Here at Magnolia House we believe that prevention is always better than a cure, and regular vaccination is extremely important in preventing a number of life-threatening diseases. Vaccines have improved a great deal over the last couple of decades – they are safer, and they last longer. As a result, the possibility of side-effects is minimal, and it is no longer necessary to vaccinate against every disease every year – some vaccines last 3 years or more. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, some vaccines may not be necessary at all.

The core vaccines include diseases which every pet should be vaccinated against, while the non-core vaccines are optional and depend on your pet’s level of risk.

Core vaccines


Distemper virus causes a variety of symptoms, including pneumonia, vomiting, diarrhoea, andseizures. It is fatal in 40% of dogs. It is transmitted by contact with infected dogs, foxes and ferrets.


Parvovirus causes vomiting, diarrhoea (often bloody), loss of appetite, and in some cases heart disease. It is fatal in more than 50% of dogs. It is transmitted by contact with faeces of infected dogs, and the virus can survive more than a year in the environment.


Infectious canine hepatitis is caused by adenovirus, and symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, jaundice, bleeding, eye inflammation, and kidney disease. It can be fatal in about 20% of dogs, and is transmitted by contact with infected dogs or foxes.


Leptospira is a bacterial infection that causes liver and kidney disease and can be fatal. It is spread by contact with urine (or water containing the urine, e.g. marsh, pond, slow moving river) of the infected animal, most often rats. It is contagious for people as well.

Non-core vaccines:


Parainfluenza virus is one of the infectious agents that causes kennel cough symptoms. It istransmitted through the air, and does not require direct physical contact with the infected dog.


Fatal disease which affects people as well as animals, and is transmitted via bites.

Bordetella (kennel cough)

Bordetella is a bacterial infection and another cause of kennel cough symptoms. Like
parainfluenza, it is transmitted through the air and does not require physical contact.


Leishmania is an infection spread by sandflies, and causes a wide variety of symptoms, including skin ulcers, eye problems, kidney failure, weight loss, anaemia, and limping. It is not found in the UK as yet, but is prevalent in Spain, Portugal and Italy.


Coronavirus causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and most often affects puppies (due to their
undeveloped immune system) and show dogs or dogs who are frequently kennelled (due to stress and the number of dogs found in the same confined area).

Can we/should we test levels of antibodies instead of vaccinating?

There has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about the risk versus benefit of vaccines both for people and animals. One question that always arises is just how long do vaccines last, and how often should we actually re-vaccinate or “booster” the immune response?

Some vaccine manufacturers still recommend yearly boosters for all vaccines. Others have done extensive testing and found that some vaccines do last significantly longer than 1 year. As veterinary surgeons, we are restricted by vaccine licensing laws, so our recommendation has to match the manufacturer’s licence. This means that if a vaccine is licensed to be given every year, we have to advise our clients to booster it every year.

We have deliberately chosen to use a range of vaccines with the most vaccines with a 3 year license. For example, distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies all have a 3 year licence. This is to maximise your pets protection while minimising the number of vaccinations your dog needs.

An alternative to vaccinating every year is to perform a blood test to check the levels of antibodies, and only vaccinate when the levels drop. For some dogs, the antibodies may last up to 7 years. This test is only available for distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis.

Vaccinating at intervals longer than the manufacturer’s recommendations is considered “off-label” use of the vaccine and if you as an owner wish to go down this route you need to understand all the pros and cons of doing so, as well as sign a consent form.

As we have several clients who prefer to do antibody level checks, we do offer vaccine antibody level testing, and if that is something you are interested in please speak to one of our vets to discuss it further.

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