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Puppy Vaccination Schedule

For those of you new to the world of puppies, or simply those in need of a refresher, here is some information on vaccines!

When should my puppy be vaccinated?

There are many diseases that are fatal to dogs.  Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent many of these by the use of very effective vaccines.  In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections.  Ideally, they are given at about 6-8, 10-12, and 14-16 weeks of age, but this schedule may vary somewhat depending on several factors.

The routine vaccination series will protect your puppy from six diseases:  distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus, leptospirosis and rabies.  The first four are available in one combined injection.  Rabies vaccine is given after 12 weeks of age and leptospirosis is started at the biannual exam.  Your puppy should receive a kennel cough vaccine to protect it from this common infection.  Kennel cough can be carried on air currents and so can be carried from neighbors yards or while outside on walks, at a dog park or from dogs in the neighborhood.  Some clinics recommend dogs to be vaccinated for kennel cough 2 times a year, depending on their individual exposures to others.  Lyme vaccine is given to dogs that are exposed to ticks because Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks.  Your veterinarian will advise you of these needs during your puppy visits. Based off what type of environment and lifestyle your puppy will have, your vet will also suggest what vaccines would be most beneficial to your new puppy.

A note from Sarah: It should also be noted that different clinics may or may not have a combination Distemper and Leptospirosis vaccination. I would recommend the Leptospirosis vaccine, especially for Springers, because they are very likely to be exposed to this disease due to the outdoor and water loving nature of the breed. Leptospira are found in wild and domestic animals. The bacteria are spread in the urine, often making their way into water sources and remaining infective in the soil for up to six months. Rats, pigs, raccoons, cattle, skunks, and opossums appear to be the primary reservoirs. With housing spreading into the suburbs, more wildlife are coming into contact with pets. Spirochetes enter a dog’s system through a break in the skin, or when the dog drinks contaminated water. Dogs who spend a lot of time in the water are at increased risk, as are dogs who drink out of puddles and dogs who spend time in yards that get a lot of runoff or stay wet after it rains.

Why does my puppy need more than one vaccination?

When the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through its mother’s milk.  This immunity is in the form of proteins called antibodies.  For about 24-48 hours after birth, the puppy’s intestine allows absorption of these antibodies directly into the blood stream.  This immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but, at some point, this immunity fails and the puppy must be able to make its own long-lasting immunity.  Vaccinations are used for this purpose.  As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations do not have a chance to stimulate the puppy’s immune system.  The mother’s antibodies interfere by neutralizing the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to the vaccinations.  These include the level of immunity in the mother dog, how much antibody has been absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the puppy.  Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose the short-term immunity, we give a series of vaccinations.  We hope that at least two of these will fall in the window of time when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to the disease.  A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate the long-term immunity which is so important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity.

Categories: Veterinary Care

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