LONDON, March 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the surge in myxomatosis after the flooding last summer, vets are warning that other widespread killer diseases could also be on the rise, yet 11 million dogs, cats and rabbits are unprotected.

Recent research(1) has revealed that nearly two thirds of all vet practices have seen the killer dog disease, parvovirus, in the past year, while 43% have seen leptospirosis, which is spread by rats. Worryingly, leptospirosis could also potentially be passed on from dogs to people in the form of Weil's disease. As well as the risk posed to dogs by the reported rise in the rat population, ongoing mild weather conditions continue to put rabbits at risk of myxomatosis, a fatal disease spread by biting insects, which was particularly prevalent last autumn.

In answer to this disease threat, over 1,750 veterinary practices across the UK are running an amnesty for pet owners in March, as part of National Vaccination Month (1-31 March 2008), offering pets a full vaccination course against a range of fatal diseases for the cost of a booster.

Matt Brash, BVetMed MRCVS, who runs a small animal veterinary clinic in North Yorkshire and is star of the TV show 'Zoo Vet at Large' comments: "Many pet owners simply don't realise that their pets are at risk of disease but, in the meantime, less than half of all dogs and cats are vaccinated, which is well below the amount needed to protect the pet population through herd immunity."

"Any veterinary surgeon will tell you how devastating these infectious diseases can be - I've recently seen seventeen unvaccinated Great Dane puppies die from parvovirus. Thankfully vaccination has reduced the incidence of disease from levels last seen in the early 80s, but complacency threatens to allow these threats a new foothold."

Despite the alarming risk of disease to our nation's pets, research by YouGov(2) shows that while pet owners lavish affection and presents on their pets, they are not taking adequate steps to protect them from preventable killer diseases. The survey reveals that 62% of pet owners consider their animal to be an extremely important member of the family with over half (58%) buying them Christmas presents and over one in four (27%) taking time off work for their pet. However, only 56% of these pets were vaccinated and around more than quarter (28%) of owners were unaware of any disease risk.

Currently, 3 million dogs, 6 million cats and 1.8 million rabbits are unvaccinated leaving them at risk of a range of fatal diseases, many of which are untreatable.

For more information on National Vaccination Month and how to protect your adult dogs, cats and rabbits(3), log on to

Notes to editor

(1) - Cicada (Computer-based investigation into Companion Animal Disease Awareness) research collected during June and July 2007 by animal health company, Intervet. The responses were compiled from 147 veterinary practices (representing 488 vets) across Britain and include suspected and confirmed incidents of disease.

The primary objective of the Cicada project is to increase awareness of the prevalence and distribution of infectious diseases affecting companion animals in the UK.

(2) - All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,012 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th - 30th October 2007. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

(3) - Dogs and cats over 18 months of age and that haven't been vaccinated for at least 18 months are eligible for National Vaccination Month. Rabbits that haven't been vaccinated for 9 months and are at least 9 months old are also eligible.

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