Some diseases in animals are life-threatening and any attempt at treatment often only eases the symptoms, rather than cure the disease.  Vaccinations are an important part of routine preventative healthcare for your pet and the only proven method of protection against such diseases.

Over the years, vaccinations have helped eradicate some diseases, such as small pox, and reduce and control many others, such as Canine Distemper Virus.  It is important to vaccinate your pet to keep infection rates low.

What is a vaccination?


A vaccination is a small amount of a dead or live organism which is administered to stimulate the immune system to protect itself against a particular disease. Antibodies are produced, which are the soldiers of the immune system and help fight diseases. Following vaccination, should the animal come into contact with a disease, the immune system can produce the necessary antibodies at a much faster rate to fight the infection.

  • Immunity refers to the body’s natural ability to fight infection. 

  • Dogs, cats and rabbits receive some maternal antibodies from their mother’s milk (colostrum), this protects them for the first few weeks of life.  This immunity diminishes quickly and can make the animal vulnerable to the disease. 

  • Vaccination can replace this immunity.  The maternal immunity is protective for a variable amount of time, not only between species, but also individuals.  It is usually lasts between 6-12 weeks - that’s why we always recommend the first vaccination course during this time.

  • Vaccinations don’t work immediately, the body needs to time to develop an immune response to the specific disease.  The onset of immunity is the time between the vaccine being administered and the body being able to produce enough antibodies to fight the disease.  Your vet will be able to advise you when it will be safe for your pet to go outside and interact with other animals.

Dog Vaccines

At de Montfort Veterinary Hospital we routinely vaccinate against the following diseases in dogs:-

Canine Distemper Virus

A viral infection that causes respiratory disease and gastroenteritis with a very high temperature. This disease can develop into a chronic form, characterised by its neurological signs: seizures, uncontrolled muscle spasms, muscle weakness. Some of these changes are irreversible and the disease is often fatal.


A viral infection that usually affects young puppies (up to 6 months) and sometimes older dogs that are immunocompromised. Signs include severe vomiting and diarrhoea (with blood), weight loss, high temperature and sudden death. It is also often fatal and is easily transmitted directly between dogs and indirectly on clothing, footwear, food bowls etc.

Infectious hepatitis

This disease is caused by Adenovirus. It causes liver/kidney disease and symptoms include eye and nasal discharge, coughing, loss of appetite and vomiting. It is spread by bodily fluids. Some dogs will recover, however it is potentially fatal. Dogs can shed the virus in urine for up to a year.


A bacterial infection which is spread in urine and survives in water. Rats and other wildlife can carry and spread this bacteria. Leptospirosis causes kidney and liver failure and can be fatal. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, high temperature and increased urination. If not treated correctly, dogs can remain carriers, infecting other dogs. It is also Zoonotic, which means humans can get it too!  Immunity following vaccination for Leptospirosis only lasts for 12 months, so it is very important to get your annual booster!

Kennel Cough

Although unlikely to be fatal, it is routinely vaccinated against as it is highly infectious and easily transmitted via the air.  Symptoms are a dry honking/hacking cough and increased temperature but this can lead to pneumonia and rarely death in more serious cases.  Kennel cough vaccine contains Parainfluenza for the viral component and Bordetella to reduce the bacterial risk and is administered as a nasal spray.

Cat Vaccines

We offer cat vaccinations to cover the following diseases:-

Infectious Enteritis (Panleucopenia, Parvovirus)

This viral infection causes vomiting and diarrhoea, but more specifically, a reduction in white blood cells due to damage to the immune system and bone marrow. These cats pick up secondary infections and the disease often fatal. In kittens, it can cause serious brain damage and can be infected before or after birth. It is passed directly between cats and indirectly following contamination of food bowls, bedding, clothing etc.  The virus can survive in the environment for long periods of time.

Feline Herpes and Calicivirus

These are the two viruses responsible for most cases of ‘Cat flu’.  These viruses are still fairly common in the UK and can result in death, especially in young kittens and older cats.  Clinical signs include sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, high temperature, mouth ulcers and inflammation. If they recover, the disease can lie dormant and recur at stressful times during their lifetime.

Feline Leukaemia Virus

This disease causes irreversible damage to the immune system which increases the susceptibility to contracting secondary infections, developing tumours and ultimately will lead to death.  The infection is spread by direct contact, such as fighting and grooming, indirect via food bowls and also from mother to kitten.

Rabbit Vaccines

Rabbit are usually vaccinated against the following diseases:-


This viral infection is spread easily between rabbits and is seen in both wild and domesticated rabbits.  Clinical signs include swollen eyes and fluid filled swellings around the head, face, inside the ears, anus and genitals.  This results in blindness, difficulty eating and drinking and bunnies usually die within 12 days.  Myxomatosis is generally spread by direct contact or blood-sucking insects, such as fleas and mosquitos.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

This disease is extremely contagious (spread directly, indirectly and by fleas) and more often than not, fatal.  It affects wild and domesticated rabbits and causes the internal organs to haemorrhage uncontrollably.  The only treatment is vaccination.  There are 2 strains of this virus and hence vaccination against both is important.

We use two separate vaccination injections:

  1. Myxomatosis and one strain of VHD

  2. Both strains of VHD

Unfortunately, these two injections cannot be given at the same time, so we recommend that they be given at least 2 weeks apart.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding vaccinations, please contact the practice on 01386 446095 and speak to one of our Veterinary Surgeons or Registered Veterinary Nurses.