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Dogs: core vaccination
Vaccination protects your dog by conferring protective immunity against four major life threatening infectious diseases – Distemper (D), Infectious Canine Hepatitis (H) and Parvovirus (P) (viral diseases which can be contracted from contact with other dogs including their faeces) and Leptospirosis (L) (a bacterial disease which can be contracted from infected urine or dirty water, especially flood water or where rats are present).
We use a vaccine protocol to give the most comprehensive protection available against these life threatening diseases and would always urge you to follow the timings below to ensure the earliest onset of protection.
- 1st vaccination (DHP+L) from 6 weeks of age
- 2nd vaccination (DHP) 2 to 4 weeks later but not before 10 weeks of age
- 3rd vaccination (L) 4 weeks after the 1st vaccination
When vaccinating adult dogs just 2 injections are required 4 weeks apart (DHP+L, then L). Late 2nd or 3rd vaccination will require restarting the primary course in part or full to ensure adequate immunity.
The timing of the 2nd and 3rd vaccinations is very important as it is these vaccinations which give the strongest protective immunity for your puppies. It is possible to combine the 2nd and 3rd vaccinations at 4 weeks after the 1st and this may be more practical for some people, however we would always encourage the DHP component to be given at 10 weeks of age to allow for the earliest socialisation with other dogs 1 week later. Early socialisation is a very important part of your puppy’s development and until then it is important that they are only socialised with other dogs that are known to be fully vaccinated. The L component takes a bit longer and will not provide protection until 4 weeks after the 3rd injection. It is therefore wise to avoid swimming or drinking from puddles until this time.
Booster vaccinations are required annually to maintain protective immunity and at Mackie and Brechin this includes a full health check examination by a vet (of eyes, ears, teeth, skin and coat, heart and lungs, abdomen, limbs and mobility), a microchip check, weight check and advice on any health concerns you may have for your dog. Booster vaccinations are included in our healthcare plans.
We only boost the components of the vaccine that are necessary at the required interval, based on the latest clinical trials for vaccine effectiveness and manufacturers guidelines. We have a policy of not over vaccinating. The first annual booster is always a full DHP and L vaccine, thereafter the L component is boosted annually as the immunity does not last for longer than a year and the DHP viral components are boosted every 3 years.
Dogs: Kennel Cough vaccination
Kennel cough is a highly contagious mixed bacterial and viral infection of the upper airways of dogs. Infection most commonly occurs whilst in kennels but can occur from exposure to infected dogs anywhere including whilst at exercise in parks, dog day care, puppy socialisation classes, dog shows etc. Kennel cough is rarely life threatening and often self-cures in a few weeks, although complications such as pneumonia or chronic lower airway disease can occur and the unpleasant and persistent coughing and retching can be very distressing for your dog. Protection can be provided from 10 weeks of age as an additional vaccine, giving 1 year of protection. This vaccine is administered by nasal drops and is included in our healthcare plan.
Vaccination protects your cat by conferring immunity against three major viral infectious diseases – Cat Flu (RC), Feline Enteritis (P) and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) which can be contracted from contact with other cats or their faeces.
It is important that your kitten is not exposed to these diseases prior to vaccination and we would always urge you to follow the timings below to minimise this risk and ensure your kitten is protected from as young an age as possible. We always include Feline Leukaemia in our vaccination protocol. Some practices only include Cat Flu and Enteritis in their standard vaccinations, with Feline Leukaemia as an optional extra.
- 1st vaccination – from 9 weeks of age.
- 2nd vaccination – 3 to 4 weeks later, but no more than 4 weeks after the 1st vaccine (late 2nd vaccination will require restarting the primary course to ensure adequate immunity).
The timing of the 2nd vaccine is very important as it is this vaccine which gives the strongest protective immunity. It is important that your kitten is confined to the house, and other cats in the household have reduced exposure to cats outside the home until 1 week after the 2nd vaccine has been given. This is to minimize exposure to infectious diseases until the immune system has had time to respond to the vaccine and provide protection.
Booster vaccination is required annually to maintain protective immunity and at Mackie and Brechin this includes a full health check examination by a vet (of eyes, ears, teeth, skin and coat, heart and lungs, abdomen, limbs and mobility), a microchip check, weight check and advice on any health concerns you may have for your cat. Booster vaccinations are included in our healthcare plans. We only boost the components of the vaccine that are necessary at the required interval, based on the latest clinical trials for vaccine effectiveness and manufacturers guidelines. We have a policy of not over vaccinating.
Vaccination protects your rabbit by conferring immunity against two major life-threatening viral diseases – Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (of which there are two strains: VHD-1 and VHD-2). Myxomatosis can be spread either by direct contact with an infected rabbit or from bites by insects that have fed on an infected rabbit. VHD can be spread either by direct contact or can be carried in the environment on, for instance, clothing, footwear, food or bedding. For these reasons both of these diseases can be spread to rabbits even when they are kept inside and we would always recommend vaccination.
- Myxomatosis & VHD-1 vaccination: a single injection every 12 months. This can be given from 5 weeks of age and provides protection after 3 weeks.
- VHD-2 vaccination: a single injection every 6 months. This can be given from 10 weeks of age and provides protection after 7 days. The VHD-2 vaccination can not be given at the same time as the Myxomatosis vaccine and would normally be given 2 weeks later.
We are aware that VHD-2 is present in our area and so recommend the use of VHD-2 vaccine at the 6 month interval as advised by the manufacturer.
Worming, Flea & Tick Prevention
Roundworms are internal parasites which due to your pet’s outdoor behaviours (sniffing, licking, eating or carrying things) can readily infect them and sometimes cause serious illness. As encysted stages of roundworms can not be eliminated by even the most effective treatments, all puppies and kittens are infected from birth, transmission occurring either in the womb (puppies) or via the milk (puppies and kittens). Worms can also infect people and in particular the young, old and immunocompromised. Aberrant migration of dog and cat roundworms (Toxocara species) in people can cause organ damage and are known to cause blindness in children. Because of this it is the responsibility of all dog and cat owners to worm their pet regularly and for dog owners to pick up their pet’s faeces and dispose of it appropriately. Roundworms can sometimes be seen in the faeces but often go un-noticed and the microscopic and very sticky eggs make transmission from other animals or the environment easy and invisible.
Tapeworms are less pathogenic but are unsightly and unpleasant. Segments can appear like moving grains of rice in your pet’s coat, particularly around the anus from where they emerge. Tapeworms can be picked up through hunting or scavenging but can also be spread by flea bites so even indoor cats can become infected and a comprehensive flea and worming strategy is always recommended. Hookworms (dogs and rarely cats), whipworms (dogs) and fox lungworms (dogs) are less common but can still cause significant disease. Heartworms (dogs and cats) are spread by mosquitos and are fortunately not present in the UK but should be taken into account if travelling abroad with your pet.
Lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum) are a serious and potentially life-threatening parasite of dogs which have recently been increasing in prevalence across the UK. Lungworms are harboured in the fox population and are transmitted via slugs, snails and frogs. The responsible slugs and snails can vary in size from obvious garden visitors to much smaller varieties that are hidden in the grass or undergrowth. It is even possible that transmission can occur through the slime trail that they leave and so most dogs will have exposure at some point. Symptoms of disease can vary widely from coughing and tiring easily to excessive bleeding, seizures and potentially death.
Treatment and prevention
Fortunately all of these worms, including lungworm, are easy to treat and prevent following advice from one of our vets or nurses. In general, puppies and kittens should be wormed every 2 to 4 weeks until 12 weeks old, every 1 month until 6 months old and every 1 to 3 months thereafter for life. Pregnant bitches should be wormed from day 40 of pregnancy to day 2 post whelping. Worming, alongside vaccination and flea/tick prevention, is one of the core components of the Mackie & Brechin Pet Healthcare Plan for dogs and cats.
Fleas are one of the most common external parasites that we see and almost all pets are affected at some stage in their life unless given regular, routine and effective preventative treatment. Fleas will spread to all animals in the household and so all pets of all species need to be treated. Fleas can also opportunistically bite humans! Some pets are allergic to flea bites and can develop intense itchiness and severe skin irritation after only a single bite. They can also pass on other diseases, such as tapeworms, and so flea control is an important part of routine healthcare.
If a flea infestation has occurred eradication can be difficult. Each adult female can lay 2000 eggs in her lifetime. These, in turn, hatch to produce an ever expanding population within the house that can continue a cycle of re-infestation. Only a small proportion of the flea population can be seen on a pet, the rest being hidden in the house for instance on bedding and soft furnishings, in carpets and gaps in the floor. These eggs can survive for up to 1 year before hatching. If this happens then a product must be used to eradicate the eggs from the house in addition to starting a monthly treatment schedule for your pets to break the cycle of re-infestation.
Treatment and prevention
We would always recommend that prevention is better than cure and this can be achieved easily by using an effective product at the recommended frequency that has been supplied by your vet. It is worth noting that many well known and widely available non-prescription products including spot-ons, shampoos, powders and collars have minimal effect and can be a false economy in leaving your pet and household under-protected. Please contact us to discuss what would be appropriate for your situation. Flea prevention, alongside vaccination and worming, is one of the core components of the Mackie & Brechin Pet Healthcare Plan for dogs and cats.
Ticks are present throughout the UK and are a particular risk in warmer months in rural areas. Ticks wait on blades of grass or other vegetation and attach to prospective hosts as they brush past in a process known as ‘questing’. Once attached the tick will start to take a blood meal and in doing so can cause irritation and transmit disease. Ticks can be difficult to remove and if not done carefully their head-parts can remain within the skin. Ticks are opportunistic and can also feed on humans. They have three feeding stages and can take up to 3 years to complete their life cycle. The smaller larval and nymph stages are much less visible than the typical well-fed adults that we all know and often go un-noticed, falling off once they have fed.
Treatment and prevention
The requirement for protection against ticks is dependent on lifestyle and time of year. For dogs we recommend a product that not only kills ticks that have attached but also acts as a repellent to reduce the chance of them attaching in the first place. Tick prevention for cats can be achieved with the same product that we use for flea prevention and which is given at a convenient three monthly interval. Tick prevention is included in our Pet Healthcare Plan for cats and a 25% discount is available for dogs.
While worms, fleas and ticks are the most common parasites that we deal with here in the clinic, there are a number of other parasites both here and abroad that can affect you pet. In the UK ear mites are highly contagious and most frequently seen in puppies, mange mites (scabies) although fortunately less common can cause very serious skin disease, cheyletiella mites and biting lice can tend to cause less severe irritation and demodex mites tend to affect the young, old or immunocompromised. While standard preventatives are effective against these parasites, sometimes specific veterinary selected treatments are required to manage an infestation and its consequences.
Further information on parasites can be found by following this third-party link: www.jungleforpets.co.uk
We recommend neutering all dogs from 6 months of age, which in females is before their first season. The neutering procedure is a day admission to the surgery with a relatively quick recovery period. In females this is called spaying and involves surgical removal of the womb and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy). The benefits of spaying are:
- Prevention of seasons. These occur every 6 months, can be messy (blood spotting) and be a nuisance to your bitch by causing unwanted attention from male dogs.
- Prevention of false pregnancy, the symptoms of which can be distressing to your bitch and can include nesting behaviour, mammary development, anxiety, lethargy and poor appetite.
- Prevention of unwanted puppies and the consequences of miss-mating (an injection is available to stop pregnancy).
- Prevention of pyometra. This is a life-threatening womb infection which can occur at any age but is more common in older bitches and requires emergency surgery for treatment.
- Reduction in the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer) particularly if neutered before the first season.
In males neutering is called castration and involves surgical removal of the testicles. The benefits of castration are:
- Reducing the risk of unwanted (male) behaviours such as aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviour (eg. mounting) and roaming.
- Often making training and obedience easier.
- Reducing sexual frustration.
- Eliminating the risk of testicular tumours (cancer) and reducing the risk of prostate diseases.
We recommend neutering all cats from 6 months of age, which in females is before their first season. The neutering procedure is a day admission to the surgery with a relatively quick recovery period. In females this is called spaying and involves surgical removal of the womb and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy). The benefits of spaying are:
- Prevention of persistent calling during the breeding season.
- Prevention of unwanted attention from entire male cats and a reduced chance of fighting.
- Prevention of unwanted pregnancies.
- Prevention of pyometra. This is a life threatening womb infection that requires emergency surgery but is fortunately much less common in cats than in bitches.
In males neutering is called castration and involves surgical removal of the testicles. The benefits of castration are:
- Reducing the risk of unwanted male behaviours such as spraying urine, aggression and roaming.
- Reducing the risk of fighting and disease transmission (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is spread through cat bites)
- Population and disease control. Unwanted kittens lead to an increase in the feral cat population which in turn leads to increased disease prevalence, poor welfare and population control.
If you would prefer not to neuter your dog or cat then we would urge you to discuss this with us before they reach 6 months of age as delaying neutering can increase some of the disease risks associated with not neutering. We would always want to help you make a fully informed decision that is most suitable for you and your pet.
Rabbits should always be kept in pairs and neutering is an important part of promoting a happy social relationship. Neutering not only reduces aggression but also false pregnancies and uterine cancers. Mounting behaviour, either by males or females, can continue even after neutering as this is a natural display of dominance. After castration a male rabbit should be kept away from any un-neutered females for at least six weeks as they can remain fertile for a surprisingly long time. Males can be castrated as soon as their testicles have descended but commonly both males and females are castrated from 5 months of age.
Ferrets are seasonal breeders that start breeding as day-length increases in the Spring. However, if not mated a jill will stay in season until day length shortens again resulting in prolonged high levels of oestrogen that can cause anaemia. Unfortunately, surgical neutering of ferrets is associated with an increased risk of adrenal disease. Alternatives for females include mating with a teaser hob (vasectomised male), giving an injection at the start of the breeding season or for males and females using a hormonal implant.
Good nutrition is key to a happy and healthy pet. Dogs and cats should have a complete diet appropriate to their age and activity levels and always have access to fresh water. Small and medium breed dogs should be fed a puppy food until about 1 year of age whereas large breed dogs should often stay on a large breed puppy or junior food until around 18 months of age. Dietary changes should be made slowly with a gradual transition over about 14 days. Puppies and kittens should be fed 4 times a day until 12 weeks old then gradually reducing to 2 meals a day by 6 months of age and maintaining this into adulthood. Cats often prefer for food to be left down and to come and go as they please. In this case, food should always be changed daily, or more frequently in warm weather. Obesity is an increasing problem in the UK pet population and can lead to diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. It is important to feed measured amounts of food based on the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. There is no need to feed human food, which does not provide a balanced diet for a pet and can promote fussy behaviour. In particular, cows milk is not appropriate and can cause digestive upsets. It is important to be aware that cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat in their diet in order to gain the nutritional requirements to be healthy and therefore a plant based diet is not suitable and would make them very unwell.
We are currently promoting Virbac HPM as a very high quality pet food that is high in protein, low in carbohydrate and allergenic ‘fillers’ and better matched to your pets own preferences. Find out more here (https://uk.virbac.com/hpm).
Unfortunately pets do not have the safety net of a National Health Service. As levels of veterinary care continue to improve for both acute injury and illness and in the treatment of age related diseases your pet will have a far longer life expectancy than in the past. The cost of these more advanced treatments, now available at both first opinion veterinary practices and at specialist veterinary referral centres, can become very expensive. Insurance provides the reassurance that your pet is covered for major acute illness episodes, injuries and long term disease management with options such as specialist referral hopefully covered by your policy.
We are not able to recommend any specific insurance provider but would advise you to ensure the policy you decide on gives ‘cover for life’ at a level to meet your expectations and should include cover for:
- veterinary treatment
- 3rd party liability
- loss or theft of your pet
Our general advice is to read the small print of any insurance policy carefully with regard to the value of cover (per year or per condition), period of cover, policy excesses, exclusions, age limits for cover and how premiums, conditions and excesses might change as your pet becomes older. Pet insurance, unlike many other types of insurance, is heavily claimed on therefore looking for the least expensive policy may not necessarily give the best cover. Once you have found an insurance provider it is advisable to stay with them as changing companies may result in exclusions on your policy. It is worth noting that most insurance policies have an excess per claim that typically exceeds the cost of treatment for minor ailments, but for most people the peace of mind provided should more serious problems arise is very much worth it.
Our practice policy for processing insurance claims is in most cases to pay your invoice in full first, unless a written guaranteed pre-authorisation from the insurance company for a direct claim has been received in advance of treatment. We will then email to your insurance company the completed claim form along with a copy of your pet’s medical records (if required) and all other relevant paperwork including receipts. Your insurance company will then pay you back directly less any policy excesses or exclusions that apply.
There is a small administration fee charged which has become necessary due to the large numbers of claims our nurses now deal with.
Microchipping your pet is the best way to enable you to be reunited should your pet become lost. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are easily implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades. It is a legal requirement that dogs must be microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old and failure to do so, or to keep your details up to date, can result in a substantial fine. Although not a legal requirement we would always recommend the microchipping of cats and this is most easily done at the same time as neutering.
The microchip has a unique number which is securely stored alongside the owner’s details at a central database. It is vital that you keep your details up to date, especially if you move house.
If your pet is lost or injured you can be assured that veterinary surgeries and rescue centres all have scanners which can read the chip allowing them to contact the central database or owners directly. This gives the best chance of reuniting pet and owner in the shortest possible time.
Please ask to have your pet’s microchip checked regularly to ensure it is working correctly.
Dental disease is very common in pets but often goes unnoticed by even the most diligent of owners. The three stages of progressive dental disease are:
- Food remnants combine with saliva and bacteria to form an invisible layer of plaque on teeth.
- If this plaque is not cleansed it becomes mineralised as tartar. Tartar can not easily be removed by brushing and may require an ultrasonic scale and polish like your own dentist would perform to keep your mouth healthy.
- If this tartar is not removed then infection of the gums (gingivitis) begins, which can lead to more advanced disease of the tooth root attachments and bone (periodontitis). In addition, cat teeth can develop painful resorptive lesions whereby the inner sensitive parts of teeth are exposed. These advanced stages of dental disease are much more serious and diseased teeth most often require extraction.
Unfortunately many pets do not show dental pain in the way we expect they would, instead they may show more subtle behaviour changes such as being quieter than normal and less active. In older pets this can sometimes be mistaken for just slowing down with age. Some pets may have bad breath, drool saliva, stop eating dried food or eat from one side of the mouth.
Untreated dental disease can cause a lot of suffering and can also cause disease elsewhere in the body such as the liver, kidneys and heart with more serious consequences for your pet.
The best way to prevent dental disease is with daily teeth cleaning using specialist pet toothpastes. There are two main types of toothpaste, enzymatic and antiseptic, and we can advise you on which would be the most appropriate for your pet. Training to brush should be started as young as possible but should be gradual and rewarded for the best chance of long term success. It may sound odd to brush your pet’s teeth but it really can make a big difference to their welfare in the long run. Personal safety is always a priority, however, and we would never promote dental care at home if there is a risk of getting bitten. For such animals there are alternatives and we can give you guidance on what products are suitable.
As with ourselves even with regular brushing a trip to the dentist is required from time to time. However, with regular care the chance of serious dental disease developing and so the chance of chronic pain, discomfort and the need for oral surgery later on in life is much reduced.
We offer free dental clinics with our Registered Veterinary Nurses so please phone for advice or make an appointment to get started.
The Pet Passport is an EU initiative to make travelling with your pet easier. With the UK leaving the EU there will be changes to the requirements for travel. Please contact us for up to date information as soon as you decide to travel as failure to complete the required tasks in the required timeframe will result in an inability to take your pet with you.
At the present time the requirements for travelling to Europe after 31/10/2019 include:
- Microchip and up to date rabies vaccination.
- Satisfactory blood test taken at least 30 days after rabies vaccination.
- Three month period after date of blood test before travel.
- Official veterinary health certificate a maximum of 10 days before travel.
The health certificate will be valid for 4 months of onward travel in the EU and for 4 months return to the UK.
Tapeworm treatment is required 1 to 5 days before return to the UK (except from Finland, Ireland, Malta or Norway)
Additional parasite treatments
There are additional disease risks on the continent that your pet will be exposed to that are not covered by the official travel requirements (which are primarily concerned with diseases that can affect human health rather than that of your pet). In particular ticks, sandflies and mosquitos can transmit a number of diseases. These include, amongst many others, heartworm and leishmaniosis. Prevention can be provided by regular use of parasiticides but at a different frequency to that which we use them in the UK. We can help recommend what additional treatments will be required depending on your destination.
Leishmaniosis is spread to dogs through the bites of infected sand flies. It is endemic in countries in southern Europe bordering the Mediterranean, including Spain, the South of France and Italy, where 2.5 million dogs are already believed to be infected with the parasite. It is spreading northwards as more people travel with their dogs or import infected animals from endemic areas. Aside from vaccination, the only preventative measures available are topical insecticidal treatments, collars and keeping your dog in at dawn and dusk – the times of the day when the sand fly is most active.
If you’re planning to travel to a region where the disease is endemic, vaccinating your dog is a simple and effective way to protect your dog and to give you peace of mind. It will also help to slow the disease’s spread into non-endemic regions. The new vaccine can be given from six months of age and requires three injections given at three week intervals. We would therefore recommend starting the course at least three months prior to travel.
If your pet has already travelled to any of these areas, we may recommend a blood test to check that your pet does not already harbour the parasite before starting the vaccination course.
When exporting your pet we would advise using the services of a company who specialise in the organisation of pet exports. This can be a complicated procedure and they can provide you with the requirements specific to your journey and a schedule of when these requirements should be completed. We can carry out any official veterinary duties but it is your responsibility to present your pet at the right time and to let us know what is to be done in reference to the schedule given to you by your export company.
One America Square
London ECN 2LB
020 7600 3333
British Veterinary Nursing Association
79 Greenway Business Centre, Harlow Business Park, Harlow, Essex CM19 5QE
Caledonian Pet Crematorium
Nettlehill Road, Houstoun Industrial Estate, Livingston EH54 5DL
Chelwood Gate, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH17 7TT
03000 12 12 12
Dog Aid Society of Scotland
60 Blackford Avenue, Edinburgh EH9 3ER
0131 668 3633
17 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7RQ
Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home
26 Seafield Road East, Edinburgh EH15 1EH
0131 669 5331
Edinburgh Dog Warden
Animal reception Centre/Pet Passport Scheme based at Edinburgh Airport
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Hillfields, Burghfield Common, Reading RG7 3YG
0118 983 5555
Hearing Dogs for the Deaf
The Grange, Wycombe Road, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire HP27 9NS
International Cat Care
Place Farm, Tisbury, Wiltshire SP3 6LW
2B Hutchison Crossway, Edinburgh EH14 1RR
0131 443 6178
Pet Travel Scheme DEFRA
Petlog Microchip database
0870 606 6751
PETtrac Microchip database
0800 652 9977
Police Scotland (reporting of dangerous dogs)
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Belgravia House, 62 – 64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF
020 722 22001
SSPCA Animal Helpline
03000 999 999
West Lothian Animal Welfare Officers (Dog Warden)