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Understanding Vaccinations

Most pet owners know that they need to get their dogs vaccinated to help prevent them contracting common ‘doggy diseases’ some of which can be fatal, especially in younger animals.

The greyhound industry requires all greyhounds be vaccinated – both at the time of litter registration (puppy vaccination), and at the time of naming which is usually around 12-18 months of age.  The aim of this requirement is to ensure that the ‘greyhound population’, as a whole, maintains an adequate level of immunity to help prevent the spread of disease.
Since vaccinations for dogs became available in the 1950’s owners have been educated that all dogs should receive an annual health check and vaccination.

As our understanding of immunity has increased and the vaccines available become better, it has become apparent that many adult dogs develop immunity that lasts longer than a year, and it may not be necessary to vaccinate dogs annually.

There are now a variety of dog diseases for which there is a vaccine available:
•    Canine parvo-virus – the number one killer of young puppies
•    Canine adeno-virus – the cause of canine infectious hepatitis
•    Canine distemper virus – historically a big killer of dogs with nasty side effects in those that survive
•    Rabies – a disease not present in Australia due to strict quarantine rules
•    Canine parainfluenza virus – one of the causes of canine (kennel) cough
•    Bordetella bronchiseptica – a bacterial cause of canine cough
•    Leptospira interrogans – cause of leptospirosis
•    Canine corona-virus

Generally, the first three diseases are considered the most dangerous, and so are the ones that it is recommended ALL puppies and dogs are vaccinated against.

Canine Cough is a problem in places where dogs congregate, so any dog that travels regularly, goes to the park with other dogs, goes into boarding kennels, attends training classes etc, is at risk of catching this disease.  Places like boarding kennels in Victoria are required by law to ask for proof of vaccination against canine cough to prevent dogs from catching this disease.

Other diseases like leptospirosis, and coronavirus, tend to be a little more ‘regional’ – they are a problem in certain areas and in those areas it is strongly advised that dogs are vaccinated against them, but in other areas, they are not considered a problem.  Your vet will be able to tell you if you are in a high risk area.

Rabies is an exotic disease, and the only dogs that would require vaccination against rabies would be those dogs who are travelling overseas.  Rabies vaccine in Australia is tightly controlled, and only certain vets may administer it.

So what vaccination does my greyhound need?  And how often should it be vaccinated?

By the time most greyhounds leave GAP, they have already had their puppy vaccinations and had their first yearly booster.  It is a requirement that greyhounds entering GAP are vaccinated to C5 – so they will have been vaccinated against parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis and the two causes of canine cough.  You will receive a vaccination certificate in your greyhound’s paperwork.

Your vaccination certificate will have a date on it when the next vaccination is required, and that is the time to take your greyhound to the vet and discuss which vaccines your greyhound will need.  This will of course depend on the area in which you live, and on your vet’s recommendations.

These days, most vets recommend that all dogs receive a ‘yearly check-up’, but not all vaccines will be required each year.  In fact most vets now recommend that the core vaccines (the three killer diseases – Parvo, Distemper and Hepatitis) are only given every three years.  Other, ‘non-core’ diseases will vary from animal to animal, but Canine Cough vaccines are usually required every year to maintain protection.
It is important that you discuss your dog’s vaccination program with your vet so you can decide the best course of action for your individual circumstances.

Your vet can best advise you on what is required for your individual circumstances, the area in which you live, and will discuss any potential side effects of vaccination with you.

Regardless of what you decide, it is important that your greyhound still has an annual health check with a veterinarian even if it is not scheduled for a vaccine.  Annual checks can often detect problems before they become major health issues – in greyhounds checking their oral health is particularly important – so have a chat to your vet!