Pete the vet With Pete Wedderburn
A shot in time can save your pet
VACCINES have been highly effective at reducing disease in the pet world in the past 40 years. Nearly all vaccines are given by subcutaneous injection. A small volume of vaccine (one-fifth of a teaspoonful) is injected into the scruff of the neck using a sharp fine needle.
Most animals do not even notice the vaccine is being administered. Often, the injection has a more dramatic effect on the owner than the animal. I sometimes see pet owners turning away and grimacing as the injection is given, while the dog stands happily on the table, tail wagging, completely unaware of what has just happened.
One vaccine is given in an unusual fashion — by intra-nasal administration, which in layman’s terms means that it is squirted into the nose. This vaccine is against a disease called Kennel Cough, more accurately known as Infectious Canine Tracheobronchitis.
At this time of year, many people are planning summer holidays and a standard part of holiday preparations is to ensure that pets have all their vaccinations before going to boarding kennels. Good boarding kennels insist that all visiting dogs need to have current vaccine certificates proving that they are protected against Kennel Cough, as well as the other serious viral diseases. During May, June and July, I am asked to administer many doses of Kennel Cough vaccine.
The vaccine stimulates the cells lining the inside of the nasal chamber to produce antibodies against the disease. As you can imagine, dogs do not particularly enjoy the procedure. The vaccine volume is very small, but the sensation is bound to be slightly uncomfortable. The dog’s head is tilted back and the vaccine is gently trickled into each nostril. Most animals are very trusting, and they tolerate the process without a fuss. Rarely, an aggressive or excitable dog may need to be sedated before the vaccine can be successfully administered.
This week, I was asked to vaccinate two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels against Kennel Cough. Sam is six years old and Benny is ten and they were good examples of typical vaccination consultations. Vaccinations work by stimulating the immune system and it is essential that the body is in full health before a vaccination is given. It is a standard part of vaccine protocols that every animal is given a full, thorough health check by the vet. Occasionally, an animal may have signs of underlying illness and vaccination must be delayed until the animal has fully recovered.
When Sam and Benny arrived for their Kennel Cough vaccines, I gave each of them a clinical examination before doing anything else. I asked their owner a number of questions about their lifestyle, including questions on diet, exercise, water consumption, and anti-parasite regimes. I weighed them, took their temperatures and used a stethoscope to listen to their chests. In around five minutes, I was able to establish that both dogs were in good physical condition and that there was no reason why a vaccine should not be given.
Interestingly, these routine checks did discover one particular fact.
My examination with the stethoscope revealed that Sam, the younger dog, has developed a heart murmur in the past year, indicating that the valves of his heart have developed a tiny leak. Sam seems as healthy and fit as ever, and he enjoys exercise as much as any dog, but it is likely that as he grows older, he may need treatment for heart disease.
Both Sam and Benny sat quietly as the intra-nasal vaccine was given to each of them. I had done nothing to treat either animal but the consultation had been very useful. I had successfully protected both dogs against a significant disease and I had learned useful information about Sam’s heart for the future.