Your puppy is susceptible to a number of diseases in their early life, especially after being weaned off mother’s milk. Some of these diseases can have serious health consequences. Fortunately, veterinary science has developed vaccines that can effectively protect your dog from these conditions. As soon as you choose a veterinarian, you should talk to them about vaccinating your puppy.
In recent years a degree of controversy has arisen regarding the timing and effectiveness of some vaccinations. There are some risk factors involved in vaccinating your puppy. However, most vets agree the benefits far outweigh the risks. In fact, the majority opinion states that vaccinations are among the best ways to ensure your dog’s health and long life. Jenna Stregowski, RVT says, “Most experts agree that certain basic immunizations are essential to keep your puppy from getting sick and to prevent the spread of disease.” Avoid over-vaccination when possible, and discuss core vaccines with your vet. Which vaccines are most important will depend on existing health issues, and where you’re located. Different diseases may be more or less prevalent in different areas.
What Are Vaccinations?
Young puppies who are nursing from their mothers receive important antibodies in the mother’s milk to help protect them from disease. However, starting at about 6 to 8 weeks of age, these antibodies begin to lose their effectiveness. At this point veterinary science steps in.
The vaccinations your puppy will receive contain antigens, which mimic disease-causing pathogens. These antigens stimulate the dog’s immune system, which responds by developing resistance to the disease. The idea is that should your puppy later encounter disease pathogens, their body will be equipped to fight the disease, either affording complete protection or limiting disease severity.
What Vaccinations Should Your Puppy Get?
In 2006, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force revised its guidelines for dog vaccinations. The guidelines recommend that vaccinations be grouped into core and noncore categories.
Core vaccinations are considered essential to all dogs because of the severity of disease involved, the high risk of transmission of disease among dogs, and the possibility of transmission to humans.
The four core vaccines establish protection from
- canine parvovirus
- canine hepatitis
No dog should be without these vaccines, and most communities have made rabies shots mandatory by law.
The other group of vaccinations, the noncore vaccines, are administered based on your dog’s particular risk factors. Issues such as your geographical location and your puppy’s lifestyle will help determine the importance of these vaccinations. Those who live in regions with high exposure to Lyme disease, for example, may wish to treat their puppies with Lyme vaccines. Other non-core vaccines include those for parainfluenza and bordetella.
When Should You Vaccinate Your Puppy?
As stated above, immunity to disease afforded by puppies nursing from their mothers begins to lose its effectiveness at around 6 to 8 weeks of life. Thus, it is within this range that most vets recommended vaccinations begin.
In most cases, puppies will receive an initial vaccination for a disease, with a booster or series of boosters given up until the puppy’s first year. The exact timing of these various shots will depend on your dog’s risk of exposure, age when first vaccinated, and the type of vaccine used. Your vet will establish a schedule for vaccination that should be adhered to, in order to keep disease at bay.
After the first year, your dog will likely receive adult boosters every 1 to 3 years for core vaccines and possibly for non-core vaccines as well. Some vets now believe that dogs can be over-vaccinated and that adult boosters may not be necessary. They may instead recommend testing the level of antibodies in the dog’s bloodstream, with vaccines administered only as needed. Adult rabies boosters, however, are required by law in most areas.
What are the Risks of Vaccination?
Despite the overwhelming support for vaccination in the veterinary community, pet parents should be aware of the small risk for complication that comes with the use of vaccines. Most of these complications are minor but a few can be more serious.
Minor side effects can include pain where the injections are received, sluggishness, or low fever. More serious symptoms comprise facial swelling, hives, and difficulty breathing. Should any of these signs appear, contact your vet immediately. In very rare cases, a dog can develop serious and difficult to treat autoimmune disorders after vaccination.
Given such small degrees of risk, most within the field of canine health agree that the benefits of vaccination are greater than the risks.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.