International Cat Care Keeping Cats Safe Campaign

Every year veterinary practices across the Uk see many cats that have been brought in to them because of accidental poisonings or accidents that occur inside or just outside their own homes. Cats are naturally very curious animals and this, coupled with their drive to keep themselves scrupulously clean through grooming, can put them at risk of getting into dangerous places and situations, accidentally ingesting toxic substances while grooming or swallowing things they are playing with. Many of these cats survive if they receive veterinary treatment immediately, but sadly others do not.

cat grooming

International Cat Care has teamed up with the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) and Agria Pet Insurance to launch its new ‘Keeping Cats Safe’ campaign which will highlight the dangers that can be found in and around the home. International Cat Care say

“The key message of the campaign is that prevention is better than cure and we hope that the campaign will spread widely to help prevent needless suffering and promote faster recognition and treatment following poisoning or injury”


The campaign will cover everything from common household toxins such as lilies, disinfectants, dog flea products and antifreeze, to cats eating strange things (for example, rubber bands, sewing needles and wool) and accidental injuries from collars, falls and road traffic accidents. They aim to give owners advice on the most common hazards and how to avoid them, as well as listing symptoms of poisoning and injury and what to do in these cases.

Cats are usually very careful about what they eat, but because of their need to keep themselves clean and their coats in tip-top condition, they will often accidentally ingest toxic substances. Their bodies are also not as good at removing certain toxins as other species such as dogs are, so they may be much more susceptible to the effects of poisonous substances.

The most common poisons in cats (incidents reported by vets to the VPIS)

  1. Lilies
  2. Unknown Agents (Poisoning is strongly suspected but the ICatCare Keeping Cats Safe 2cause is not identified)
  3. Use of dog flea products or cat rubbing against a recently treated dog (Permethrin poisoning)
  4. Antifreeze (Ethylene Glycol)
  5. Disinfectants containing Benzalkonium chloride (also found in antibacterial cleaners, hand sanitizing solutions,  mould removers and patio cleaners)
  6. Imidacloprid (flea treatment)
  7. Paracetamol (usually given by owners who do not realise it is toxic)
  8. Disinfectants (probably also benzalkonium chloride but unconfirmed)
  9. White spirit (more often in the summer months when DIY jobs are done in the home)
  10. Moxidectin (a wormer)

Common signs of poisoning may include

  • Vomiting
  • Frothing at the mouth or salivating
  • Ulceration of the tongue, mouth or feet
  • Diarrhoea
  • Panting
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Lack of coordination / staggering / wobbling
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
all parts of the lily are highly toxic to cats, including the pollen

all parts of the lily are highly toxic to cats, including the pollen

If you suspect you cat may be sick or has come into contact with a poisonous / toxic substance

  1. Contact your vet immediately for advice
  2. Prevent any further grooming 
  3. If your cat is having seizures/fits reduce external stimulus asap. (Darken the room, turn off the tv/radio and avoid talking loudly, do not touch your cat unless he or she is in danger of injury)
You can contact Castle Vets on 01189 574488 24 hours a day because we have Vets Now Emergencies on hand outside normal surgery hours.

For more information about the campaign visit  the International Cat Care website


Summertime Pet Care


With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather. Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

How To Keep Your Pet Cool

  • Provide fresh water at all times. It is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you.
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun if he or she wants too, watch out for pets who may be sun-worshipers and try to encourage them into the shade if possible. Make sure rabbit hutches and runs are moved to shaded areas too. If it is too hot outside bring your pets inside.
  • Use pet-friendly sun cream on your pet to prevent sunburn. This is especially important for pets with white ears, or pink noses or hairless tummies.
  • Provide cooling places and objects such as a wet towel on the ground for dogs to lie on or access to nice cool kitchen tiles. You can always freeze water in plastic bottles or ice packs and wrap these in a towel then place near to your pet – rabbits and dogs love lying on or against these in the hot weather (just make sure the icy surface is not directly next to their skin. (Make sure your pet is not going to chew these objects though – especially ice packs as they may contain chemicals)
  • Use a fan to cool and move the air, but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow, cannot touch the fan and cannot chew the electrical cable.
  • Good Ventilation and air flow is very important for outside hutches and pens as well as indoor pet cages.
  • Think about the best times for exercising dogs. Early in the morning and later in the evening will often be slightly cooler. A good rule of thumb is if the pavement is too hot for you to touch your wrist to for more than a minute, it is too hot for your dogs paws.
  • Move cages containing indoor pets away from windows and/or direct sunlight, these can soon heat up to unbearable temperatures.
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car, caravan or conservatory (see our heatstroke article)
  • Use water to help your pet cool down. Some dogs like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised and heavy exercise should be avoided during the hottest part of the day. Some pets like a gentle spray with some water to help keep them cool but if your pet does not like it, don’t do it.
  • Check Habitat Temperatures Carefully For tropical fish tanks and reptile vivariums as these may get too hot if the external temperature rises.
  • Don’t forget the wildlife. Small, shallow bowls of water dotted around your garden will help out greatly.
  • Watch your pet for signs of heatstroke. This can happen to any species of pet, but is more common in animals that are overweight, senior, hyperactive even in hot weather, short nosed breeds, or animals that have existing health problems with their heart or lungs. Symptoms of heatstroke can include

Rapid or frantic panting

Excessive thirst

Anxious behaviour

Rapid heart/pulse rate

Dizziness and/or disorientation


See our article on Heatstroke for more information 

Summer Time Hazards

Barbecues and Parties

These will be on the agenda for a lot of households but, while they are fun for us, they are a scavenging hazard for ourpets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes  distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.


This is another common summer problem. It occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets including dogs and cats can and do get affected.  The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.


Grass Seeds and Plant Awns

These can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we  see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article)

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s care or would like any advice then please contact the practice on 01189 574488 or through our website
Holiday Plans For Your Pets

Holiday Plans For Your Pets

With the summer holidays upon us once again, you may already have your holiday arranged, but are your pets ready for that “restful” break you are planning?

We humans love our holidays because they are usually a welcome break from our normal daily routines, but it can be a very stressful time for our pets who may find a change to their normal routine very unsettling and this may present itself as behavioural changes and even a loss of appetite.

Your pet will deal with their change in routine far better if they are fit and healthy, so a veterinary check before you go away can be helpful in spotting any problems that may arise whilst you are away, it is also a great idea to let your veterinary practice know that you will be on holiday in case they need to see your pet in your absence or discuss your pets clinical notes with another vet. If your pet needs to take regular medication you will need to make sure that you have enough to last.

Kennels and Catteries

If your pet will be staying at a kennel or cattery, make sure that you arrange to visit it beforehand; You should be able to inspect it for cleanliness and see how happy the other boarders are. You will also be able to discuss the individual care your pet will receive and what their daily routine will be.

Many pets don’t mind going into kennels and there has been recent research that suggests some dogs find it really exciting. Some pets, however, really do not like the extreme change and sometimes noisy environment of a boarding kennel or cattery and can be very distressed by the whole experience.  Before you leave, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date as they will not be allowed to stay in kennels if they are not, it is also a good idea to make sure your pet’s preventative flea and worming treatments are up to date before they go into kennels.

Kennels and cattery

Pet Sitters

Some pets cope much better if they are looked after in their home environment and many companies now offer pet sitting services. Someone will either pop in to see your pet once or twice daily or move into your home until you get back to provide 24 hour care. these services are becoming more and more popular with pet owners and are a great alternative to the stressful kennel environment.

Dog sitters

Another option for dogs is that they go and stay in someone’s home until you get back from your holiday. After a chat with you about your dog’s requirements and favourite things a host or carer takes your dog into their home for the duration of your holiday.

Pet Sitter

Whichever type of care your choose for your pet, make sure that you let your veterinary practice know how long you will be away for and that you give permission for someone else to authorise treatment for your pet in case they cannot get hold of you in an emergency.

Taking your pet with you 

If you are lucky enough to be taking your pet on holiday, remember to take food, toys, bedding and insurance details with you. Ensure your dog or cat  is wearing an id tag with your contact details on it at all times, in case he or she gets lost (This is a legal requirement for dogs in the UK when in a public place). If your pet is microchipped you may be able to update your pet’s id chip details to your holiday address and contact number. It is also a very good idea to know where the local veterinary practice is and their phone number in case of emergencies.

Dog owners should make sure that they know of any local rules and regulations regarding where and how dogs can be walked – this is especially important on beaches and protected areas.

Remember not to leave your pet alone in a car or caravan, especially sunny days as they will get far too hot.


Pet Holiday check List

  • Your vet’s contact details or contact number of a local vet
  • Pet insurance details
  • Collar with id tags
  • Lead
  • Id chip details updated as necessary
  • Food and bowls
  • Bed/bedding
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Let your usual vet know if you are going away and your pet is in someone else’s care
  • Recent photo of your pet in case he or she runs away from where you are staying
For more advice or an appointment for a health check please contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488

Do You Know Your Pet Law?

Owning and caring for a pet can be a source of great enjoyment, but being a pet owner is a major responsibility and part of being a responsible owner includes knowing about and understanding the law surrounding pet ownership.  Many pet owners in the UK are not aware of the law or of what they are required to provide for their pets to ensure their physical and mental well being. The PDSA’s Annual PAW Report 2014 reported that only 36% of pet owners surveyed were familiar with the Animal Welfare Act.

Although not all owners are familiar with the ins and outs of the actual Animal Welfare Act, the majority are providing everything their pet needs already. However, the RSPCA investigated a shocking 159,831 cruelty complaints and secured 2,419 convictions by private prosecution to protect animals last year.

The Animal Welfare Act

This came into force on April 6th 2007. It increased and introduced new penalties for acts of cruelty, neglect, mutilation, tail docking and animal fighting but importantly, it also introduced a duty of care for all pet owners. There is no particularly perfect way to care for pets because each pet will have it’s own individual needs, so it is up to you as the owner to find out what your particular pet’s needs are and ensure that you can meet them.

The Animal Welfare Act applies to anyone who is responsible for an animal whether permanently or temporarily and includes fines of up to £20,000, a maximum jail term of 51 weeks and a lifetime ban on some owners keeping pets.

Under Section 9  of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 you must  take all reasonable steps to ensure that you meet  the following needs that your pet has,

1. Provide a suitable environment and living space 

  • You pet will need a safe, clean environment with protection from hazards. If your pet is kept outside you need to check it frequently to ensure he or she is safe and well.
  • A comfortable, clean, dry, quiet, draught-free rest area.
  • Somewhere to hide in order to avoid things that frighten it.
  • Access to an appropriate place, away from its resting area, which it can use as a toilet area.
  • The living area should be large enough to be comfortable and provide sufficient space to move around in. Minimum cage sizes for small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and other rodents should be taken into consideration – the bigger the better!
  • The living area should be properly ventilated and at the correct temperature so that the pet does not get too hot or cold.
  • You should never leave your pet unattended in any situation, or for any period of time that is likely to cause it distress or harm.
  • When transporting your pet, make sure it is comfortable, safe and secure at all times. The transport must be well ventilated and at the correct temperature. Your pet should have access to water if the journey is longer than a few hours (small furries and birds should have access to food and water all of the time). Bedding or flooring must be adequate and absorb any moisture if the pet goes to the toilet during transport. Dogs should be given toilet breaks on longer journeys, but ensure they cannot escape in an unfamiliar place!

2. Provide a diet suitable to the pet’s needs

  • Your pet will need clean fresh drinking water at all times. If  you own a dog, this may mean taking water with you on walks where clean water is unlikely  to be available.
  • You must provide your pet with a balanced diet that is suited to its individual needs including its age, level of activity and health.
  • You must ensure that you feed the correct amount of food and that your pet is maintained at the correct weight and does not become underweight or overweight/obese.
  •  Your pet must be able to reach it’s food and water easily.
  • If you are uncertain what diet is best for your pet you should seek advice from a veterinary practice or suitably qualified pet care specialist.

3. Allow the pet to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

  • Make sure your pet has enough things to do in it’s environment so that it does not become distressed or bored. This may mean adding toys, hiding places, climbing places, scratching posts, ladders, digging places, activity toys and feeders etc to suit your pet’s individual requirements.  For example giving cats access to high places and scratching places.
  • Make sure your pet has access to safe toys and suitable objects to play with and, in the cases of some pets ,chew.
  • Ensure that your pet can rest undisturbed when it needs to – this may mean giving them a bed, crate or separate part in their living space where they will not be disturbed by people or other animals when they are resting.
  • Provide your pet with regular opportunities for exercise and play with people or other pets, depending on the species of your pet.
  • Make sure that your pet has the opportunity to exercise properly every day. It is important to keep your pet fit, active and mentally stimulated. If you are unsure how much or what type of exercise to provide, seek advice from a veterinary practice or suitably qualified pet care specialist.
  • Ensure that where appropriate you train your pet. Use only positive reward based training and avoid harsh, painful or frightening training methods. Training is not only necessary for a well behaved pet, it is great for mental stimulation and bonding. Although most people associate training with dogs, almost any pet can be trained including cats, rabbits, rodents and birds. (View our training article)

4. To house their pet with, or apart from, other animals 

  • Make sure that your pet is never left alone long enough for it to become distressed.
  • Some pets are solitary and do not need to live with other animals, for example some dogs, cats and certain types of rodents prefer to be live as a sole pet, but others such as rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are very social and should be housed with one or more companions of the same species.
  • If your pet lives on it’s own make sure that it has opportunities to spend enough time with people so that it does not become lonely or bored.
  • In the case of dogs, you should  ensure that your dog has plenty of opportunity to meet, socialise and play with other friendly dogs. Encourage your dog to be friendly towards other dogs from an early age. There are some dogs that just don’t like other dogs, so in this case you will need to ensure they have plenty of contact from you.
  • Animals should be given regular opportunities to socialise with people and, where appropriate for the species of pet, other animals from an early age.
  • It is important that if you keep more than one pet that they get on well together and do not fight. They need the opportunity to be close to each other but have plenty of space to move away or hide from each other if necessary.
  • When pets live together adequate extra resources must be provided for some species, for example separate water bowls, food bowls, litter trays and toys. This will help avoid any conflict and tension over valuable resources. With dogs you may need to make an effort to provide them with 1-1 time with you and without the other dog.
  • If your dog is fearful of, or aggressive towards other dogs or people, or if certain social  interactions distress or frighten your dog you should seek appropriate advice from a qualified canine behaviourist.

5. To protect their pet from pain, suffering, injury, illness and disease

  • You need to take precautions to keep your pet safe from injury.
  • If you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour or normal routine you should contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice you are given.
  • Check your pet regularly for signs of injury, disease or illness.
  • Maintain your pet’s condition, for example grooming and removing any knots in the coat (or get a groomer to do this for you) , making sure there is no faecal matter and urine on the the coat and making sure that your pet is fit and well.
  • If you recognise signs and symptoms of disease, suspect that your pet is in pain, ill or injured or if you have any concerns about its health or welfare contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice regarding treatment.
  • Ensure that your pet has regular veterinary health checks and that you provide preventative health care, where appropriate to the species of pet, for example vaccinations, booster vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and neutering.
  • Clean up after your pet including cleaning the toileting area and cage or enclosure regularly and with the appropriate, safe cleaning products to avoid disease and illness.
  • Protect your pets from ingesting or coming in to contact with harmful household items and substances such as medicines and foods intended for humans or other animals, cleaning products or antifreeze.  You should always seek veterinary advice if you suspect that your pet has eaten anything harmful.
  • Collars on cats and dogs should be of the correct size and fit, and should not cause any pain or discomfort; dogs are required to wear a collar and identity tag when in a public place by law.
  • If your pet is microchipped remember to keep the microchip database up to date with any changes in your contact details.
  • You should seek the advice of your veterinary practice before breeding your pet and take all reasonable steps to ensure that both the male and female pets are fit and healthy, with no inheritable diseases or conditions and that you will be able to find suitable homes for the offspring.
As a responsible dog owner, there are several laws regarding dog ownership that you should be aware of and we have put the most important ones into this article.

Identification (Control of Dogs Order)

Your dog must wear an identity disk or tag on his or her collar or harness while in a public place i.e. anywhere outside your property. The tag must have, at the very least, your surname and address on it; a contact telephone number is optional. This law applies even if your dog is microchipped (the law has not caught up with modern technological advances yet!) There is a fine of up to £5000 that may be given if your dog is in a public place and not wearing some form of ID. This applies regardless of whether you are with your dog or not.

According to the PDSA’s Annual report, more than 1.5 million dogs don’t wear a collar and tag and 30% of dog owners are unaware that this is a legal requirement!

Dog Law ID Tag

Microchipping of Dogs (Control of Dogs Order)

Governments across the UK have announced measures to promote responsible dog ownership. In England this includes the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs as of April 2016. From this time all dogs currently not microchipped will have to be microchipped and registered with a database compliant with the new regulations. Breeders will need to microchip their puppies by the time they are eight weeks of age, and before they are transferred to a new owner. The new owner will be responsible for updating the microchip with their details. The owners/keepers of the dog must ensure that their details are kept up to date on the microchip database for their dog.

Please be aware that when this law comes into force in April 2016, it will not replace the current law regarding identification of dogs. this means that all dogs must still wear an id tag or disk when out in public.

More information on Microchipping 

Public Spaces Protection Orders (Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act
and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act)

Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) – previously called Dog Control Orders (DCOs). There should be signs up designating these controlled areas

In public areas with PSPOs, you may have to:

  • Keep your dog on a lead
  • Put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer or someone from the council
  • Stop your dog going to certain places – like farmland or parts of a park
  • Limit the number of dogs you have with you (this applies to professional dog walkers too)

If you ignore a PSPO, you can be fined £100 on the spot fixed penalty notice or up to £1,000 if it goes to court (You can’t be fined if you’re a registered blind dog owner).

Cleaning Up After Your Dog – Poop Scooping (Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act)

It is illegal to let your dog foul in a public place and not clean it up. Claiming that you are unaware that your dog had defecated or not having the correct equipment with you (poo bags), is not an acceptable excuse. Dog poo on pavements and in playing/green areas is not only unpleasant for other people and animals, but it also carries health hazards.

You can face an on the spot fixed penalty fine of £50 -£80 if you do not clean up after your dog. If you refuse to pay the fine you can be prosecuted and face a court appearance with a fine of up to £1000

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it's unpleasant for other people too.

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it’s unpleasant for other people too.

Stray Dogs (Environmental Protection Act)

The Council must serve notice on a known owner of a stray dog. If the owner fails to come forward and pay the Council’s fees within 7 days from date of seizure or service of the notice, the Council may rehome the dog or may have it put to sleep.

Another reason why your dog should wear and id tag and be microchipped.

Control Of Your Dog (Dangerous Dogs Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act)

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control. This now applies to both private property and public places.

  • You must be able to control your dog at all times, this means being able to call your dog back to you and making sure that he or she responds to you.
  • Your dog must not jump up at or chase other members of the public. Even the friendliest or smallest of dogs can cause damage by jumping up at someone, especially a child or an elderly person.
  • If there is any possibility that your dog is might attack another dog or a person he or she must be muzzled in public places.
  • You must not train or encourage your dog to attack/threaten people or other dogs.

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

  1. Injures someone
  2. Makes someone worried that it might injure them
  3. It attacks a Guide Dog

A court may also consider your dog dangerously out of control if

  1. It injures someone’s animal
  2. If the owner of the animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Depending on the severity of the offence you could be faced with a prison sentence of  between 6 months and 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Your dog may be destroyed and you may not be able to own dogs in the future.

If your dog is likely to bite someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

If you think your dog might bite or attack someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

Walking and Travelling With your Dog (The Road Traffic Act)

It is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being held on a lead.

Dogs (or indeed any animal) travelling in vehicles should not be a nuisance or in any way distract the driver during a journey. When travelling in a vehicle, you must ensure that your dog is suitably restrained, either in a crate/carrier, behind a dog guard or by using a seatbelt harness. A dog that is loose in a car can cause an accident very easily.

If you are involved in a collision between your vehicle and a dog, you must stop, and the police must be informed. It’s the law!

The driver of a car involved in a collision with a dog MUST stop and stay on the scene until the police have given the driver permission to leave, which usually happens after they have attended the scene (If you see someone hit a dog with a car and drive off, inform the police and give them as much detail as possible).

If the dog was loose at the time of the incident, the owner of the dog may be liable for any damage caused to the car or any injury caused to the driver (see third party liability below), which is another great reason to insure your pet.

Noise Nuisance (Environmental Protection Act)

Dog barking can be classed as a statutory nuisance if it is intrusive and irritating and is effecting someone’s quiet enjoyment of their property. If a complaint is made to the local authority may serve a Noise Abatement Notice.

Causing Distress to Farm Animals (Protection of Livestock Act)

You must never let your dog off the lead anywhere near livestock (farm animals/horses) unless you can be absolutely sure that he or she wont go anywhere near them. You are responsible for what your dog does, and if your dog causes damage to livestock by worrying, chasing, injuring or killing them, you can be fined up to £1,000 plus compensation to the farmer.


Farm animals get worried by dogs very easily

Third Party Liability (Animals Act and Dangerous Dogs Act)

The keeper of a dog is strictly liable for any damage caused by the dog in certain circumstances. This can include destruction of property and personal injury, illness or death (including the damage done to a person or their car if they hit your dog in the road!) It is recommended that you take out third party insurance liability cover as a precaution.

Please note

The above information is only a guideline of the laws involved in pet ownership, for further and more in-depth information on dog law we recommend that you visit

The law surrounding dog ownership can be very complicated especially if a dog has injured someone. If you are concerned or you are involved in a case about your own dog, we recommend that you contact a dog law specialist as soon as possible for advice.

Why Vaccinating Your Pet Properly Is Important

Figures from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Annual Welfare Report have demonstrated that millions of pets in the UK are vulnerable to preventable diseases (data taken from the 2014 PAW report). Their research tells us that around 31% of pets in the UK have never had a booster vaccination and 21% have never been vaccinated at all; this means that millions of pets are at risk and could die prematurely from devastating preventable illnesses such as Parvovirus, Leptospirosis (humans can catch this one too!), Feline Leukaemia and Feline Infections Enteritis because their owners are failing to vaccinate them.

Why Should We Vaccinate?

In the past many animals became severely ill because of diseases which, thanks to vaccination, are now rarely seen. Although these diseases are less common, they have not been completely eradicated. If the number of pets protected by vaccines drops our pets could be at risk from an outbreak of infectious diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. This is similar to the human measles outbreak that has been seen recently in the UK, because so many children were not vaccinated.

Vaccination protects our pets from the many diseases that cause illness, pain, distress and even death. Vaccinating your pet against preventable diseases is a vital part of responsible pet care. When you vaccinate your pet, not only are you protecting them from these diseases but you are preventing the spread of disease to other animals.


How do vaccines work?

Pathogens are microbes such as viruses or bacteria that cause disease. Vaccines include a small amount of the weakened or harmless microbe, which when introduced into the body stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies. The immune system is then able to remember the microbe so that if the body is invaded by the real disease, it is able to fight it instantly and stop the disease developing. With some vaccinations, the immune system ‘memory’ is fairly short, which is why booster vaccinations are needed (Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Feline Leukaemia, Myxomatosis & HVD are examples of vaccines that need a yearly booster).

A vaccine is usually given by an injection under the skin, although sometimes may be given as drops into the nose (kennel cough).

All vaccines have to undergo rigorous testing to prove they are safe and effective before they are licensed for use. When used appropriately and as recommended they are both safe and provide crucial protection for animals against a number of diseases.


Do homeopathic vaccines work?

Some people are tempted to use homeopathic ‘vaccines’ However, these ‘vaccines’ have no scientific basis and there is no independent evidence to show that they work in protecting pets against disease. A few properly designed trials have been carried out using homeopathic vaccines and have shown no evidence of protection against disease.

What do the vaccinations protect against?


Canine Distemper: Spread by bodily secretions, e.g. saliva. Symptoms include fever, depression, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea and discharge from eyes and mouth. Dogs that recover, may go on to have neurological problems in later life such as muscle spasms, circling and seizures. Some recovered dogs also suffer from eye problems hand a thickening of the skin over their nose and foot pads.

Canine Parvovirus: Spread by contact with faeces from infected dogs. This virus can survive in the environment for up to nine months. It causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea (often with blood). Approximately 80% of dogs will die from this disease if left untreated.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis: Spread by contact with the saliva, urine, faeces, blood or nasal discharge of infected dogs. The urine of an infected dog can be infectious for up to a year, and the virus can survive in the environment for many months. There are two versions of this virus – one causes a kennel cough type infection, the other causes hepatitis (an infection of the liver). Symptoms include lethargy, coughing, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, jaundice and abdominal pain.

Leptospirosis: The main source of infection is via infected urine, or by contaminated water, so dogs are at risk if they swim in or drink from stagnant water or canals, especially in areas with high numbers of rats. This disease can be passed humans and can be fatal! Symptoms include fever, lethargy, increased thirst, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. In severe infections dogs develop kidney and/or liver failure and will often die.

Kennel Cough: A highly infectious disease that is easily spread wherever there are lots of dogs in one place. It is spread from small droplets in the air which are inhaled, or from direct contact. Even when a dog has recovered from kennel cough he can still pass it to other dogs for several weeks. Symptoms include sneezing (in the early stages), a harsh cough and nasal discharges.



Feline Herpes Virus & Feline Calicivirus: These viruses can by spread by direct contact with affected cats, in the air (sneezing and coughing cats), or contamination of the environment. Cats that recover can become carriers and transmit the infection to other cats. Symptoms include fever, inappetance, discharge from the nose/eyes and sneezing. It can also cause drooling and severe mouth ulcers. More severe strains can lead to pneumonia. Stress or illness can cause flare-ups of the virus in carrier cats.

Feline Infectious Enteritis: Spread by the faeces and urine of infected cats, the virus can survive in the environment for long periods. The virus attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving the cat unable to fight infection. Symptoms include lethargy and inappetance, fever, seizures, vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration. Kittens born with this disease suffer from tremors and poor coordination and may also be born blind.

Feline Leukaemia Virus: Spread by saliva/nasal secretions and is thought to require close contact with an affected cat for the infection to be transmitted (fighting / bite wounds, mating, grooming between cats). It may also be transmitted from a mother cat to her kittens via her milk. Symptoms include poor body condition, poor coat, anorexia, recurrent infections or disease, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), diarrhoea and jaundice. The virus infects the cat’s bone marrow, which can result in leukaemia (cancer of the white blood cells) and anaemia, cats may also develop lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes).



Myxomatosis: This is transmitted to rabbits by flying and biting insects such as mosquitos, rabbit fleas and mites. It causes severe swelling of the lips , eyelids, ears and genitals. Treatment is rarely successful and rabbits with this disease are often euthanased.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease: This is a highly contagious disease and can be transmitted to rabbits from other rabbits, or contaminated food, equipment or clothing. Viral Haemorrhagic Disease is nearly always fatal and causes severe internal bleeding.


When should we vaccinate?

Puppies and kittens usually have an initial course of two vaccinations starting when they are 8-9 weeks old (sometimes younger in high risk areas) and then a yearly booster vaccination to provide continuing immunity.

Rabbits have an initial vaccination that can start from 5 weeks old

All animals then have an annual or booster vaccination to keep their immunity levels up. Dogs in particular may not need to have all parts of the vaccination every year, but your vet can advise you on the best course of action as it may depend on the area you live in and which diseases are prevalent.

Vaccination Safety and Necessity

 “I’ve read a great deal about yearly booster injections for dogs and cats not being necessary and the harmful have side effects. Do you offer any alternatives – titre tests, less frequent boosters etc?” 

At Castle Vets we offer a thorough and comprehensive annual health check which is important for your pet in order to ensure he or she is in full and good health. During these annual health checks, vaccination is always discussed but not always given, depending on the individual’s circumstances.

Providing that the dog or cat has had its two initial (puppy/kitten) vaccinations and its first year booster, Castle Vets will only give dogs the full booster vaccination for Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus for dogs every three years and cats the Feline Enteritis booster every 3 years . We do recommend an annual booster for the other diseases, because studies have shown that immunity to these viruses does not last very long. This of course is always based on the individual animal’s individual needs and circumstances.

Vaccinations are one of the most important weapons in the fight against infectious diseases and many diseases have been virtually eliminated through vaccination control programs. Vaccination is necessary in order to protect our pets against life threatening disease and is the only proven method of doing this.

Remember that there are no specific cures for the diseases that our pets can get and that these diseases can cause severe illness and distress and are often fatal. In the case of Leptospirosis, treatment is available but can be extremely expensive and it may not always be successful.

It is worth noting that most boarding kennels require proof of annual vaccinations before admittance. Some pet insurance companies also insist on annual vaccinations, but more are now moving towards an annual health check which we fully endorse.


Blood testing antibody levels

It is possible to perform blood tests to check for the levels of antibodies in the blood, which will show us how well an animal is protected against a certain disease. Some owners request these tests so that they know whether or not to have their pet’s annual booster vaccination. Castle Vets are happy to do this for you if your wish.

What about harmful side effects?

Serious side effects such as anaphylactic shock and vaccine associated fibrosarcoma are extremely rare. Very occasionally an animal may have a localised reaction such as, swelling or irritation at the site of vaccination, or they may have systemic affects such as fever, loss of appetite or lethargy (you might have experienced this if you have ever had a flu jab). These symptoms can occur within minutes to 1 week after vaccination but usually disappear on their own.
The very small risk of a vaccine side effect is greatly outweighed by the benefit of protection against serious disease. This point has been endorsed by the Working Group set up by the government’s independent expert Veterinary Products Committee who undertook a thorough review of all UK licensed dog and cat vaccines. An independent and scientifically peer reviewed study carried out by the Animal Health Trust, has produced the clearest evidence yet that routine vaccination of dogs in the UK does not increase frequency of illness.

Further information

Do not be worried about asking your vet questions regarding your pet’s care, that is what they are there for. If you have any concerns or would like to know more about vaccination or any aspect of your pet’s health and care please discuss this with one of our vets who will be happy to advise you. You can contact Castle Vets by phoning us on 0118 9574488.

Much of the above information has come from the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) and we would urge you to visit their website if you would like more information on vaccines.