Are annual booster vaccinations really necessary?

Our vaccination policy explained

The routine use of companion animal vaccinations has saved many pets from suffering preventable and often fatal contagious diseases.

Vaccination against contagious disease in our pets has greatly contributed to their health over the past few decades and we have seen a large reduction in the number of deaths attributed to these diseases. However we must not be complacent. We still regularly see clinical cases of cat flu, myxomatosis in rabbits and canine leptospirosis which can all be prevented by regular vaccination.

The canine vaccination we use is manufactured by Intervet who have done much research and development on the interval of booster vaccinations. It has been proven that the Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza components need to be given every year but the Distemper, Parvovirus and Hepatitis can be given every third year. We have been following this recommendation since it was published. See www.f-o-v.co.uk for more information.

In cats we tailor the vaccinations given according to their individual circumstances. Some house cats can be vaccinated against Cat Flu and Enteritis only. Whereas cats who go outside must be vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia Virus too. There is no data available to support longer intervals than 12 months for booster vaccination. It is not uncommon for us to see Cat Flu in cats whose booster has only just lapsed and this supports the annual booster interval recommendation in the product’s licence.

We always aim to provide the highest standard of veterinary care to all pets entrusted to us. We therefore follow the best scientific advice and recommend a health check and booster vaccination every year. We follow the recommendations in the data sheets published by the manufacturers. The vaccines are licensed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate only after satisfactory testing to ensure their efficacy and safety. The Veterinary Products Committee, an independent, expert advisory group (advising and reporting to both the Government and the licensing authority) has emphasised the safety and value of vaccination, and presented data on the extremely low prevalence of adverse reactions to these products in dogs and cats.

We fully endorse the recent joint statement from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and British Veterinary Association regarding the recommendation for annual vaccination. Read it in full at www.bsava.com and also check out the most recent independent study regarding vaccination safety.

As veterinary surgeons, we have a duty of care to animals under our care and we must ensure that as many pets as possible are fully protected against killer diseases such as: parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper leptospirosis in dogs; cat flu, feline enteritis, feline leukaemia virus in cats; myxomatosis and haemorrhagic viral disease in rabbits; and that this protection is maintained throughout their life.