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Why you must vaccinate your dog

A recent report by the PDSA (the UK’s leading veterinary charity) has shown a massive reduction in the number of pet parents who are vaccinating their cats and dogs. This is a worrying trend, as vaccinations protect your furry friend from some really nasty diseases which they are vulnerable to catching if they don’t have their jabs.

This week, I want to talk to you about exactly why your vet will encourage you to vaccinate your dog (and trust me, it is NOT about your vet practice wanting to make money). Here it is – the low down on doggy diseases (tune in next week for cats).

1) Parvovirus

This really is the big daddy of canine diseases. It has no cure, is highly infectious, and there is a 90% risk of fatality if untreated.

Parvovirus initially infects the lining of the gut and is then spread by infected poo. It’s particularly dangerous because it can live on shoes, clothing and floor boards for many months. This disease is not uncommon and can cause large local outbreaks in the unvaccinated population.

What are the signs?

Vomiting, lethargy and a large amount of foul-smelling and bloody diarrhea.

What can you do?

Prevention is the only “cure” in this case: vaccinate your pup.

The only thing your vet can do if your dog has this illness is to provide treatment for the symptoms, such as intravenous fluids to counteract the dehydration, and some medicines to stop your pet feeling so sick and miserable.


Believe me – once is enough to see a dog suffering from Parvo. Once you have witnessed how unpleasant it is and the long-term impact it has on a dog’s health, you wish for no other animal to go through it. Unvaccinated puppies are exceptionally prone and can degrade exceptionally quickly even with fluids and medicines.

2) Canine Distemper

Historically, Canine Distemper has been nearly eradicated in the UK due to a previously strong vaccination program, but is still found on the continent.

It is a highly infectious viral disease that attacks a dog’s lymph nodes before attacking the respiratory, urinary, digestive and nervous systems. It is easily passed from dog to dog through saliva, blood or urine.
One again there is no cure with as many as 50% of dog’s infected dying, despite corrective support treatment being given.

What are the signs?

- Lethargy, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea and seizures.

What can you do?

- Vaccinate your pup. There is no cure, only symptomatic treatment.

3) Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a nasty bacterial infection which attacks the nervous system and organs. It is spread by the pee of dogs and rats, as well as contaminated water, meaning dogs are at risk if they swim or drink from stagnant water in ponds or canals (particularly after periods of flooding).

What are the signs?

- Fever, muscle tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, jaundice (liver failure), breathing issues.

What can you do?

- You’ve probably noticed a pattern occurring here, but once again, unfortunately, the answer is nothing, except vaccinate your pet to prevent them from catching it in the first place. Leptospirosis can still be fatal in severe cases even if your dog is given antibiotics and fluids.

It can also affect you! It’s called Weil’s disease in humans.

4) Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH)

ICH is a highly infectious viral disease which is spread via bodily fluids including pee, saliva, blood, and poo. It can survive a year in the environment, waiting to spread.

In dogs, ICH targets the kidneys, eyes, and lining of the blood vessels.

What are the signs?

- They can be mild to severe and can include fever, lethargy, vomiting, coughing, diarrhea and tummy pain.
- If very severe, the disease pretty much jumps these initial steps and goes straight to the liver to cause damage can lead to seizures and coma.

What can you do?

- You guessed it – vaccinate your dog. With a mild to moderate case, your dog may make it but in many severe cases he may not.

Vaccinations provide safe, effective immunity to your pet, so make sure your dog is protected.

Andrew Bucher
Veterinarian and Co-founder of MedicAnimal