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VACCINATIONS - Kenilworth Vet

As there has been an increasing concern over the  number of Parvovirus cases recently ,we thought it would be a good idea to look at vaccinations, how they work and why they are an essential part of your pet’s welfare.

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Immunity – where does it start?
Colostrum – New-born puppies and kittens receive antibodies (passive immunity) from their mother’s first milk which gives them some immunity to disease. Unfortunately, various factors will influence how much maternal immunity each puppy or kitten will have. In time these passively acquired antibodies gradually deteriorate, while at the same time the puppy / kitten’s own immune system begins to  develop. While this is happening it can create what is known as the immunity gap leaving your puppy/kitten extremely vulnerable should it be exposed to disease.

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It is in these early weeks that we begin a vaccination programme to maximize immunity.

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HOW MANY? WHEN AND WHY?                           

The generally accepted vaccine program is:   
• Puppies – require 3 initial vaccinations for optimal protection at 6, 9 and 12 weeks of age
• Kittens- require 2 initial vaccinations at  9 and 12 weeks of age

Because maternal antibodies can interfere with the way in which your puppy or kitten’s immune system reacts to early vaccinations, it is extremely difficult to determine exactly when the vaccine will stimulate immunity. In an attempt to overcome this we vaccinate puppies and kittens at intervals during the first few months of their life. If maternal antibodies interfere with the first vaccinations the later ones will stimulate antibody production thereby protecting your puppy/kitten against the disease.

‘A vaccine works by training the immune system to recognize and combat pathogens, either viruses or bacteria. To do this, certain molecules from the pathogen must be introduced into the body to trigger an immune response. These molecules are called antigens, and they are present on all viruses and bacteria’.

Once your pet has received a vaccine, its immune system produces special substances called antibodies. These antibodies work against viruses or bacteria that cause disease.


Once a vaccine is given, the antigens (virus particles in the vaccine) need to be recognized, responded to, and remembered by the immune system.

• In most puppies, protection does not begin until five days post vaccination.
• Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to fourteen days.

Why annual boosters?
Without costly laboratory tests it is impossible to determine your pet’s level of immunity to certain diseases. Therefore, adult dogs/cats are generally revaccinated annually in order to boost their immunity.

• Booster vaccinations help to remind the immune system to produce enough antibodies so they are ready should they be challenged.
• An annual examination at the time of booster vaccination can often identify problems the pet owner may not have been aware of. 


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Immunity is complicated and not just a matter of a ‘quick shot’. We can also see that not only is one vaccination far from sufficient it could be detrimental to your pet’s immunity if you do not follow up with the full vaccination programme.

It is important to ensure that your puppy or kitten is in a safe environment until at least the second vaccination is given. This includes good human hygiene as many viruses can be passed through contact with infected shoes, clothing, blankets etc.

Certain dog breeds are especially susceptible to parvovirus such at Rottweilers and Boer bulls. But generally speaking it is better to ensure that any breed of puppy is fully vaccinated.

Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious disease in healthy animals.

For more information on Parvovirus, click here.

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