Vaccinations during the Coronovirus Pandemic

Advice for owners having their pets  vaccinated during the coronavirus crisis

The decision whether to bring your pet  to the vets to have a vaccination during the current pandemic is a case of balancing two risks:

  1. The small but real risk to your pet of becoming unwell if they do not have the vaccine on time.

  2. The very small risk to you as an owner, in leaving the house and travelling  to the surgery. This is most relevant if you are in one of the high risk groups and especially if you are, or have been shielding. 

New puppies, kittens and previously unvaccinated adult dogs and cats

  • These pets have no  immunity to the diseases we vaccinate, many of which are life threatening. The only way other than vaccination to mitigate this risk is to keep the pet indoors all the time. As this is not practical for most pets, we strongly advise they should have a primary vaccine course .

Rabbits

  • Myxomatosis and haemorrhagic viral disease are both causes of death in rabbits. Furthermore even rabbits kept indoors can be at risk.  The vaccines we use are effective but do not confer a long lasting immunity beyond 1 year , therefore we advise most rabbits should keep up with their annual vaccines.

Adult dogs ( previously vaccinated) 

  • Our advice is that most dogs should now receive their annual vaccines, unles there are strong reasons for owners not to come to the vets ( see below) .  The most important part of the vaccine  is the leptospirosis vaccine.  The protection from this part of the vaccine may not last longer than 1 year in some dogs.

  • The other diseases we vaccinate against are either extremely rare in our area, or in the case of kennel cough, not a life threatening disease, so these vaccines will currently only be given if a dog is also receiving the leptospirosis vaccine.

  • Leptospirosis is a potentially life threatening disease that we do occasionally see in our area. It is spread in urine, mostly from infected dogs and rats, and can be picked up from moist soil and stagnant or slow moving water (e.g. canals and boggy/marshy areas).

  • Leptopirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is possible ( but actually very rare) for an infected dog to infect a person.

  • All dogs going outside could be at risk , but those who like to swim, walk in wet marshy areas, or who visit places where there might be rats, will be at a higher risk.

  • The risk of delaying the vaccine in dogs that do not swim and are only being walked in clean dry areas will be thankfully low.

  • The first booster vaccine at just over one year  of age is particularly important.This booster builds protection  the protection given by the primary  puppy vaccinations.

Cats aged 1 year old

  • 1 year old cats  receive a booster vaccine 12 months after their primary kitten vaccines. This first booster is particular important as it builds on  the immunity delivered by the primary course.
  • We therefore  advise cats should have this first booster vaccine when it is due, unless there is a more strong reason not to ( see ” other considerations “below).

Adult cats who have been previously vaccinated

  • The diseases we vaccinate cats against are thankfully either very rare , or in the cat of feline influenza, not usually life threatening.  The risk of a previously vaccinated cat becoming seriously  unwell if their next vaccine is delayed for for 2 months is very low.

  • We are now offering vaccinations to all  cats. However  those cats  who are;2 or more years old  and have had a previous booster vaccine within the last 2 months have a low risk of disease if their vaccine lapses by up to 3 months. We ask you wait until we send a vaccine reminder , which may be around 2 months after the vaccine due date.  Delaying these vaccines for a short time poses a very small risk  to these pets, and allows us the time to catch up with the backlog of delayed vaccines whist still offering the most urgent vaccines ( eg kittens ).

Rabies vaccines for dogs cats and ferrets

  • Rabies is not present in the UK, so the risk of a pet catching rabies here is zero.
  • However some animals need their rabies vaccine to be given at least every 3 years, in order to keep their PETS travel passport valid. It is likely the after January 2021, the new Brexit pet travel arrangement will also need rabies vaccines up to date.
  • Therefore pets who need a rabies vaccine to keep travel documentation up to date, should receive this on time, unless there is a more pressing reason not to ( see ” other considerations “below)

Other Considerations:

  • If you are in a high risk group and are shielding then carefully consider whether travelling for a pet’s vaccination is in your best interests. It might be better to get a friend or another family member to bring the pet for you where possible.

  • If you are self isolating due to illness from confirmed  or possible Covid 19,  or because of instructions from the “Track and Trace system”  then you should not come to the practice.

  • We are very used to maintaining strict hygiene protocols and have put in place various additional measures to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission. The most visible of these is that you will be asked to stay in your car whilst your pet is brought into the clinic for a health check and vaccination.

  • In order to maintain social distancing amongst our staff, your pet will generally be handled by only one member of staff.

  • If your pet has been very fearful or shown aggression in the past then please let us know ( particularly for large dogs).

  • If your dog normally requires a muzzle please bring it with you and be ready to put this muzzle on in the car when you arrive.

  • Please assist us by bringing with you a means of making payment over the phone.

In Summery

Our advice is that:

  • Most puppies, kittens and rabbits, and 1 year old cats  should have their vaccinations as normal.

  • For most dogs in our area, if you as the owner have no increased risk factors, then visiting the practice to keep the leptospirosis vaccine up to date is justified on the grounds of human and canine health.

  • For  2 year old and older  previously vaccinated cats it is not justified to travel to the surgery at the current time for their vaccinations unless the vaccine is becoming more than 3 months overdue.

 Please ring us to speak to one of our vets if you have any further questions.

This advice is correct as of 21st May 2020