Why should I vaccinate my pet?

Often, there is no complete cure for life threatening diseases such as distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and cat ‘flu. Even the treatments available to ease the symptoms are of limited help. Vaccination is the only proven method of protecting against specific diseases your pet might be at risk of contracting. There are other diseases, such as kennel cough in dogs, which are less life threatening but where protection can also be provided. Especially in Rwanda, parvovirus is still a quite common infection in dogs.

What is a vaccine and how do they work?

Vaccines contain a small dose of either dead or live organisms. These trigger the pet’s immune system to produce antibodies against disease. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-causing organisms and toxins. Vaccination primes your pet’s immune system on how to produce the correct antibodies quickly. If your pet then comes into contact with one of the diseases, its immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies needed to fight the disease. However, nothing in the natural world is 100% certain, including vaccines. A pet may fail to gain enough immunity from a vaccine for several reasons which may include the use of other medicines, disease present at the time of vaccination and poor nutrition. For this reason, vaccines should generally only be used in healthy pets. The immunity a mother passes to her newborn pups/kittens through her milk can also block the newborn’s ability to create antibodies when it is vaccinated. That is why young animals need to be vaccinated at very specific ages to maximise the chance of providing protection. Therefore, your vet’s advice on the timing of vaccination is important.

Why do all dogs and cats get the same vaccine dose, whatever their size, or breed?

When we give a dose of vaccine, we give enough to stimulate the body’s immune system to generate a protective response. The immune system in fact needs the same degree of stimulus regardless of the body mass or breed. So, we usually need to use exactly the same dose of vaccine for a Chihuahua as for a Mastiff. The same principle applies to cats, which is why a kitten will receive the same dose as an adult cat. It is different when we give medicines such as antibiotics or wormers. The effect of these often depends on getting a certain concentration of the active ingredient into the body of the animal. For this reason, the larger the animal, the greater the total dose needed to achieve the required effect

What vaccines are available in DOGS?

D – distemper

H – canine hepatitis (adenovirus)

P – parvovirus L – leptospirosis

Pi – parainfluenza

R – rabies


Distemper virus can be fatal, causing fits, uncontrolled muscle contractions (tics) or muscular weakness. It often permanently damages the dog’s nervous system, sense of smell, eyesight, and hearing. It also causes a discharge from the dog’s eyes or nose, as well as sickness and diarrhoea. Other symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, increased body temperature, weight loss and loss of appetite.

Canine hepatitis virus – (Adenovirus)

Canine hepatitis is a potentially fatal disease, most found in young, unvaccinated pups. It causes discharge from the nose or eyes, coughing and serious liver and/or kidney disease, appetite loss, sickness, as well as a change in drinking and urination behavior. The disease is spread by contact with urine from infected dogs.

Parvovirus (Parvo)

Parvovirus is most likely to infect pups up to six months of age but can infect older dogs and is often fatal in the young and old. It can cause severe vomiting and blood stained diarrhea, high temperature and sudden death from damage to the heart can occur. It is easily spread by direct contact between dogs or via owner’s clothing and shoes.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which causes loss of appetite, sickness, high temperature and discharge from the eyes. The dog may develop liver disease, kidney damage, diarrhea and increased urination. Infected dogs may die rapidly or much later from kidney failure or even if they recover, they can remain carriers infecting other dogs. It is an infection frequently carried by rats and mice and contamination of water or feed is common where hygiene measures are insufficient.


Rabies is a deadly viral disease in human and dogs.  Rabies primarily transmits to dogs through bites from disease carriers: bats, skunks, foxes, and raccoons. The virus is retained within a rabid animal’s salivary glands and spreads through the saliva.

 Vaccination Protocol Dogs

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