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What vaccinations should your pet have and how often?

At Willow Vets we strongly recommend having your dogs, cats and rabbits vaccinated in order to protect them from a variety of life threatening diseases. Most people know that vaccination is important but many do not know what diseases we are actually vaccinating their pets against and some are not sure whether a yearly booster vaccine is necessary. This article aims to answer these questions for you.


Core Vaccines are vaccine that all dogs should have. These are:

●       Distemper - this is a potentially fatal viral disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system

●       Infectious Canine Hepatitis - this is a potentially fatal viral disease affecting the liver, kidneys, eyes and lungs

●       Parvovirus - causes life threatening gastroenteritis

●       Leptospirosis - is a potentially life threatening bacterial infecion

Non-core vaccines are vaccines that some dogs should have dependant on their specific needs. These are:

●       Kennel Cough: vaccination should be considered for dogs before kennelling or other situations in which they mix with other dogs (e.g. dog shows, training classes, veterinary surgeries)

●       Rabies: for dogs travelling abroad / returning to the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme

●       Canine Herpes: for breeding bitches

●       Leishmanaisis: before travelling to endemic areas


Puppy Vaccination

At Willow Vets we give your puppy all of the core vaccinations as part of their primary vaccination course. Included in this course is also parainfluenza which is one of the kennel cough viruses. We give your puppy their series of primary vaccinations at 8 weeks, 10 weeks and 1 year old.

After this primary course is completed what diseases are we actually vaccinating against every year when you bring your dog in for their annual health check and booster vaccine?

The vaccination against Distemper,  Hepatitis and Parvo is protective for three years so we include protection against these diseases in your dog's booster vaccination every third year. Every year the booster includes vaccination against Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza. Due to the nature of these diseases and the type of vaccination given the immunity they provide does not last as long and therefore yearly vaccination is safest way keep your dog protected. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease, commonly known as Weil's disease. Dogs will typically catch the disease from infected water, soil, or mud, while swimming, passing through, or drinking contaminated water, or from coming into contact with urine from an infected animals such as rats. Leptospirosis is a potentially life threatening infection which can be passed to you and your family so it is very important that your dog is protected by their vaccination.

We wanted to highlight that we are not vaccinating your dog against every disease every year.

When guidelines are drawn up on how often pets should be vaccinated the aim is to do what is safest for most pets. Various factors affect how long a vaccine will be protective for, including the age and health of your pet. Standard vaccination protocols aim to protect all pets and therefore recommendations on frequency of vaccination will be based on the pets whose immunity does not last as long. This means that some pets immunity will last longer. Vaccinating using these protocols will ensure your pet will be protected.

At Willow Vets we do offer a blood test called Vaccicheck. It uses a few drops of blood to tell us whether your dog has adequate antibodies against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus. These are the diseases that we include in your dog's booster vaccination every three years. This test in conjunction with discussion with your vet helps to decide whether your dog is likely to have adequate protection against these diseases and therefore when they need to have vaccination against these diseases included in their annual booster vaccine. As well as this test it is very important to have your pet receive a health check with one of our vets and their vaccination against Leptospirosis every year. If you are interested in this test please book an appointment to discuss it with one of our vets. If you do not want this test don't worry as we will continue to include protection against these diseases in your dog's booster vaccination so that they are protected.


Core vaccines are vaccines that all cats should have. These are:

●       Feline panleukopaenia virus (enteritis)

●       Feline calici virus (cat flu)

●       Feline herpes virus (cat flu)

Non –core vaccines

●       Feline leukaemia vaccine (this may be considered a core vaccine for all cats which may come into direct contact with other cats (i.e. all cats which go outdoors)

●       Chlamydophila felis (Chlamydia)

●       Rabies - for cats travelling abroad / returning to the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme

●       Bordetella bronchiseptica

At Willow Vets we recommend a primary course of vaccinations for your kitten against cat flu, enteritis and leukaemia. All cats that are allowed outside, even for short periods of time are at risk of catching leukaemia virus from direct contact with other cats. Kittens kept indoors only (eg live in a flat and never let outside) will be little risk of catching leukaemia; in these circumstances is is not necessary to vaccinate against leukaemia. Your kitten will typically be vaccinated at 9 weeks, 12 weeks and one year old.

After this we recommend an annual health check with a vet and a booster vaccination which contains the same disease protection they receive as kittens.

Protection against cat flu can last for three years with some of the vaccines currently available but unfortunately after a year your cat could still spread it to other cats if they are exposed. We therefore continue to include full protection against this chronic and potentially debilitating disease on a yearly basis.


At Willow Vets we strongly recommend yearly vaccination for all domestic rabbits against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).

Both of these diseases are usually fatal. 

VHD can be spread either by direct contact with other rabbits, through contaminated food, water or bedding and through the air. Myxomatosis is spread by fleas and biting flies.

Due to the way these diseases are spread your pet rabbit can be at risk even if they don't live with other rabbits.

We can vaccinate your rabbit from the age of five weeks.

If you have questions about your pet’s vaccinations or anything else please call us, we would love to hear from you!

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