Why do we do regular check-ups in dog? Is it really necessary?

It all boils down to the fact that pets age much quicker than people. In fact, dogs age 7 times faster than their owners. To put this into perspective, most dogs reach adulthood by the age of 2 and entering middle age by the age of 4 years of age. By the age of 7, dogs enter their senior years. Let that sink in for a second.

What does this mean for your dog?

It means that significant health changes can occur in a very shorty space of time. Risk of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, kidney disease to name a few increase with age. If you bring your pet in once a year, he would have aged around 7 years from his last visit to the vet. During these visits, we do a full clinical exam from head to toe and have the opportunity to detect, treat and ideally prevent problems before they become life threatening.

Let’s start with the Why… Why do we need to vaccinate our dogs?

When your dog is born, their mother gives them immunity through her milk up to a couple of weeks of age. After that the mother’s immunity starts to wear off around 6- 12 weeks and it is up to you as pet owner, with the help of your veterinarian, to provide that protection.

Dogs and cats require routine vaccinations to protect them from potentially deadly diseases and also to protect humans from potentially contracting some of these diseases from them.

The vaccines that we administer, they contain particles called antigens. To keep the explanation simple, these antigens mimic disease-causing organisms in your dog in a much milder and non-life-threatening way, so that your pet’s immune system finds it and starts building up an army against it. This army consists of anti-bodies, little “fighter cells/soldiers” whose sole purpose is to fight this particular organism. This means, that when your pet is exposed to the real deal and the true virus attacks your pet, the immunity’s army is ready for it and can fight off the infection in no time, often without your pet even showing a single sign of getting ill! Other factors such as good nutrition and healthy living conditions also contribute to a good immune system to help fight off these infections. Although the little soldiers now have the strategy of how to fight (due to the vaccine), they still need to be fed and kept healthy!

Consider a vaccine like a spy… And the virus the enemy. The spy gives intel to the body on the virus’ kill strategy as well as its weaknesses, and how to overcome it. In this way, the body can train its army on how to approach it, so that the virus’ attack is stopped before too much damage can be done. If there is no spy, the army is clueless and has to rely on its own abilities to overcome the virus and hope and pray that it is strong enough to do so.

Standard Puppy Vaccination Guidelines:

First vaccination at 6-8 weeks

Second vaccination at 9-12 weeks (21 days after the first)

Third and final vaccination at 16 weeks (21 days after the second)

Sometimes your vet will recommend a fourth vaccination depending on the age at first vaccination and where/with what vaccine, disease, risk etc. This will be discussed with you during the third vaccination and whether or not it is necessary.

What are the common diseases that we vaccinate against in Dogs? The deadly scaries…:

Canine Distemper: This virus is extremely serious, hard to treat and usually fatal. It is absolutely essential to vaccinate against it as it is also highly contagious and is commonly spread between dogs through discharges from the eyes and nostrils. This virus attacks mainly the central nervous system and may be cause permanent damage, even if the dog survives it. Symptoms of the illness usually start with tiredness, not wanting to eat, and a snotty discharge from the eyes or nose, then progresses to vomiting, diarrhoea, struggling to breathe and further into seizures and paralysis in the final stages before death. It is not contagious to humans or cats. This vaccination falls part of the 5-in-1 vaccine.

Rabies: This is a virus that affects the central nervous system of almost all mammals including humans. It is spread through the contact with the infected animal’s saliva. These can occur through bites and from stray animals or any break of skin. There is no cure for the disease in animals. We recently had a mild outbreak in the Helderberg area. It is of utmost importance that your dog is vaccinated against rabies, for his and your safety. Please see the rabies article on our website for more info.

Canine Parvovirus: This is commonly known amongst Afrikaans people as “ katgriep”. This is horrible disease that mostly affects unvaccinated puppies between the ages of 6 weeks and 2 years of age. The spread of this virus happens through contact with infected faeces. It is a highly infectious virus and very highly resistant in the environment and can for example stay in a back yard for up to 2 years! Parvovirus causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea, tiredness and not eating for 5-14 days. In most cases the dogs need lifesaving hospitalisation and intensive treatment with a drip and medication. If diagnosed early and with the proper treatment on board, they can recover. This disease can however be fatal. Dogs can still contract the virus even if they have been vaccinated, however, dogs that have been vaccinated respond much better to treatment vs. unvaccinated dogs and very rarely die from the disease. This vaccination falls part of the 5-in-1 vaccine.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis:  This disease is caused by Canine adenovirus Type 1. This is transmitted between dogs also through contact with secretions such as saliva infected urine and faeces. Symptoms include liver failure, eye damage and breathing problems. Though not as common as distemper and parvo, it is still prevalent in South Africa and prevention is best by vaccinating your dog. It is part of the 5-in-1 vaccine.

 Canine parainfluenza virus:  This is a virus that affects the breathing system and one of the viruses that can cause Kennel cough in dogs. It is highly contagious and commonly develops in situations where a lot of dogs are in close proximity with each other. Symptoms in puppies are commonly a hacking cough, fever, a runny nose, sneezing, inflammation of the eyes, tiredness and the loss of appetite. Not fatal unless the dog is otherwise compromised. This vaccination falls part of the 5-in-1 vaccine.

Kennel cough: Kennel cough is a broad term that is used to sum up a variety of highly contagious respiratory viruses and bacteria. It is usually found in areas where dogs and in close proximity to each other. Although kennel cough itself is not fatal, it may lead to other more serious conditions like bronchopneumonia in puppies and chronic bronchitis in senior patients. It is spread through aerosol droplets, direct contact or contact through contaminated surfaces like food and water bowels. The most pronounced symptom is a loud unmistakable cough that the dogs develop and continue for 10-14 days. This is not part of the standard 5-in-1 vaccination and is usually requested extra.

The moral of the story is that annual check-ups and vaccinations are of utmost importance in your dog’s health and wellbeing. We look forward to seeing you at our clinic for your furry child’s annual check-up and vaccinations.