Vaccination is the best way to protect your pet from serious infectious diseases. Most of the diseases we vaccinate against have no specific cure or where treatment is available it can be prolonged, costly and often unsuccessful.

How vaccines work.

Vaccines contain disease-causing viruses or bacteria that have been chemically changed, so they don’t cause disease. When your dog is vaccinated, the immune system produces antibodies that work against the viruses or bacteria that cause the disease. If your pet is exposed to the infectious disease after vaccination, these antibodies will help destroy the virus or bacteria.

When presenting your pet for vaccinations, the standard vaccination regime most vets use (often called a C5) includes protection against the following four diseases:


Canine Parvovirus – A highly contagious intestinal virus that infects puppies and adult dogs. Spread through the droppings of infected dogs, the virus can survive in yards, parks and streets for up to a year. It can be picked up on shoes, clothes, paws, etc. and then spread from area to area. The virus attacks the intestines causing bloody diarrhoea, uncontrollable vomiting and severe abdominal pain. This disease is often fatal, despite intensive veterinary treatment.

Canine Distemper – A highly contagious viral disease that can affect dogs of any age. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and depression. In the late stages of the disease, muscle tremors, fits and paralysis are common. Treatment is ineffective, and the recovery rate is extremely low.

Canine Hepatitis – A viral disease which is highly contagious and often fatal. Symptoms of the disease include loss of appetite, fever, depression, vomiting and diarrhoea. In some cases, death can occur within 24 hours. Recovered dogs often develop liver and kidney problems and act as carriers spreading the disease to other dogs.

Canine kennel cough – A dry hacking cough which can persist for several weeks. Pneumonia can be a consequence of infection. Kennel cough is highly contagious and is often present in boarding facilities, parks and obedience schools. Dogs do not have to go to kennels to contract kennel cough.

Due to Cairns being a high-risk area for both Leptospirosis and Tetanus, we strongly recommend vaccination against these diseases:


Canine Leptospirosis – A serious disease risk for both humans and dogs. It is spread by the urine of rats and is usually transmitted by contaminated food, water or by rat bites. Cairns is a high-risk area due to the number of Sugar Cane paddocks where rats live. The symptoms of leptospirosis will vary and may include fever, weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, anaemia, jaundice and haemorrhage.

Tetanus – Vaccination is recommended if your dog lives, plays or hunts on farms, bushland or around horses. Tetanus is caused when tetanus bacteria grows in a wound and produces a toxin which causes a stiff, rigid paralysis. Tetanus is often fatal.

Leptospirosis and Tetanus vaccinations require two initial puppy vaccines four weeks apart, at 12 weeks and 16 weeks of age. These vaccines cannot be given to puppies under 12 weeks of age. Adult dogs are vaccinated yearly for Leptospirosis and every five years for Tetanus.

Cairns Veterinary Clinic’s dog vaccination regime.


Puppies are ‘temporarily’ protected against diseases by antibodies received through their mother’s milk (if the mother is vaccinated). These maternal antibodies decline in the first few months of a puppy’s life and until sufficiently low these antibodies can neutralise vaccines. This is why a series of vaccines are necessary.

First vaccination – 6 to 8 weeks of age. Generally, will include protection against Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Canine Hepatitis & Canine kennel cough (C5).

Second vaccination – 10 to 12 weeks of age. Generally, will include C5 injection and the first initial Leptospirosis and Tetanus vaccinations, given at 12 weeks.

Third vaccination – 16 to 18 weeks of age. In the event of an infectious disease outbreak, a third C5 injection is recommended. The second Leptospirosis and Tetanus vaccinations are also given.

Adult Dogs

The protection provided by a vaccine gradually declines after a dog has been vaccinated. Annual re-vaccination is essential to maintaining long term immunity. Adult dogs are vaccinated yearly for Leptospirosis and every five years for Tetanus.

For more information on vaccination or to make an appointment for your pet, please contact us.


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