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Veterinary Group

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Campaign to Prevent Killer Diseases comes to Sussex

Question: I have just seen a TV advertisement warning that many pets are unprotected against serious contagious diseases. My Cocker Spaniel has not been vaccinated since he was a puppy seven years ago. How much of a concern is this really?

Answer: Sussex pets are set to benefit from a health campaign taking place this June to help stamp out killer diseases. As part of National Vaccination Month many veterinary practices, such as ourselves, are participating in an amnesty for the UK’s 11 million unprotected, dogs, cats and rabbits at risk from potentially fatal diseases, offering them a full vaccination course for the price of a booster.

Starting on 1 June, the campaign comes as research by animal health company Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health shows that vets are reporting an increase in a number of serious and deadly diseases in Sussex. The increase coincides with more than a quarter of vets nationwide reporting worries over falling levels of vaccination due to the credit crunch.

One of the potential increasing threats is leptospirosis (also known as Weil’s disease) , which is carried by Britain’s rapidly rising rat population. The disease, which is transmitted through rats’ urine and can be picked up by dogs as they swim in rivers or even drink from puddles, is often fatal. It can also be transmitted to people – tragically, one woman died last year after she was bitten by a wild rat in her garden. According to the most recent data in the past six months alone, leptospirosis was seen by 40 per cent of veterinary practices in the UK and vet practices in Sussex have reported cases. Research by the British Pest Control Association suggests that rat numbers in England are estimated to have swelled by 13% in the last year alone to over 50 million – meaning that there is now one for every person living in the country outside London. Once thought of as a rural danger (in people, the disease is more common in those who work on farms or near rivers or take part in water sports), leptospiriosis in the nation’s pets has also been shown to be a risk in an urban context as rat infestations in towns and cities have reportedly doubled. A recent You Gov survey, however shows widespread lack of awareness among the pet owning public of the disease.

Data from Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health’s most recent survey of disease in the nation’s pet population shows that 57 per cent of veterinary practices reported suspected or confirmed cases of the killer dog disease, parvovirus, during the previous 6 months.

Cat flu was seen by 87 per cent of the nation’s vets during the past six months making this the most common cat disease reported.

Recent trends towards higher average temperatures favour fleas and other external parasites which can carry the fatal rabbit disease ,myxomatosis, which is particularly prevalent in Summer and Autumn but is now increasingly been seen outside the main risk period.

In concluding, you are right to be concerned about your pet Spaniel and we urge all owners to protect their pets against these diseases. The National Vaccination Month Campaign aims to help save lives and limit the spread of disease by offering pet owners the chance to vaccinate for a discounted rate during June 2009. If your dog or cat has not been vaccinated in the last 18 months, or the last nine months for rabbits, log on to to download your voucher and book your appointment with one of the many nominated local practices.