What an exciting and exhausting time! You have brought your new puppy home and are handed papers detailing vaccination and deworming dates, feeding instructions, and maybe even your dog’s pedigree. The first call you should make is to your veterinarian. The veterinarian will be able to provide you with a puppy vaccination schedule and information to best protect your new friend from common diseases, viruses and infections.
Few issues in veterinary medicine are as controversial as the debate about administration of vaccines to our dogs and cats. Long considered part of the puppy as well as annual visits and credited with conquering some of the fiercest infectious diseases, vaccines are also suspected of creating vulnerability to certain illnesses and chronic conditions such as anemia, seizures, allergies, thyroid disorders, and cancer.
What Vaccines Should My Puppy Get?
To determine which vaccines are necessary and an appropriate vaccination schedule for your dog, you and your veterinarian must start with an individual risk-assessment. Questions you may be asked include: Will my puppy meet other companion animals in training classes, dog parks, grooming facilities, or in the neighborhood? Do we have wildlife in our area? How much time does my dog spend outdoors? Will I travel with my pet?
Vaccines, or “shots”, are traditionally divided into core, or essential, groups, and non-core vaccines. These determinations are based on the likelihood of exposure to the infectious agent, the severity of the disease contracted by infected animals (contracting Rabies is always fatal, kennel cough is not), and zoonotic potential (a disease that can infect humans as well as animals). It is recommended that most puppies receive core vaccines every 3-4 weeks though the first 16-18 weeks of life, with the need for non-core vaccines being determined on an individual basis.
Core vaccines, based on the American Animal Hospital Association’s recommendations are as follows: Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis, canine Parvovirus, and Rabies.
Non-core vaccines include: Bordetella, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus, Lyme, Giardia, Leptospirosis, and Influenza.
How Often Should My Puppy Get Vaccinated?
Frequency with which to vaccinate is perhaps the most confounding decision we must make as part of the veterinarian-owner pet care team. This is where a basic understanding of the immune system and how it operates becomes critical. When exposed to natural disease or a vaccine, memory cells are primed to recognize the infectious agent should the animal become re-exposed and antibodies should be produced against the disease. If maternal antibodies are still present, the animal is ill, doesn’t respond to the vaccine given due to immaturity, or there is a problem with the vaccine itself, it is possible to have an animal that was vaccinated, but not adequately protected. This is the reasoning behind the 3-4 week puppy vaccination protocol; we want to catch that puppy’s immune system when maternal antibodies have disappeared, but before the puppy can get sick!
There has been much discussion on the value of checking antibody titers to certain viral diseases such as Canine Parvovirus and Distemper. A titer is a measurement of how much antibody to an infectious agent is circulating in the blood at that time. Titers are expressed as a ratio and indicate how dilute the blood was made before detectable levels of antibody disappeared. A titer test does not measure immunity, because, as we know, true immune status of an animal is dependent on multiple variables. A high titer is strongly correlated with recent infection or good immunity, but a low titer does not necessarily mean the body won’t produce an effective immune response if challenged.
Dog Vaccination Schedule
What to do? Our practice has determined that considering all the information presented by the AAHA and after evaluating the duration of immunity studies conducted by the vaccine manufacturers, we recommend the following important vaccination schedule:
- Healthy puppies will receive regular boosters every 3-4 weeks of core and select non-core vaccines beginning at 6-8 weeks.
- After one year of age, dogs will receive a one-year booster for Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus (4 in 1 or if including coronavirus 5 in 1 DAPPC) and a three-year Rabies vaccine; other non-core vaccines will be administered based on risk assessment.
- At two years of age, dogs will continue to receive non-core vaccines and three-year DAP vaccine. In future years, they will receive non-core vaccines annually and DAP and Rabies as they come due on a three-year rotating basis.
Talk with your veterinarian and don’t miss those important vaccines!