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  • Writer's pictureellie

Does My Elderly Pet Need Vaccinating?

Unbeknownst to some, cats, dogs, and even rabbits require annual vaccinations to keep them healthy and happy - no matter their age! This article offers up all you need to know about vaccinating your pet.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Pet?

Vaccines offer preventative protection from harmful contagious diseases. Vaccines contain antigens that are weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism. When injected, these antigens trigger an immune response within the body similar to when exposed to the disease. By stimulating this through vaccines, it enables your pet to produce antibodies to the disease which helps them develop immunity if ever exposed in the future

Not only do vaccinations protect your pet from lethal diseases, but they can also protect your family, other pets, and even wildlife from transmissible diseases such as rabies or leptospirosis.

How Often Does My Pet Need Vaccinating?

Unbeknownst to some, your pet not only needs their initial round of vaccinations, but they also require yearly boosters throughout their life to maintain their protection from diseases and illnesses. If your pet misses a booster, they may need to complete the initial primary vaccination course again (that they would have received as a puppy or kitten).

Some vaccinations are required yearly, whilst others are only needed once every three years depending on the type of vaccine, the brand of vaccine, the pet's age, and the previous vaccination status of the pet.

Ensuring your older cat or dog has their regular booster vaccinations is essential as their immune system can weaken as they get older.

What Do Vaccinations Protect My Pet From?

Scientific evidence has shown a correlation between the decline of common illnesses and vaccination rates rising.

So what illnesses do vaccinations protect your pet from?


Core Dog Vaccines:

  • Parvovirus: Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and fatal disease that attacks cells in a dog’s intestines and stops them from being able to absorb vital nutrients. Young puppies and unvaccinated dogs are most at risk of parvovirus.

  • Leptospirosis: Leptospirosis (also known as Weil’s Disease in humans) is a bacterial disease that damages vital organs including the liver and kidneys.

  • Distemper: Canine distemper is highly lethal and contagious. Closely related to measles, distemper attacks multiple body systems, resulting in an infection that is often untreatable.

  • Infectious Hepatitis: Hepatitis spreads in bodily fluids and can attack the liver, bloody vessels, eyes, and kidneys. Symptoms can vary from fever to dehydration and sometimes even death.

As well as the ‘core’ vaccinations, there are additional vaccinations your dog may have.

  • Kennel cough: It’s a common misconception that kennel cough is only a necessary requirement if your furry friend spends time in kennels; it can be picked up on a park walk or when socialising with other dogs.

  • Rabies: Most dogs in the UK shouldn’t require a rabies vaccine, however, if you plan on travelling outside of the UK, it is a legal requirement for your dog to be fully vaccinated.


Similar to dogs, cats also require ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vaccinations up until the end of their life. Vaccinations should be given to both inside and outside cats.

Core Cat Vaccines:

  • Cat Flu (Feline Herpesvirus and Calicivirus): Cat flu can cause respiratory issues such as coughing, sneezing, and runny eyes. Cat flu accounts for around 90% of upper respiratory infections in cats.

  • Feline parvovirus: Similarly to canine parvovirus, feline parvovirus is also highly contagious and often lethal. Parvovirus infection has a high mortality rate, particularly in unvaccinated kittens.

  • Feline Leukaemia Virus: FeLV belongs to the retrovirus family, a group known as ‘oncornaviruses’. Oncornaviruses have the ability to cause cancer in felines.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Rabies: Similarly to dogs, cats also need protection from rabies if they are travelling outside of the UK.

Side Effects of Vaccines

Similarly to human vaccinations, pet vaccinations can also cause side effects. Symptoms are often mild and not serious. Mild symptoms should pass within two days.

Mild side effects include:

  • Tenderness or swelling around the injection site

  • Low energy

  • A reduced appetite or activity

  • A mild fever

As aforementioned, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare, however, if you are concerned about your pet after their vaccinations, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.

Serious side effects include:

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

  • Swelling around the face, neck or eyes

  • Coughing

What Happens If I Don’t Vaccinate My Pet?

Despite the strong evidence surrounding vaccinations, recent research demonstrated that the ‘anti-vax’ movement has led to a spike in people refusing to vaccinate their pets. A 2018 survey carried out by Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) found that out of 4,600 pet owners, 25% of dogs had not had their necessary vaccinations when they were younger.

The danger of the ‘anti-vax’ movement means that we could see an increase in rare diseases making a return. Research by the PDSA (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) found a steady increase in cases of Distemper and Parvovirus in the UK since 2014. Sadly both these diseases can be fatal to unvaccinated pets or result in long-term problems as a result of infection.

Whilst vaccinations are a personal preference, we strongly advise getting your pet vaccinated to help keep them living well till the end.

To talk to a member of our team about vaccinations, give us a call on: 0800 0495944.


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