Vets advise all owners to get their pets vaccinated as a matter of course, yet around a fifth of dogs, over a quarter of cats and more than half of all rabbits have never received a primary course of vaccinations*, putting them at risk of life threatening illnesses.
“Vaccination is a vital part of responsible pet ownership,” says PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Sean Wensley. “Every year vets treat pets suffering from illnesses that vaccinations could have prevented. It is heart-breaking for the owners, who in many cases simply didn’t appreciate the dangers facing their unvaccinated pets.”
Diseases such as canine distemper, canine parvovirus, feline leukemia, cat flu, myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease, can all be prevented, or the risks significantly reduced, by getting pets vaccinated. These preventable diseases can cause terrible suffering for pets and sadly, in many cases, prove to be fatal.
Dogs can often have their first vaccinations from as early as six weeks of age, followed by a second set of injections a few weeks later, but ask your vet for advice regarding your own pet. Cats usually begin their vaccination course at 9 weeks of age, but, again, check with your vet. The sooner young pets are vaccinated, the sooner they can meet other animals outside their home, which is an important aspect of socialisation to ensure normal behavioural development.
Rabbits are the UK’s third most popular pet, but they also come a firm third when it comes to preventive care and many owners simply don’t realise that rabbits should be vaccinated. Vaccinations can be given from around five weeks of age, and protect against two potentially fatal diseases: myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD).
Regular booster vaccinations are also necessary for all pets, as the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. Your vet will be able to advise you about this, especially if you have an older pet that has not been vaccinated for several years and needs to start the course again.
This year, PDSA is again supporting Rabbit Awareness Week (15-22 September) and is encouraging all rabbit owners to find their nearest participating veterinary practice and take their rabbits along for a free health check. Participating practices can be found at www.rabbitawarenessweek.co.uk, where there is also lots of useful information about rabbit health and wellbeing.