cough, retch after coughing and may become tired and lose their appetite. Treatment is usually successful, but recovery may take many weeks and dogs may continue to spread infection for up to three months. Vaccination is possible against the two most common components of this disease, Parainfluenza Virus and Bordetella.
     

I am aware of other vaccines that are available for dogs. Should my dog be vaccinated with all available vaccines?
Small Friends Veterinary Hospital recommends vaccination only against diseases which are prevalent in our geographical area; which can cause severe or life-threatening illness; and/or where vaccination has been proven to provide effective protection against a specific disease. We do not, however recommend vaccination against diseases where the vaccine itself causes severe illness; where geography or lifestyle makes infection unlikely; or when a vaccine provides no benefit to an individual animal.

Vaccinating against only necessary antigens is considered to be best practice. Increasing the number of vaccine components increases the likelihood of adverse events occurring, thus veterinary medicine (like human medicine) is moving towards vaccinating with fewer antigens less frequently.

Each patient at Small Friends Veterinary Hospital will have a vaccination schedule individually tailored to meet their specific needs relating to their age, lifestyle and disease risk.

Small Friends Veterinary Hospital does not recommend vaccination against the following diseases:

  • Coronavirus - Vaccination against coronavirus (CCV) is not recommended by Small Friends Veterinary Hospital. Illness caused by CCV rarely occurs and when seen is typically mild, self-limiting, and easy to treat. Those most likely to show signs of disease caused by CCV are young puppies (4 – 5 weeks of age) however these animals are too young to complete the necessary course of vaccines for complete immunity, before reaching this susceptible age making vaccination unhelpful. Currently vaccination against CCV is categorised as "not recommended" by independent authorities such as the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).
  • Leptospirosis - Vaccination against Leptospirosis is not recommended by Small Friends Veterinary Hospital for dogs living in the ACT. Leptospirosis is only likely to cause disease where conditions are favourable for transmission of the organism. In Australia this is in moist, tropical areas where rats are presents, e.g. cane field and banana plantations. The WSAVA currently recommends that vaccination against Leptospirosis be "restricted to use in geographical areas where a significant risk of exposure has been established or for dogs whose lifestyle places them at risk".
     

We encourage you to discuss your small friend's vaccination requirements with Dr Matt at the time of your annual health check, where they will be tailored to the specific needs of your small friend.

What about heartworm?
Heartworm causes a debilitating disease in dogs and therefore all dogs should be protected against it. Worming requirements against heartworm need to be tailored to your dog's age and heartworm status. Therefore it is best to discuss this with Dr Matt at your next visit to Small Friends Veterinary Hospital.

What vaccination does my rabbit need to have?
It is recommended all rabbits be vaccinated against:

  • Rabbit Calicivirus (also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus) – a highly contagious and fatal virus. Rabbit calicivirus causes liver failure and blood clotting abnormalities. Death occurs due to blood loss and organ failure associated with this blood loss. Rabbit calicivirus progresses very quickly and death can occur within 2 days of infection, sometimes without any discernable symptoms. Rabbit calicivirus is spread via bodily secretions, therefore transmission of disease can occur from direct contact with another infected rabbit, or contact with contaminated objects including hutches, cages, food, water and bedding. Mosquitoes also spread the virus, thereby making transmission possible between wild and domestic rabbits. There is no effective treatment for rabbit calicivirus.
     

I am aware that rabbits are at risk of contracting myxomatosis. Can my rabbit be vaccinated against myxomatosis?
Myxomatosis was deliberately introduced into Australia in 1950 to control wild rabbit numbers. A vaccine for pet rabbits against myxomatosis does exist, however it is illegal in Australia due to fears that the wild rabbit population could contract the live virus used in the vaccines and also develop immunity. Mosquitoes can spread myxomatosis, therefore it is recommended your rabbit's hutch be mosquito-proof and keep your rabbit in its hutch from dusk to dawn, the time when mosquitoes are most active.

Why have regular vaccinations?
The protection provided by vaccines wears off in time, and at different rates for each different vaccine. To protect your small friend, we need to ensure your small friend's antibody levels remain high by giving booster vaccinations. These vaccinations can be given during your annual health check. This is also a great opportunity to discuss with Dr Matt any questions you may have related to your small friend's health, behaviour and nutrition.

My small friend hasn't been vaccinated in a while – what should I do?
If your small friend has missed a booster vaccination you may need to restart their course of injections. Up-to-date vaccinations not only protect your small friend against disease, they are also a pre-requisite for boarding at kennels and catteries. Please contact Small Friends Veterinary Hospital on 6262 2233 to discuss your small friend's specific vaccination requirements.

Are vaccinations harmful?
Generally, vaccinations are not at all harmful, but like all injections there is a very small chance your small friend may have a reaction to the injection. For this reason vaccinations are always performed by a vet in a veterinary hospital. Like injections in humans there is a small sting that is only momentary. Whilst side effects are very rare, it is not uncommon for small friends to be quiet or off their food for a day or so after vaccinations. There may also be a minor swelling at the site of injection. If these symptoms do not subside within 48 hours, please contact Small Friends Veterinary Hospital for advice.

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