Pets: Owners have a duty to take precautions

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WHEN it comes to raising children, most adults take vaccinations very seriously, keen to protect their loved ones from as many illnesses as possible at the earliest opportunity.

But the same cannot always be said when dealing with animals. Although pets can take pride of place in a family, many are at risk from potentially life-threatening diseases, simply because they have not been vaccinated. Many will die because their owners have failed in their duty of care.

"Vaccination is a vital part of responsible pet ownership," explains PDSA senior veterinary surgeon Elaine Pendlebury. "Every year, PDSA vets treat hundreds of pets suffering from illnesses that vaccinations could have prevented."

The veterinary charity is urging pet owners to take their four-legged friends for essential life-saving jabs.

Ensuring they are vaccinated will help prevent potentially-fatal diseases, such as parvovirus and distemper in dogs, feline leukaemia and cat flu and myxomatosis in rabbits.

The charity suggests owners of cats or dogs should make sure vaccinations are given at a very young age. Their first course of injections can be from as early as six weeks old, with further injections after this.

Regular booster vaccinations are also necessary, as the body's immune response gradually fades over time.

Many pet owners do not realise that rabbits also need to be vaccinated against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease. This can be from about six weeks old, but again, owners should speak with their vet for further information.

Whatever animal you own, you should seek advice from your vet to be sure you are taking the right steps to vaccinate your pet, doing everything you can to prevent a devastating situation occurring. "It can be heart-breaking for owners, who in many cases simply didn't realise the dangers facing their unvaccinated pets. In some cases these diseases can prove fatal," says Elaine.

n For more information, visit or any PDSA PetAid hospital or charity shop.