One of the hot topics in modern dog care is what we really need to vaccinate our dogs against, and how often should we do it? I am firmly in the camp that believes that vaccination has done more good than harm for our dogs. Thankfully, I am not old enough to remember when Parvovirus emerged in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but I have seen enough puppies devastated by this disease in my career and there are regular outbreaks across the UK.

I have yet to knowingly see an adenovirus (infectious hepatitis) case, but I have seen distemper (and not just on James Herriot reruns) and cases are on the rise due to increased imports from Eastern Europe. The WSAVA considers vaccination against the core diseases of parvovirus, distemper, and adenovirus to be essential for all dogs and recommends a course given to puppies between six and 12 weeks, with a final injection at 16 weeks in high-risk areas, and a booster at one year old. Most vets then give DHP vaccination every three years, but titre testing is available for owners who would like to check if a booster is needed.

The WSAVA advise leptospirosis vaccination in countries where the disease is found, and this includes the UK. As common sources of infection include standing water and areas contaminated with rat urine such as farms, gundogs and terriers are at high risk. Annual vaccination is required, and no titre testing is available.

Owners may wish to consider kennel cough vaccination for competing or breeding dogs, or if they board other people’s dogs. Kennel cough is rarely serious but spreads like wildfire and could mean a whole shoot team out of action for two to four weeks!

Vaccine reactions can happen, but the most common are pain on injection, small swellings which reduce after a week, and general malaise lasts for 24-48 hours. More serious reactions are rare, but you may want to discuss a vaccination plan with your vet if your dog has underlying medical conditions, is on medication, or has relatives that have reacted badly to vaccination.


The vestibular system controls balance in the dog, and problems with the vestibular system can cause a head tilt, circling, rapid flicking of the eyes, ataxia and nausea. The most common cause in older dogs is idiopathic peripheral vestibular disease; the cause is not known, and though often called a ‘stroke’ by vets and owners, it is not caused by bleeds or clots in the brain.

Most dogs recover well with just supportive treatment in less than a week. A head tilt can remain, but most dogs learn to cope with that. In younger dogs, similar symptoms can be caused by severe inner ear infections. Less often, vestibular symptoms are caused by lesions in the brain. Your vet can do basic tests to determine which type of disease is more likely and give you a prognosis.


Dogs evolved as scavengers, and I think this is why they are so good at vomiting! If your diet consists of what you can find that humans have thrown out, the risk of food poisoning is high and anything which doesn’t sit quite right will be brought back up.

If a dog is sick once or twice and then looks relaxed (or for something else to eat!), I am not overly concerned. It is sensible to withhold food for 12-24 hours, but offer small amounts of water or rehydration solution to drink. If vomiting is continual, the dog is just bringing up bile, seems very miserable, or can’t keep water down there may be a more serious problem and you should seek veterinary advice.

Eating too fast, too much, or too infrequently are common causes of vomiting. Recurrent episodes could indicate a food intolerance, mild pancreatitis, or stomach ulcers and thus should be investigated.