- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Ever wonder why puppies need so many vaccines? Is it just a ploy to get you in the vet’s office, or is vaccination really needed for your puppy’s long-term health?
As a veterinarian, I know that vaccinations for your puppy can seem mysterious to pet owners. They happen at different intervals, at specific times, and there are so many viruses that sound unfamiliar. I want to help make the recommendations veterinarians make for your new puppy a little less puzzling.
Here’s where vaccine schedules come from: The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) puts out a set of guidelines that your veterinarian follows in order to keep your pet healthy. According to those guidelines and your pet’s lifestyle, a table of recommendation like the one below helps vets like me determine what your puppy needs:
|Date of Administration||Distemper, Adenovirus Parvovirus, Parainfluenza
(DAPP also called DHPP or DA2PP)
|8 weeks of age||
|12 weeks of age||X||+/- X|
|16 weeks of age||X||X|
|1 year from last vaccine||X||X||X|
|3 years from last vaccine||X||X||X|
|Every 3 years||X||X|
As a senior clinical veterinarian, I get a lot of questions about vaccines. Here’s what I tell my patients.
Why does my dog need three sets of vaccines?
One set of vaccines is effective but only for a short time (three to four weeks) because your puppy’s immune system is still building. Your dog needs three sets of vaccines three to four weeks apart up to 16 weeks of age in order for him or her to be protected against harmful and sometimes deadly viruses and bacteria.
My dog is not around other dogs. Do I still need to get them?
Yes, some of these viruses can be in the environment and not just from other dogs. An example is canine parvovirus, which can be caught from the soil in your backyard or from people contaminated with the virus. You can learn more about the different canine viruses from the AVMA website.
What if I wait too long to get the next set of vaccines?
You can wait between three to five weeks between each set of vaccines. Your puppy’s immune system is not strong enough to have antibodies that last more than six weeks between vaccines. You’ll need to have your puppy get a booster, which is an extra set of vaccines to catch him or her up.
When my puppy is done with the last set of vaccines, can I let her go to the dog park, groomer, daycare, etc.?
You’ll need to wait a little bit. After two weeks from the last set of vaccines at 16 weeks of age, your dog is fully protected and can go to dog parks, daycare, groomers and so on. This is also the time when most pet parents spay or neuter their pets since many veterinary hospitals accept puppies for this service once they are finished with their last round of vaccines.
I’ve heard some vaccines are optional based on lifestyle. Which ones are those?
- The Leptospirosis vaccine can be given as part of the (DHPP vaccine) or separately. This vaccine is optional because the bacteria is acquired through drinking from bodies of water, like puddles on hikes or in forested areas. But it’s a serious infection that can also be passed to you, so vaccinate wisely.
- The rattlesnake vaccine is given if your veterinarian determines your pet is at risk for getting bit by rattlesnakes. This is based on activity, geographical location, and the types of snakes you might encounter. This vaccine delays the time the toxin takes to affect your pet but does not eliminate the need for a veterinary emergency hospital visit. You can learn more about the rattlesnake vaccine on the manufacturer’s website.
- The Bordatella vaccine (aka kennel cough) is an interesting vaccine because it can be given intranasally, orally, or as an injection. This is needed if you board or take your dog to daycare. Some boarding facilities require proof of administration every six months, however, there is no evidence that giving the intranasal vaccine this often is more effective than once-a-year administration.
- The canine influenza vaccine is becoming more popular based on the rising increase of canine influenza infections across the U.S. This vaccine is especially important if your dog is social, boarding, or goes to grooming.
- The Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease) vaccine protects against Lyme disease from certain species of ticks. This is recommended in any geographical areas where these ticks are found, and if your dog hikes or spends a significant time outdoors.
As amazing as vaccines are, they do sometimes come with side effects. Here are some reactions to be on the lookout for with your pet.
Decreased activity and slight swelling or discomfort of the injection site is the most common sign of a vaccine reaction because your dog’s immune system is fighting off a foreign invader, the vaccine. This should subside within one to two days and there is no reason for an emergency visit. For intranasal vaccines, sneezing or what looks like a mild cold can develop but should subside after a few days.
Less common reactions
Persistent vomiting, persistent diarrhea, collapse, swelling of the muzzle, face or eyes, rash on the skin, and difficulty breathing are all considered life threatening and signs of a serious reaction. When any of these are seen, take your pet to the nearest emergency animal hospital as soon as possible. These usually occur within minutes to hours of vaccine administration.
Along with the broad range of medical benefits, vaccines do carry a low degree of risk associated with them. This is why there are some valid concerns in the pet parent population about this practice. This is also why it’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian if you’re concerned.
A risk analysis will be performed during your veterinary consultation to assess if your dog is healthy enough for vaccines, and whether he or she is social, active, or engages in behaviors that could put him or her at risk for acquiring one of the serious diseases we discussed.
The benefit of protecting your furry friend with vaccines for their lifetime could far outweigh the risk involved. The published, scientifically supported risks of vaccine administration in dogs is an allergic reaction and vaccine failure, which should always be discussed with your veterinarian.
Protecting your pet is you and your veterinarian’s top priority. Knowing that you have that safeguard the next time you go on a walk, to the dog park, or on a run in the woods, could allow you to rest a little easier.