Why vaccinate your pet?

Why Vaccinate Your Pet?

Pet’s in areas such as Hexham, Stocksfield and Bellingham have a greater risk of infectious conditions. Did you know that vaccinations play a central role in protecting pets from both viral and bacterial infectious diseases? Although vaccinations aren’t a legal requirement in the UK, here at Orchard House Vets in Hexham, Stocksfield and Bellingham, we strongly urge you to in order to keep your pet happy and healthy. Here in Northumberland and more specifically in Tynedale, we are surrounded by stunning countryside and plenty of outdoor space. The risk factors are often greater where animals amass, so for dogs that would be open spaces like parks, or for cats it could be your garden. As a vets in Tynedale we will often see more related cases than somewhere like Newcastle Upon Tyne. 

Orchard House Vets - one of our team with an orange tabby cat

How Do Vaccinations Work?

In the first 8 weeks of life, puppies, kittens and rabbits have natural immunity from their mother but this immunity starts to deteriorate and vaccination is required to boost the level of immunity they have.

When your pet gets vaccinated, a weakened or inactive part of a disease (an antigen) is injected into them. Doing so teaches the pet’s immune system to defend itself from the disease. This means that when they are then exposed to the real disease, they are not as likely to become really ill or the disease is less likely to be fatal.

Normally a puppy or kitten will need 2 – 3 vaccinations given at set periods for them to gain sufficient immunity to protect them from the disease vaccines protect against.


What Are Booster Vaccinations?

Your pet not only needs their initial round of vaccinations, but they also require yearly boosters throughout their life to maintain their protection from diseases. Some vaccinations are required yearly, whilst others are only needed once every three years depending on the type of vaccine, the brand of vaccine, the pet’s age, and the previous vaccination status of the pet.

At Orchard House Vets, we can provide you with a vaccination record card so you can keep up to date with your pet’s vaccinations and boosters and we also send out annual reminders for when your pets’ vaccine is due (the vaccine must have been given at our clinic for reminders to be received).

Are Vaccinations Dangerous?

Any medication given in the UK has to have a licence issued by the Veterinary Medicine Directorate to ensure they are safe for use, these are intensively researched and meet strict regulations. There are often negative stories on internet searches about vaccinations, which are often based on myth, hearsay or poor research. If you are concerned about vaccinating your pet we would always recommend discussing your concerns with your vet.

The benefits of vaccinating your pet and protecting them against deadly diseases will always outweigh the risk of vaccination.

Possible Side Effects:

As with all vaccinations, there is a chance for side effects, however, these are often mild and not serious and subside after two days.

Mild side effects may include tenderness or swelling around the injection site, low energy, reduced appetite or activity, and a mild fever.

Although unlikely, if you notice your pet having more serious side effects, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, swelling around the face, neck or eyes, and/or coughing contact your vet immediately, although these reactions are very rare.

What Vaccinations Does My Pet Need?


Dogs need vaccinations from between 6-9 weeks old, up until old age. Vaccinations can be categorised into ‘core’ and ‘additional’ vaccinations. Core vaccinations are strongly recommended, whereas additional vaccinations such as rabies or herpes are more dependent on the lifestyle of the pet.

Core vaccinations for dogs include parvovirus (a highly contagious and fatal disease that attacks cells in a dog’s intestines), leptospirosis (a bacterial disease that damages vital organs), distemper (this attacks multiple body systems and is often untreatable), and infectious hepatitis (which can attack the liver, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys).

Whereas additional vaccinations include kennel cough (which can be spread from dogs socialising), and rabies (which is a legal requirement when travelling outside of the UK).

The Kennel cough vaccine’s name can be misleading as it implies this is a disease that can only be caught if the dog was in a kennel. Kennel cough is actually canine infectious tracheobronchitis which is highly infectious and spreads easily from dog to dog and also from the environment the dog has been in, with the infected dog potentially being contagious for up to 20 days. The vaccination will not prevent your dog from catching kennel cough but it will reduce the symptoms the dog is suffering greatly and the recovery time is shorter.

We have had confirmed cases of kennel cough and parvovirus in the surrounding areas over the last few months, so we strongly recommend that your dog’s vaccination status is kept up to date.


Both indoor and outdoor cats require vaccinations due to the nature of how the diseases the vaccines protect against are spread. Your kitten (or cat) will require 2 primary injections for vaccination at 9 weeks and again 3-4 weeks later. After the primary vaccination, your cat will require an annual vaccination every 12 months. Until your cat is fully vaccinated they should be kept indoors.

Core cat vaccinations include cat flu (otherwise known as feline herpesvirus and calicivirus, which causes respiratory problems), feline parvovirus (which aforementioned can be fatal), and feline leukaemia virus (which can cause cancer in felines). Cats that are completely indoors with no access to the outside (or no planned access to the outside in the future) may not require vaccination against the feline leukaemia virus, but your vet will discuss your pet’s vaccination requirements with you.

Similarly to dogs, cats can also get rabies vaccination as an additional vaccination when travelling outside of the UK.


Rabbits (both indoor and outdoor) also require vaccinations due to the nature of how the diseases we vaccinate against are spread.

Rabbits need to be vaccinated against myxomatosis (often fatal), viral haemorrhagic disease strain 1 and viral haemorrhagic disease strain 2 (which often results in sudden death within days of being infected and can remain in the environment for 120 days). The only treatment for all three diseases is preventive vaccination as sadly there is no cure for these diseases.

Rabbits need to be vaccinated from 5 weeks of age and again every 12 months.

For more advice on vaccinations , give us a call on 01434 607677. If you would like to book an appointment you can either give us a call or book an appointment online.