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What You Need To Know About Puppy Vaccinations

The following information on puppy vaccinations and the puppy vaccination schedule is intended to shed light on the pros and cons of this important part of puppy health care.

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You’ve probably brought home an adorable little fur ball and want to give him the very best of care or you’re still waiting and trying to get all the information you need on puppy care before actually taking on such a huge responsibility.

Either way, learning about puppy vaccinations is a high priority topic when it comes to puppy care and one which requires owners to become well-informed in order to understand the risks and benefits before making decisions, with the help of a trusted vet, about their puppy's shots. While some vaccines can help protect your puppy, others may have an adverse effect.

A responsible vet will help you decide which shots are needed for your puppy based on your pet's lifestyle, environment, health status, and hereditary factors as well as your preferences once you've done your homework.

Why Vaccinations Are Needed

Like human babies, puppies are prone to infections and diseases unless they are given the necessary shots that keep them protected. In the initial days, again like human babies, colostrum (anti-body rich milk) from the mother provides the puppy with basic immunity. But this is only believed to last for 16-20 weeks. After this, your puppy can become prone to some dangerous diseases that can sometimes be fatal or even harmful to this around as in the case of rabies.

And here’s where puppy vaccinations come into play. All puppies, irrespective of geographical location are to receive immunization against core diseases that are widespread. But if there’s a particular disease doing the rounds in your country or city, your vet might recommend to give your puppy an extra shot.

So When Are Puppy Vaccinations Given?

The start time for puppy's shots has become a subject of debate among pet professionals. While some vets suggest they be started at around nine weeks, many holistic vets will disagree saying that this is too early. Dr. Pitcairn, a well-respected veterinarian authority, advises not to vaccinate before puppies are sixteen weeks old because of the harm that can be done to the immune system.

One of the best ways to protect puppies from disease is to keep them isolated from parks, public places, the vet's office and anywhere they may encounter other dogs or their feces, until they are 22 weeks of age. This will provide more time for their immune system to strengthen.

As to the type of vaccines given, holistic vets are more likely to be in favor of "killed" type vaccines instead of the modified live type, for greater safety. Many are also of the opinion that vaccines should be given one at a time with a three week interval in between shots as opposed to the approach generally used by conventional vet practitioners of administering combined vaccines in one shot, often as many as five or six vaccines! This is considered too much of a challenge to the immune system at one time.

The vaccination decision is very important to a pet's future health, but it can be confusing. We believe that pet owners who become thoroughly informed on the pros and cons will be more able to make wise choices on behalf of their puppy.

Will there be any reactions to the shots?

Not usually. The vaccinations are generally painless and most puppies don’t feel a thing, though some may feel a mild sting or pinch. Puppies should not be given vaccinations when they are sick. If your puppy is unwell, the vaccination might end up making him feel a whole lot worse. This is why your vet usually performs a general examination before administering the vaccination.

Why Does The Puppy Needs Boosters?

It takes about five to ten days before your puppy gains immunity from the vaccinations. Also, if the maternal antibodies are still in your puppy, the vaccinations won’t have any effect and may cancel each other out. Which is another reason for not giving the vaccines too early. But, since there is no way to be sure that a vaccination has taken effect, it is generally recommended that your puppy gets boosters. And even when these are completed, it is still a good idea not to expose your puppy to other dogs or even walk him to public places until around 22 weeks as suggested earlier.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule - A General Guide

The following schedule is from Dr. Pitcairn, and one which in light of the latest veterinary information, seems to be a logical consideration.
  • Keep puppy isolated from potential sources of disease.
  • At sixteen weeks, first Distemper (may have to choose combination shot with hepatitis)**
  • At twenty weeks, first Parvo
  • At twenty-four weeks, second Distemper (may have to choose combination shot with hepatitis)
  • At 28 weeks, second Parvo
  • At 32 weeks, rabies

** Some veterinarian will only offer the distemper vaccine in combination with hepatitis.

While annual booster shots for adult dogs were the norm, many vets are now recommending a booster shot every three years for adult dogs. This is because of adverse health risks and because many vets hold the opinion that the immunity received from the the parvo and distemper vaccines lasts many years.

What Are the Risks Or Side Effects Associated With Puppy Vaccinations?

Okay, there are side-effects and there are serious side-effects. While most puppies do not have any reaction at all to puppy vaccinations, some may have a few mild side-effects that usually disappear in a couple of days. This may include mild soreness at the site of the injection, mild fever and reduced activity. In any case, this should only last a couple of days.

There are also moderately serious side-effects such as mild swelling of the face and hives. This is an allergic reaction that usually happens within a few hours of the injection being administered. If this is the case with your puppy, don’t panic. Just take him back to the vet’s office. Your vet is most likely to prescribe some Benadryl or an equivalent for the swelling to come down, although in case of very small dogs it may vary.

Probably the most serious side-effect to puppy vaccination is anaphylaxis – it begins with vomiting and diarrhea and progresses to loss of balance, difficulties in breathing, swelling, drop in blood pressure, seizures and even death. This usually strikes immediately after the vaccination has been given and can be fatal when it does occur. However, vets still recommend puppy vaccinations because this kind of reaction occurs in about 1 in 15,000 puppies.

So, with that said, while puppy vaccinations have an element of risk, well-informed owners and their trusted vet have to make the best choices with the information available. Vaccinating against the core diseases is considered the basic necessity. The other diseases that are common to your area are the optional considerations. Good luck with your puppy and remember, his health is in your hands!

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