New Zealand is a great place for a dog to grow up. Lots of fresh air, open spaces, and plenty of other dogs to meet. But while it can be great fun, it also means you need to be aware of some of the risks that your dog faces out there.

Whether they’re the ‘rough and tumble, outdoors’ type or a ‘reserved, stay indoors’ type, it’s a safe bet to assume at some stage, your dog will come into contact with infectious diseases or viruses. It’s important that you know the best ways to reduce the risk of infection.

The best way of reducing this risk is through vaccination.

Ideally, vaccinations should begin with a series of 3 core vaccines, three weeks apart, starting at 6 weeks of age. After that, your dog should receive a vaccination every 12 months.

While all vaccines are important for your dog’s health and wellbeing, the core vaccine is crucial, both for creating a solid base to boost your dog’s immunity, but also for protecting them against the following infections.

In New Zealand, the following are covered by the core vaccine -

Canine Parvovirus

Canine Parvovirus is a very contagious and deadly disease that affects the gastrointestinal system, Symptoms include: vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and dehydration.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is a highly contagious and deadly disease caused by a virus similar to human measles. Symptoms include; coughing, loss of appetite and weight loss, runny nose and eyes, dehydration. Later in the disease, the virus may attack the brain tissue and cause nervous symptoms, including seizures.

Canine Hepatitis

This is a highly infectious viral disease that is spread through the infected dog’s urine. Exposure can mean anything from a mild infection to sudden death, without any previous signs of ill health. Symptoms include; fever, vomiting, gut pain, internal bleeding, jaundice and blue eye (the inflamed cornea appears to be blue).

As well as receiving the core vaccine, you can choose to get separate vaccinations to cover other infections such as:

Canine Cough

Canine cough (sometimes referred to as Kennel Cough) is a common upper respiratory tract infection; it is highly contagious, but seldom fatal. Classically, dogs can get infected in boarding kennels, obedience class, local parks or any crowded situation. Symptoms include: dry hacking cough.


Leptospirosis is most common in the northern half of the North Island. It can be contracted though many sources, but more commonly through brown rats, that carry the infection. This disease has a high mortality rate and can also be transmitted to humans. Symptoms include: fever, weight loss, lethargy. Leptospirosis also causes kidney and liver damage.

Most boarding kennels and training classes in New Zealand won’t accept your dog if their core vaccinations, or vaccinations against Canine cough, aren’t up to date, so it’s important to have your dog regularly vaccinated at your local vet’s. While you’re there, your vet will also be able to give your dog a general health check, and tell you its weight and body condition, so you can make sure your dog is as fit and healthy as they can be.

When your dog gets vaccinated

Just like any vaccine, there are known side effects with your dog’s vaccinations. These can include a loss of appetite, lethargy or even a slight temperature. These should disappear within 24 – 48 hours with no treatment, but should such symptoms persist, contact your local vet.