There are two main diseases we want to vaccinate our working dogs against in the Waikato, parvovirus and leptospirosis.
Parvovirus is a very infectious virus that can survive in the environment for a long time – up to 18 months. It is spread via infectious canine faeces, and dogs don’t need to be in contact with each other to catch the virus, and don’t need to be showing symptoms to spread it.
Parvovirus causes anorexia, depression, rapid weight loss, diarrhoea (usually severe and bloody), vomiting and abdominal discomfort. In puppies it can be fatal.
Leptospirosis is caused by a bacterium, with dogs usually infected by ingesting food or water contaminated by the urine of infected rats. The organism can then be transmitted from dog to dog via urine.
The disease syndrome varies, but often the infected dog is off its food, depressed, sometimes vomiting, and may show few other symptoms for 2 to 4 days. Because of the vague initial symptoms, presentation to the vet is often delayed and, by the time we see the dog, the leptospirosis organism has already caused irreversible and often fatal damage to the liver and kidneys, so early treatment is vital. As well as causing significant disease in dogs, leptospirosis is also a zoonosis – a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
In puppies, we give their vaccines at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. This is because this is the riskiest time for Parvovirus infection, and their maternal antibodies (from mothers colostrum) can interfere with the immune response. Vaccinating three times increases the chance of a puppy being protected. After this first course we booster the vaccine at a year old, then 3 yearly.
At two of the three puppy vaccine appointments we also vaccinate for Leptospirosis, then an annual booster is required. If the time between vaccines is longer than 14 months, we recommend repeating the initial course and repeating a month after.