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When you bring a puppy into your family, one of your key responsibilities is making sure they’re healthy and stay that way.
Of course, there’s no way to 100 percent ensure your pup’s good health, but vaccinations are a great place to start!
Vaccinations can protect your dog against a variety of life-threatening illnesses. Not to mention, some vaccinations are required by law. So It’s extremely important that your new puppy is fully vaccinated by the time he first sets paw outside in the wider world.
Contents & Quick Navigation
Why Do Puppies Need Vaccinations?
Puppies need vaccinations to help prevent the catching of various dangerous diseases.
Vaccines contain antigens, which your dog’s immune system thinks are the organisms that cause these diseases.
The antigens in vaccines cannot give your dog the disease in question, but they work by preparing your dog’s immune system to fight off the disease if it does occur. If your dog ever comes in contact with a disease they have been vaccinated against, his immune system will know how to destroy it.
What Diseases Can Vaccinations Protect Against?
There are vaccines available to protect your puppy against more than 11 different diseases. However, depending on your circumstances and where you live, your puppy might not need them all. Your vet will be able to recommend those they think your really needs, with others being up to your choice.
There are four core vaccines for diseases all puppies should be vaccinated against and seven non-core vaccines that the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medicine Association recommend.
The non-core vaccines may or may not be recommended by your vet, depending on different variables, mostly the prevalence or absence of a disease in your area.
The Core Vaccinations
- Rabies. This is a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease. Humans can catch it from dogs, so it’s a legal requirement for dogs to have an up-to-date rabies vaccination. Depending on which state (or country) you live in, your dog will need to have a booster once every one to three years.
- Parvovirus. This common virus is hard to treat and has an 80 percent fatality rate, which is why inoculating against it is so important.
- Hepatitis. Canine viral hepatitis is also known as adenovirus. Although it’s different from human hepatitis and can’t be passed to people, it’s still very serious.
- Canine distemper. Before vaccination, this was a big killer of dogs. Now it’s only commonly found in the wild and in pet stores. Vaccinating against this disease will protect your puppy if he comes in contact with the virus while out and about.
The Non-Core Vaccinations
- Lyme disease. Your dog can contract Lyme disease from tick bites, but it’s only a problem in particular areas. The vast majority of cases have occurred in the eastern American coastal states between Massachusetts and Virginia.
- Parainfluenza and Bordetella. The parainfluenza virus and the bordetella bacterium are both major causes of kennel cough. Inoculation is generally only necessary if your puppy is going to be exposed to many other dogs. For instance, at boarding kennels, doggy daycare or dog shows.
- Coronavirus. This infectious disease is a common cause of stomach upset. It’s highly contagious, but doesn’t have a large death rate, so not all vets recommend it.
- Leptospirosis. This bacteria can infect dogs and their human companions. Yes, that’s you! In serious cases it can cause organ failure and death in dogs. In certain high-risk parts of the country, your dog might need a booster every six months.
- Giardia are parasites that commonly live in the digestive tracts of dogs. Many dogs have them, but they rarely cause problems. The vaccine doesn’t stop your dog being infected, but it does lower the risk of passing these parasites to other animals.
- Measles. This isn’t a vaccination that’s recommended often. It’s usually only given to puppies of between 4 and 10 weeks in high risk environments for distemper.
How Are Vaccines Given?
Most vaccines are given as injections. These are given either under the skin or into the muscle. However, some vaccines, such as those against kennel cough, work better when given as a spray up your puppy’s nose.
Most vets offer a combined injection so your puppy doesn’t need to have numerous jabs. This will protect against the core diseases, plus a number of others, depending on the vet’s advice. Most combination injections protect against distemper, leptospirosis, hepatitis, parainfluenza, coronavirus and parvovirus.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule
It’s important that puppies are given their vaccinations on a strict schedule. This allows their body time to develop a good immune response. Until your puppy ‘s had all their vaccinations, it isn’t safe for him to go on the ground outside, except for in your own yard.
Your puppy should be with his mom until he’s at least eight-weeks old. This means the first jab is usually given by the breeder or shelter from which you’re getting your puppy. However, your vet will be able to sort out a modified schedule if your pup is older than 7 weeks and hasn’t had his first injection.
Recommended and Most Common Schedule of Vaccinations:
- 6 to 7 weeks old: This is when your puppy should get his first combination injection.
- 9 weeks old: At this age, your puppy will probably be in your care. He needs his second combination vaccine. Make sure you have a record of his first injection to show your new vet.
- 12 weeks old: At 12 weeks your puppy will get his third combination injection. If necessary, he will also have a Lyme disease vaccine.
- 12 to 16 weeks old: Depending on state laws, your puppy is required to have a rabies vaccine somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks.
- 16 weeks old: This is when your pup will have his fourth and final combination injection. At this point, your vet will advise you when your puppy can go out for his first walk.
Are There Any Risks Involved?
Unfortunately, there are potential risks to having your puppy vaccinated. That said, the risks are far outweighed by the benefits.
Most common side-effects from these injections are extremely minor and won’t require attention from your vet, such as soreness at the injection site or slight tiredness. However, you should monitor your dog closely after a vaccination and contact your vet right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale gums
- High fever
- Explosive or prolonged vomiting or diarrhea
Some critics claim there may be long-term risks to vaccinating your dog. The argument isn’t that dogs shouldn’t be vaccinated at all, but that they don’t need annual boosters.
It’s suggested that annual vaccinations could be bad for the immune system and cause more harm than good. After all, it was vaccination manufacturers who suggested annual boosters, which means more money for them!
Most vets concede it’s likely vaccinations are effective for more than one year, just as they are for humans. Some vet practices now suggest boosters for dogs only once every three years. However, others believe this is too much of a risk and still recommend annual boosters.
Nobody ever said that owning a dog was inexpensive, and a series of jabs is just one cost you have to be prepared for when bringing a puppy home.
The cost of puppy vaccinations can vary wildly from state to state. You may even find a big difference in cost between practices in the same town. While shopping around for a good deal might seem wise, it’s more important to choose a vet with an excellent reputation.
Be prepared to shell out between $100 and $150 for a series of three combination jabs plus one rabies vaccination. If your vet recommends any other vaccinations, this will be extra.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to puppy vaccinations, but don’t let it overwhelm you!
Although many options exist, most puppies only need a standard course of combination vaccinations and a rabies jab. If there are other vaccinations your puppy needs, for instance if there’s a high risk of Lyme disease in your area, your vet will be able to advise you.
- Vaccinations and Your Puppy – From PetMd.com
- Vaccinations – From ASPCA
- Dog Vaccinations – From DogTime.com
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