From their super soft fur and sleep barking to their smelly breath and, yes, even their razor-sharp biting teeth, puppies are just the cutest. But if you've recently adopted one, you hopefully realize that there is more to dog wellness than a steady flow of kisses from your family members (although those are good, too). One of the key parts of getting your pup on a path to wellness is dog vaccinations and, if you are new to the puppy game, you might have questions. We've taken the chance to explore some of the most frequently asked questions about puppy vaccinations and shared them below.
When do puppies start their vaccinations?
In general, distemper and parvovirus shots are given at 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks. The main rule to adhere to is that they should be given 3-4 weeks apart (4 weeks is the maximum), and the last should be given at or after 15-16 weeks.
The reason to vaccinate more frequently when dogs are young is that the mother-given immunity against distemper, parvo, adenovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and other diseases tends to fall off really precipitously around 10 weeks of age.
For any immunity to be rendered with most of the vaccines, it's an initial series which sensitizes the body, and then a second vaccine that actually turns on the immune system. And that second vaccine says, "Okay guys, this is a real threat, so we're actually going to really protect you." And that's called an anamnestic response. So most vaccines are a two-shot series. The rabies vaccine is a little bit different, as it will be given once, and that vaccine is good for a year. After that, it is given every three years, although some municipalities require it to be an annual vaccine.
What is the difference between the core and non-core vaccines?
Core vaccines are considered to be cat and dog rabies and distemper. And of course in the cat, there's not a distemper vaccine. It's not a disease called distemper, but we loosely use the term feline viral rhinotracheitis calicivirus and panleukopenia vaccine as distemper in the cat.
If a vaccine is considered to be "noncore", why does my puppy need that?
A good vet will ask the pup owner, "If you owned a boat, would you want boat insurance?" The answer to that question is or at least should be a resounding, "Yes!" So if you don't have exposure to those diseases, then, of course, they're not essential. The non-core vaccines in the dog depend on the area in which you live. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that's transmitted in urine from rats, squirrels, possums, raccoons, cattle, pigs, sheep, and other domestic species. Although most consider lepto to be a non-core vaccine, some dogs are exposed to these kinds of animals, whether in the city or in more rural areas, if so, it's highly advised. The most commonly used lepto vaccine has 4 strains of it in it, and there are probably 6 varieties that are relatively commonly diagnosed. Some of those affect man and some don't affect man, but they all affect dogs.
What if my puppy misses a vaccine in the series?
The manufacturer's recommendation says it should be given within a certain period of time. So if it's been a long time, your veterinarian will determine the age and week when the dog received each of the vaccines and they will then determine the new series for your dog. For example, if your dog had its first vaccine at 8 weeks and then there was no proof of a vaccine after 8 weeks and your puppy is now 15 weeks, the vet will give one right away, and then another vaccine in 3-4 weeks when your puppy is about 18 weeks. It is best for your dog to adhere to the vaccine schedule to get the best efficacy.
Can I bring my puppy around other pets before they are fully vaccinated?
If the dogs are not ill, that's a huge advantage. Regardless, however, there is a certain amount of risk associated with doing that until the series is done plus a week or two. Because we give the shot and that stimulates the immune system to say, "Okay, we need to build defenses." And it's not quite convinced until the second shot, in most cases, and then it takes a while for the body to actually build up immunity. It's not like we give the shot and we have immediate immunity. So it's safest to do it a week or two after they've finished their entire vaccine series for a particular disease. Of course, we also understand that puppies are social beings and that you will likely want to get them into training classes, too, so if you're going to bring your puppy around other dogs before being fully vaccinated, just make sure the other dogs are vaccinated and that you're doing so in a safe environment that's not frequented by other dogs.
Keep in mind that body mass is also a factor. If you come in with a two-pound Chihuahua, we're not going to give distemper and rabies and parvo and lepto and Lyme and influenza—we can't go ahead and give all of those vaccines because it's just going to be too much and it will overwhelm for the immune system. In cases like that, we'll have you bring your pet back more frequently to stagger the vaccinations, giving them once every 2 weeks instead of every 4 weeks. It may take longer, but it's safest for your tiny pet this way!
Inhale that puppy breath and savor those pup snuggles like crazy, but make sure you're also getting your dog on a path to puppy wellness so they can live a long and healthy life. If you have any more questions about vaccinations, please don't hesitate to give us a call.