A “national shortage” of animal vaccines is forcing vets to turn away cats and dogs that need to be jabbed.
Veterinary practices struggling to obtain the medication have been left with no choice but to book in some pets as a priority while delaying appointments for others.
One practice has written to owners to inform them that cats and dogs due to receive their annual booster jabs will have to wait several months so the clinic can prioritise kittens and puppies, which are most at risk of falling seriously ill.
Wylie Vets, which has clinics in London and Essex, told owners: “The veterinary profession is facing a national shortage of vaccines across all companies. This shortage affects both dog and cat vaccines.”
As a result, the practice has “had to make the necessary decision to prioritise puppies, kittens and first year vaccine boosters”.
Appointments for older pets due their annual boosters will be delayed by three months, it said.
“This is safe to do [and is] in line with the manufacturers’ recommended guidelines,” it added.
Why do cats and dogs need to be vaccinated?
Vaccinations protect puppies from serious illnesses such as parvovirus and canine distemper virus, which can lead to infections with high mortality rates, and safeguard kittens against conditions including feline infectious enteritis, a severe and often fatal gut infection, and feline herpes virus, a major cause of upper respiratory disease.
After having their initial vaccinations, cats and dogs require regular booster injections throughout their lives to maintain their immunity.
Booster jabs are typically administered every 12 months, though it is generally considered safe to leave a gap of up to 15 months.
The delay is likely to raise questions for owners as to whether they could be liable for a large vet’s bill if they are not able to have their pet vaccinated as required by their insurance policy and the animal falls ill as a result.
Petplan, the UK’s leading pet insurance provider said: “We are aware that supplies of some vaccines have been delayed to veterinary practices. We would like to reassure all Petplan customers that their pet insurance will not be impacted by any delay in their pet receiving their vaccination as a result of this issue.”
Vets have said they do not know how long the shortage will last. The problem is compounded by the sharp rise in pet ownership during the pandemic – some 3.2 million households acquired a pet between March 2020 and March 2021, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.
At the same time the UK is losing vets. Many European veterinarians have left the UK following Brexit, while burnout is causing others to quit.
Pet shelters fear surge in abandonment for pandemic puppies as lockdown easing leads to ‘buyers’ remorse’
Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “We have been hearing anecdotally from members about a shortage of certain pet vaccines, especially cat vaccines.
“We expect this is due to a number of issues, including an increase in pet ownership during the pandemic leading to an increase in demand.
“Vets are working with vaccine suppliers to manage the needs of their clients and may need to prioritise allocations. Your vet may be in contact if delays are likely, but we’d like to emphasise that a short-term delay shouldn’t be cause for concern.”
The National Office of Animal Health told i: “It is widely recognised that there has been an increase in the population of dogs and cats in the UK. Furthermore, due to the pandemic and lockdowns, there was some disruption to the normal routine of regular vaccination appointments.
“This has meant that increased demand in 2021 has put a strain on the supplies of vaccines for pets, particularly cats, beyond the amount predicted. With the welfare of our pets in mind, many vets are needing to prioritise those animals that are potentially more vulnerable, such as kittens needing their initial primary course of vaccines. Like during the first lockdown when many vets were unable to arrange appointments for routine boosters, this may mean that owners may be asked to delay getting their animal’s booster, to ensure primary vaccinations can be fulfilled.”
It added: “Producing vaccines is a precise, regulated process with many checks to ensure full safety, quality and efficacy of every batch. Vaccine manufacturers continue to operate at full capacity to increase supply to the market. They are working closely with veterinary surgeons to ensure supplies are available for the most vulnerable pets.
“We ask owners to work with their veterinary surgeon and take their advice on vaccination scheduling for their pets.”
All rights reserved. © 2021 Associated Newspapers Limited.