St Martins Veterinary Clinic
St Martins Veterinary Clinic

Recent advances in vaccines and L4 vaccine controversy


Recent scare stories in the media have highlighted the use of the new Leptospirosis L4 vaccine.  L4 refers to 4 strains of leptospirosis, a disease which is routinely vaccinated against in the UK. Despite scare stories that the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) stated L4 vaccines should not be given before 12 weeks and Leptospirosis vaccination is not essential (an untruth which WSAVA have refuted) Leptospirosis is common and serious disease in the UK and vaccination from 8 weeks is important as full immunity may not be attained for several weeks following the completion of the course.


The stories in the media have suggested that dogs are dying or reacting badly in their thousands  to the L4 vaccine and that Leptospirosis is a trivial disease. Neither are true. We have now given hundreds of doses of L4 vaccine and while some dogs have been a bit off-colour for a couple of days, none have required any treatment. The reason they have reacted slightly is almost certainly because this is a novel vaccine so the immune system  is having to re-learn and this is reinforced by the fact that there are few if any reactions to subsequent boosters. Think of its as the same as when we have a vaccination and for a day or  so just feel a bit off colour, it is perfectly normal. so the surprise should be not that some dogs react but the most never do. However we will view any reports of adverse reactions seriously and take the necessary steps.


Because dogs in the UK have no immunity to the new leptospirosis strains it is even more reason to give the L4 vaccine because otherwise they are at risk of serious and potentially fatal disease.  Some breeders are misguidedly advocating the use of the old L2 vaccine however but within a short time all Leptospirosis vaccines will be the L4 variant so we are recommending this for all new vaccine courses and boosters. 


Slightly less contentious, the vaccine brand we use (Versican) has also upgraded its canine parvovirus (CPV) component. Parvovirus is common and frequently fatal in puppies and the old vaccine with a CPV2 strain has become less effective. This is something vet Martin Atkinson has been concerened with for several years and has expressed this concern to the veterinary profession and pharmaceutical industry. The new CPV2b strain vaccine is long overdue and  now at last reflects the current situation.


On the cat front. the vaccine we use (Purevax) has a new, more effective, calicivirus  (FCV -one form of cat flu) component which is greater than 80% effective while the old one most of the others still use is as little as  40%  effective. The problem with FCV is that it is an RNA virus so mutates easily and like the human flu, vaccines can become resistant to previous vaccines hence no vaccine can be 100% effective.


A new safer feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) vaccine is also now provided by the same manufacturer in a combined injection. The older FeLV vaccines could cause a serious, albeit very rare, reaction at the site of the injection, the newer one reduces that risk.


 And it's not all cats and dogs. A novel fatal variant of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD2) has emerged. A new vaccine has been developed  as the old VHD vaccine is not effective against VHD2, however the supply of this vaccine is still not fully reliable. Meanwhile we recommend using the current vaccine as this also protects against myxomatosis which has seen an increase this year.


Be assured that we use all the most modern vaccines and although these may cost a little more, after careful cost/benefit assessment consider then to be most beneficial to your pets. 


St Martins Veterinary Clinic

126 Station Road  

West Drayton


Tel.: 01895 444400

        01895 445144


Fax: 01895 431520




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