The BSAVA strongly supports the use of vaccination in the control of infectious disease in companion animals. It recognises that adverse reactions, including lack of efficacy may occasionally occur, but that the overall benefit/risk analysis strongly supports the continued use of vaccination to control major infectious diseases. The BSAVA strongly recommends that all animals should receive the benefit of solid protective immunity from life-threatening infectious diseases that is conferred by vaccination using licensed veterinary products.

The BSAVA strongly supports the concept that a thorough benefit/risk assessment on an individual case basis should be discussed with clients when deciding on timing of vaccination and use of particular vaccines for particular animals. The BSAVA strongly supports the concept that tailored vaccine programmes should be applied to as many animals as possible within a population to maintain the level of protective immunity within that population. The BSAVA strongly supports all scientifically valid research into the epidemiology, control and prevention of infectious diseases in the UK and the publication of such research, so as to provide veterinary surgeons with appropriate information on which to base decisions. The BSAVA strongly supports further research into improving efficacy and safety of vaccines.

The BSAVA strongly supports the importance of pharmacovigilance and the VMD Suspected Adverse Reactions Reporting Scheme.

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.

Background information


The 2015 WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines define core vaccines as those which protect animals from severe, life-threatening diseases that have global distribution and which ALL dogs and cats, regardless of circumstances or geographical location, should receive.

Non-core vaccinations are those used to protect from disease where the animal’s geographical location, lifestyle or environment puts them at risk

WSAVA stress that that their guidelines “do NOT serve as a set of globally-applicable rules”, but are intended to be used by national associations and individual veterinary practices to develop vaccination schedules relevant to the local situation.

BSAVA recommends that, in the UK, consideration be given to vaccinating companion animals against the following diseases depending on their individual circumstances and specific risk assessment. Core vaccines should be considered for all animals, non-core vaccines will need to be considered in specific circumstances.

Owners are advised to discuss the vaccinations appropriate for their animal with their veterinary surgeon.

Core vaccines in the UK
Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parvovirus, Leptospirosis.

Non-core vaccines in the UK
Bordetella bronchiseptica  +/- Canine parainfluenza virus (“Kennel Cough” vaccine): vaccination should be considered for dogs before kennelling or other situations in which they mix with other dogs (e.g. dog shows, training classes)
Rabies: legal requirement for dogs travelling abroad / returning to the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme
Canine Herpes Virus: for breeding bitches
Leishmaniasis: before travelling to endemic areas
Borrelia burgodorferi (Lyme disease) – for dogs at high risk of exposure

Core vaccines in the UK
Feline enteritis, cat flu (calici virus and herpes virus)           

Non–core vaccines in the UK
Feline leukaemia vaccine (this may be considered a core vaccine for all cats go outdoors or are in contact with cats which go outdoors).
Chlamydophila felis (Chlamydia)
Rabies – legal requirement for cats travelling abroad / returning to the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme
Bordetella bronchiseptica

The WSAVA guidelines also refer to high and low risk cats and advise that booster intervals for certain vaccinations may need to be considered on the basis of risk of exposure to diseases such as feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus-1.

  • High risk cats – cats which spend any time outdoors or live with cats which go outside, and/or go to a cattery.
  • Low risk cats – cats living in a household where no cats ever go outside, and never go to a cattery.

The BSAVA recommends that consideration is given to annual vaccination of domestic rabbits against Myxomatosis and the two forms of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) caused by RHDV-1 and RHDV-2 strains where local risks and individual veterinary advice indicate the need.

There is a single vaccine available from MSD (May 2020) that covers all three viruses. A vaccine currently available which provides protection for rabbits against myxomatosis and RHD-1 but not RHD-2, is Nobivac Myxo-RHD. Also available is the vaccine Filavac KC-V which protects against both RHDV-1 and RHDV-2 but not myxomatosis therefore it should be given in addition to Nobivac-Myxo-RHD as a means of protection against not only both RHDV strains but also myxomatosis. If vaccinating a rabbit with both the Nobivac and Filavac vaccines, they must be given at least two weeks apart. Eravac is also an available vaccine which provides protection against RHDV-2 only. Duration of immunity for Eravac is 12 months, demonstrated by challenge*. 

Given the changing nature of the pharmaceutical landscape new products may come onto the UK market at any time. In this respect, BSAVA recommends that owners and their veterinary surgeons remain up to date with specific product information issued by vaccine manufacturers. This should be taken into consideration along with any related information provided by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

BSAVA recognises that the potential risk from any disease can be dependent on circumstances relevant to the pet. As part of a pet’s routine annual health check and preventative health care programme, BSAVA advises that owners should always work in partnership with their veterinary surgeon when discussing individual risk factors for their rabbit which may influence the type and frequency of vaccination recommended. These factors could include geographical location and local risk, indoor or outdoor housing regime and contact with other rabbits whether at shows, when boarding or by other means. Vets can help pet owners not only to decide on the most suitable vaccination protocol in individual cases, but where necessary they can also contact the vaccine manufacturer directly for further information.

*For more information via a Hipra data sheet, please click here


Rabies- ferrets travelling under the Pet Travel Scheme are legally required to be vaccinated against rabies.

Distemper – Although there is no vaccine currently licensed for use in ferrets in the UK consideration should be given to vaccination of ferrets with canine distemper vaccines after full discussion of the benefits and risks with the owner.

Related statements


Pet Travel

Further information


VMD website
VMD position paper on authorised vaccination schedules for dogs
NOAH statement on canine vaccination
2011 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines
2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report
2015 ABCD recommendations for indoor/outdoor cats, rescue shelter cats and breeding catteries
2015 WSAVA Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats



Approval: BSAVA Council as Policy Statement No. 30 (Companion Animal Vaccination Protocols and Adverse Reactions to Vaccines) 2003.

Updated: September 2007 and 2010, November 2012

Background information updated: June 2016

Rabbit vaccination updated: May 2020

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