Here you will find a selection of BSAVA guidelines on a variety of topics.

You may also be interested in the BSAVA position statements that outline where the BSAVA stands on a number of issues that affect the veterinary profession, including neutering, identification and the keeping of non-traditional pets.

Vaccination guidance for boarding establishments and Local Authorities

Owners of boarding establishments and the Local Authorities that inspect them have a duty to ensure that the animals under their care are protected from disease. The Boarding Establishments Act 1963 states that  all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent and control the spread among animals of infectious or contagious diseases (paragraph 3c) and the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (and equivalent legislation in the devolved administrations) states that 'A person commits an offence if he does not take such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice, including the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease (9.2.a)'.

While neither piece of legislation specifically mentions vaccination as a method of disease control the Model Licencing Conditions for dogs and cats issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, which includes input from the British Veterinary Association and British Small Animal Veterinary Association, both make specific reference to vaccination.

In the past the advice was to ensure annual vaccination against a small range of infectious diseases, however, an increase in available vaccines as well as further research and guidance on the duration and immunity provided by different vaccinations means that this advice is no longer adequate.

The purpose of this document is to provide you with the knowledge and understanding to interpret the different advice and information that is available and make informed decisions about the level of vaccination that is required to meet legal requirements and best practice guidelines.

Core and non-core vaccines

Core vaccines are those that are recommended for all animals, regardless of circumstances, because they protect animals from severe, life-threatening diseases. Non-core vaccines are those recommended for animals at particular risk of certain diseases, for example rabies vaccination before overseas travel or kennel cough vaccination before kennelling.

The BSAVA gives the following recommendations vaccines in dogs and cats in the UK (the letters indicate the abbreviations often used in vaccination records)


  • Core vaccines - distemper (D), canine hepatitis (H), parvovirus (P) and leptospirosis (L)
  • Non–core – Vaccination against kennel cough should be considered for dogs before kennelling or other situations in which they mix with other dogs (e.g. dog shows, training classes)


  • Core vaccines - feline enteritis (feline parvovirus) (P), cat flu - feline herpesvirus (H) and feline calici virus (C).
  • Non-core – feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) may be considered a core vaccine for cats which come into direct contact with other cats (i.e. all cats that go outside), however it is not normally considered necessary for boarding as cats should not be in direct contact.

Primary vaccination and boosters

The majority of vaccinations require a primary course to 'prime' the immune response followed by periodic booster vaccines to maintain immunity. In most cases the primary course consists of at least 2 doses of vaccine given 2-5 weeks apart followed by a booster a year later. The frequency of booster vaccinations after the first year will depend on the vaccine and the risk of exposure to disease.

It is normally recommended that animals are not boarded until 2-4 weeks after the primary course is completed in order to allow time for immunity to develop. This waiting period is not required after booster vaccinations.

Frequency of booster vaccinations

In the past it was normal for all vaccines to be boosted every year; however, more recent evidence has shown that the duration of immunity following vaccination for some diseases is significantly longer than this and the data sheets for many vaccines have now been amended to take account of this.

For the majority of UK authorised dog vaccines the re-vaccination interval for the core vaccines (canine distemper canine parvovirus and canine hepatitis) is at least every 3 years. These authorised re-vaccination schedules are in accord with the WSAVA Guidelines which state 'not more often than every 3 years'. However, vaccinations against leptospirosis and kennel cough currently require annual boosters.

The situation in cats is slightly more complicated as while there is evidence of 3 year duration of immunity for feline enteritis and cat flu the data sheet recommendations vary significantly between different vaccines.

The specific requirements for each product can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics available from the website of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

The BSAVA strongly recommends against the use of nosode vaccines for companion animals and believes that there is no evidence base to support their efficacy.

If the vaccination certificate does not clearly state the 'valid until date' it may be necessary to contact the veterinary surgeon to ascertain whether the animal is likely to have sufficient protection.


Some owners are now asking for serological testing of their animal to provide evidence of immunity in order to reduce the frequency of vaccination. This may become more frequent with the introduction of test kits which can provide rapid results in veterinary practice. However, as the interpretation of serological results will depend on the specific disease and the animal’s history, we would recommend that serological results are only accepted as evidence of immunity when  supported by a letter or certificate from the veterinary surgeon .

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association has a position statement on vaccination which is available from our website.

The use of cadavers in veterinary education

The BSAVA recognises that to access cadavers and body parts can be essential to veterinary education.

The BSAVA strongly recommends that when designing any teaching program involving cadavers and body parts consideration is given to each of the following:

Pet cadavers are considered to be category 1 animal by-products (ABP) under the Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2013 which sets out the rules regarding the collection, storage, transport, treatment, use and disposal of animal by-products. The EU Regulation 142/2011 (Annex VI, authorisations D8 and D12) contains special rules for the use and disposal of animal by-products for educational and research purposes. Full details of the requirements can be found on the Defra website.

  • Ethical sourcing – only animal cadavers or body parts that have been donated with the owner's written informed consent (and understanding of their use for teaching purposes) or stray animals that would have been humanely euthanased in the normal course of events should be used. No animal should be euthanased specifically for the purpose of obtaining material for teaching purposes. If body parts from food producing animals are sourced for teaching purposes these should be from animals passed as fit for human consumption to minimise disease risks.

Perfusion of animals before death to obtain fixed anatomical specimens is not considered recognised veterinary practice and is therefore regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act [A(SP)A].

  • Transport of cadavers – although it is not necessary for those running veterinary educational programs to register with APHA or for a commercial document to accompany consignments there is a requirement for anyone transporting animal by-products to be registered for the purpose (Authorisations D8 and D12).
  • Minimising numbers – consideration should be given to the number of cadavers or body parts that are required for teaching and how best use can be made of any unused materials, for example planning courses so that the same cadaver can be used for several procedures e.g. dental extractions and abdominal surgery. Procedures for the temporal and geographic co-ordination of courses should be in place to minimise the numbers of cadavers required for teaching purposes.
  • Respectful handling – course organisers are expected to ensure that cadavers and body parts are treated respectfully throughout the course by both the organisers themselves and the delegates.
  • Health & safety - materials should be handled in a way that will minimise the spread of disease. Consideration should be given to the safety of participants including the risk of infection from handling cadavers and body parts, a risk assessment considering the health and safety of delegates should be completed. Suitable personal protective clothing should be provided and its use ensured by the course delegates.
  • Storage and disposal – in planning a course the organiser should give consideration to appropriate storage of cadavers and body parts prior to and during the course and disposal in accordance with current waste regulations. Cadavers and body parts must not be used for any other purpose. All cadavers and body parts should be incinerated by a disposal company licensed by the Environment Agency or approved by APHA.

The use of live animals in veterinary education

The BSAVA recognizes that access to live animals can be essential in veterinary education.

The BSAVA strongly recommends that when designing any teaching program involving live animals consideration is given to each of the following:

  • Animal welfare – animal welfare must always be the primary consideration and should take into account not only the procedure to be performed but also how the animal will be transported, housed and its welfare needs met. Procedures should be put in place to prevent injury or harm to any animal as a result of the procedure, the accommodation or contact with other animals. Consideration should be given to the removal of any animal showing signs of stress.
  • Regulated procedures – Under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (updated 2013) a procedure is regulated if it is carried out on a protected animal for a scientific or educational purpose and may cause that animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice.  Exemptions to this include:
    • Clinical veterinary practices – that is procedures and techniques performed on animals by veterinary surgeons in the course of their professional duties, which ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to their care. Where clinical veterinary procedures are carried out to teach acts of veterinary surgery to non-veterinary surgeons, such as veterinary students or veterinary nurses appropriate levels of supervision must be provided as detailed in Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
    • Identifying animals: Methods of identifying animals e.g. microchipping are not regulated procedures providing they cause no more than momentary pain and no lasting harm and it is being done primarily to identify the animal. Any use of animals that does not fall within the exemptions may require an educational and training project licence. In these cases applicants are expected to apply the principles of replacement, reduction and refinement to their project (3Rs) , you can view the BSAVA Position Statement on Animals in Research.
  • Source of animals – in line with its position on animals in research the BSAVA does not permit the use of experimental animals for teaching purposes.
  • Informed consent – owners should be given sufficient information about the proposed interventions, and any associated risks, to enable them to give fully informed consent to any procedures that will be carried out on their animal. This should include information about who will be carrying out the procedure and what level of supervision will be provided. Consideration should be given to how any information about the health of the animal, gained in the process of teaching, will be conveyed to the owner or their veterinary surgeon (for example an abnormality detected during  ultrasound examination).
  • Disease control – measures should be put in place to reduce the risk of disease to any live animal involved in a teaching program. This should involve consideration of appropriate vaccination, ensuring appropriate standards of construction and hygiene in accommodation, and reducing the risk of transmission of infectious organisms through appropriate cleaning and disinfection of hands and instruments.
  • Health and safety – consideration should be given to the safety of participants including the risk of injury from handling or lifting live animals; a risk assessment for the safe movement and handling of animals should be completed. Course organisers should ensure that there are sufficient personnel to handle animals and that anyone handling animals has the knowledge and skills to do so safely.  Suitable handling equipment and personal protective clothing should be provided. Procedures should be in place to safely restrain and remove any animal which shows signs of stress or aggressive behaviour.

Reducing the risk from MRSA and MRSP

It is likely that veterinary practices will have to manage animals that are colonised or infected with meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or S. pseudintermedius (MRSP). It is also likely that veterinary staff and premises can act as reservoirs of these organisms. These guidelines describe measures designed to prevent the establishment and dissemination of MRSA and MRSP in veterinary practice. The four key points are:

1. Scrupulous hand hygiene
2. A clean environment
3. Prudent antibiotic use
4. Compliance with ALL of the above

These guidelines represent the best working advice available to date but are generic guidelines. Veterinary practices should use these and other guidelines to develop specific protocols relevant to their needs and activities. All staff must be aware of, understand and adhere to infection control protocols. Designating specific staff to monitor and enforce infectious disease control measures, and undertake infection control audits is advisable.

Read the guidelines

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