Millions of UK pets left unprotected against killer diseases
Pet owners urged to protect their animals with vaccinations and regular boosters
Millions of family pets are at risk from killer diseases because they are missing out on simple vaccinations, vet charity PDSA has warned.
Preventable diseases such as parvovirus, leptospirosis and feline leukaemia can cause widespread deaths, say vets. Diseases prevalent in wild animal populations, such as myxomatosis in rabbits, can also spread to their domestic counterparts, usually with fatal consequences.
The latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report has revealed that over 5 million dogs, cats and rabbits* have never been vaccinated with a primary course, leaving them unprotected against dangerous illnesses which can take hold suddenly.
PDSA also reports that one in three pets (33%) aren’t receiving regular booster vaccinations. This is leaving them exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses as well as reducing the effect of ‘herd immunity’.
PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones said that: “As a vet there is nothing more heart-breaking than seeing an animal lose its life to a disease that could have been prevented.
“Many pet owners don’t realise the dangers of diseases like parvovirus until it’s too late. It’s a severe viral infection which is highly contagious and commonly leads to septicaemia and death in dogs.
“Our research found that nearly a quarter of pet owners that haven’t vaccinated their pets** think vaccination is unnecessary. The figure among rabbit owners that don’t vaccinate is even higher, with one-in-three citing this reason for not vaccinating. This is obviously very concerning and shows we need to raise awareness of how essential vaccinations and regular boosters are.
Thanks to funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Vet teams at PDSA are trying to prevent the preventable by encouraging pet owners to get their pets vaccinated and ensure their boosters are up to date. PDSA aims to vaccinate over 60,000 pets this year through its network of 51 Pet Hospitals.
Research by PDSA shows pets in Wales are at greater risk than those in England and Scotland of contracting deadly preventable diseases, as 30% of pets in the region haven’t received their primary vaccination course.
Other high risk areas for pets include the East Midlands (29%) and West Midlands (28%) as well as London (28%).
Pets in Scotland receive a higher uptake of primary vaccination courses overall, with 81% of animals receiving this.
Selby the Husky was only 9-weeks-old when he started showing signs of the deadly disease parvovirus that can easily be prevented through vaccinations.
Christopher Brook, 31, of Bradford, bought the beautiful puppy from a breeder and had only enjoyed four days with his new canine companion when the deadly – yet preventable – virus began to take hold.
Selby quickly lost interest in his food and began suffering with terrible diarrhoea and sickness, so a worried Christopher took him straight to PDSA’s Bradford Pet Hospital.
Vets initially suspected a bacterial infection and Selby was prescribed antibiotics. However, his condition continued to deteriorate and he was later admitted to an isolation ward where he received IV fluids and medication to try and boost his battered immune system.
The young pup’s life was in the balance as he received intensive nursing 24 hours-a-day to try and save him.
PDSA Vet Kirsty Warren said: “There is no cure for parvovirus so all we could do was treat him with antibiotics, anti-sickness drugs and intravenous fluids, and hope that he would be strong enough to pull through.
“He spent nearly a week in intensive care and, as this was such a highly contagious disease, we had to use barrier nursing techniques to isolate him and prevent it spreading to any other pets in the hospital.
“Thankfully Selby eventually began to turn the corner and started on the road to recovery. But he is one of the lucky ones because many dogs don’t survive.”
Christopher described the period Selby was in intensive care as heart-breaking: “It was absolute agony; I was so worried about him but at the same time I felt helpless.
“I can’t thank the vets and nurses at PDSA enough, they’ve saved his life and I’ll always be grateful to them.”
For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk