Vaccinations protect pets from serious contagious diseases. Vaccinations are not only needed to keep your dog healthy, but they may be required by boarding kennels, or if your pet travels abroad. This is to prevent the spread of disease.

From six to nine weeks of age – puppies should be vaccinated to protect them from some very serious infections: such as parvovirus, distemper, leptospirosis and adenovirus 1 and 2. You may also be offered vaccinations for canine parainfluenza, kennel cough and rabies.

After these initial injections, regular boosters will need to be kept up to date for the rest of your dog’s life in order to keep him healthy and protect him from dangerous diseases.


This is a serious, life-threatening disease which is spread through the urine of infected animals, which can contaminate water or soil. Leptospirosis  enters the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.


The symptoms include excessive thirst, fever, vomiting, muscle pain. It can progress quickly and lead to organ failure. Furthermore, it can result in infertility. The disease can also infect humans.


Antibiotics can treat the disease, but there will often be long-term health complications.

Canine parainfluenza:

This is a highly contagious and airborne respiratory infection, like a cold. It is not usually serious, but important to vaccinate against.

It is transmitted by means of airborne particles from coughing and sneezing and through contact with contaminated food bowls, water bowls and bedding.


Symptoms include: persistent cough, fever, nasal discharge, sneezing, eye inflammation, lethargy and loss of appetite.


Recovery varies from dog to dog. Some dogs may recover from the virus without medication. However some dogs require medication. This can include:

antibiotics can be given to treat any bacterial infection

antiviral medication can be given to suppress the virus.

cough suppressants can be prescribed for a dry and painful cough, cough painkillers to help with the discomfort of persistent coughing .

An effective vaccination is available against canine parainfluenza. However, it is not always given as part of a standard inoculation program. Ask your vet if you are interested in finding out more.

Canine distemper:

This virus is spread by an infected dog’s saliva and occasionally urine. It is usually contracted through direct contact.


Initial symptoms include fever, eye and nose discharge, poor appetite and coughing. However, as the disease progresses, it can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and the skin on the paw pads to become hardened.

In later stages,  as a result of the central nervous system being affected, pets can develop symptoms such as seizures, limb weakness and imbalance.

Sadly, in serious cases, canine distemper can be fatal. Furthermore, if a dog does recover, it may suffer ongoing seizures and continuing health problems.


There is no medicinal cure, only prevention.

Dogs suffering from the virus receive supportive care to help their bodies fight it. Being given fluids to prevent dehydration can help, as does medication to help control seizures.

Adenovirus 1 and 2:

This is a viral disease with two strains.

Adenovirus 1 causes hepatitis – an infection of the liver – also known as Infectious Canine Hepatitis.

Adenovirus 2 causes a respiratory illness which is a type of kennel cough. In both strains the disease is transmitted through saliva, urine, faeces, blood or nasal discharge of infected dogs. Furthermore the virus can survive for many months.


Early symptoms start with lethargy. Dogs have a high temperature, inflammation of the tonsils and enlarged lymph glands below the jaw. As acute tonsillitis is not very common in dogs,you should be alerted if your dog shows symoptoms of it. Vomiting and/or diarrhoea often develops, accompanied by a loss of appetite. In some cases, dogs show sensitivity to bright light.

Later symptoms include a painful enlarged liver, as well as jaundice and bleeding from the gums. In around 20% of cases the pet will die. Those that survive the acute stage will recover. However it may take many weeks to regain their previous condition.


CAV-1 virus cannot be treated directly. Therefore treatment is limited to supporting the dog during the illness. This support may include: medication to control liver failure, vomiti8ng, anti-inflammatories and a special liver failure diet.


Parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that is often fatal and is very costly to treat. It is spread through contaminated faeces of affected dogs, and can remain active in the environment for anything up to nine months.


The virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. As a result, the dog can become becoming very weak and dehydrated.


 Interestingly, the disease is more prevalent in certain parts of the country than others, so vaccination frequency advice may vary. Ask your vet for more details.

Kennel cough:

Kennel cough is a respiratory infection caused by a number of bacteria and viruses. Although kennel cough is not usually dangerous, it can be irritating and bothersome.


Apart from your dog coughing, the infection is unlikely to make them feel ill.

However, extra care should be taken with puppies, elderly dogs and those with existing medical conditions who can all be susceptible to complications from kennel cough, such as pneumonia.


It normally clears up without treatment within a few weeks.

Some of the viruses which can contribute to kennel cough are included in a dog’s core vaccines. However, the actual cause is a bacterium which requires a separate vaccination.

This kennel cough vaccine is often required for a stay in kennels where the highly-contagious infection can spread easily. It has to be given into the nose and is only protective for six months.


Rabies is a fatal viral polioencephalitis. It specifically affects the grey matter of a dog’s brain and the central nervous system.

Rabies is transmitted through the exchange of blood or saliva from an infected animal.


There are two forms of rabies: paralytic and furious

Furious rabies in dogs shows as overt aggression and attack behaviour.

Paralytic rabies – also referred to as dumb rabies – is characterized by weakness and loss of coordination, followed by paralysis.

In the early stage of rabies infection, which lasts from 1-3 days, a dog will show only mild symptoms. The majority of dogs then progress to either the furious stage or the paralytic stage, or a combination of the two. However, some dogs can have the infection without displaying any major symptoms.


If you’re planning on taking your dog on holiday with you to another EU country a rabies vaccine is required. The injection is amongst the requirements necessary get a Pet Passport, which allows your dog to another EU country and then bring him or her back to the UK.

However, rabies is not a required vaccine for dogs in the UK.

Your dog will need to be at least 12 weeks old and already microchipped to have the jab.

Finally, keep your pet topped up

Some booster injections are needed annually, with others required up to three years apart. However, if you are not sure whether your pet has been vaccinated, check with your vet.

Join one of our practical or online first aid courses to ensure your skills are current and you are ready to help your pet whenever they need you.

First Aid for Pets provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. It is strongly advised that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.