The vaccination of puppies (puppy shots) is one of the crucial steps in assuring the puppy will have a healthy and happy puppyhood. The who, what, why, when, where, and how of vaccinations are complicated, and may vary from puppy to puppy. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are appropriate for your puppy. To better understand vaccines, it is important to understand how the puppy is protected from disease the first few weeks of its life.
Protection From the Mother (maternal antibodies)
A newborn puppy is not naturally immune to diseases. However, it does have some antibody protection, which is derived from its mother’s blood via the placenta. The next level of immunity is from antibodies derived from the first milk. This is the milk produced from the time of birth and continuing for 36-48 hours. This antibody-rich milk is called colostrum. The puppy does not continue to receive antibodies through its mother’s milk. It only receives antibodies until it is two days of age. All antibodies derived from the mother, either via her blood or colostrum are called maternal antibodies. It must be noted that the puppy will only receive antibodies against diseases for which the mother had been recently vaccinated against or exposed to.
When should puppies be vaccinated?
Drs. Foster and Smith prefer to vaccinate puppies with a combination vaccine at six weeks of age initially, with boosters given every three weeks until the puppy is about sixteen weeks of age.
Due to the window of susceptibility, some litters will contract a disease (e.g., parvo) despite being vaccinated. By using quality vaccines and an aggressive vaccination protocol, we can make this window of susceptibility as small as possible. Our vaccination protocol may not be right for every puppy. Some ‘high risk’ puppies may need a more intense and aggressive vaccination program. It is best to work with your veterinarian on a vaccination protocol that is best for your individual puppy or kennel, taking into consideration your individual situation. Against which diseases should puppies be vaccinated?
It is NOT true that a small breed of puppy should receive a smaller vaccine dose than puppies of larger breeds. All puppies regardless of age, body weight, breed, and gender are given the same vaccine dose. Vaccines are generally administered in one-milliliter (cc) doses. Simply follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Time to Produce Protection
Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the antigens must be recognized, responded to, and remembered by the immune system. In most puppies, disease protection does not begin until five days post vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to fourteen days. In some instances, two or more vaccinations several weeks apart must be given to achieve protection. In general, modified live vaccines and those vaccines administered intranasally provide the fastest protection.
Why do some vaccinated animals still get the disease?
It is a fact that in the USA today, literally hundreds and perhaps thousands of vaccinated dogs and cats are still contracting the diseases they were vaccinated against. Some term this ‘vaccine failure,’ although it is more likely a failure of the immune system to respond than a problem with the vaccine itself.
Parvovirus is a serious case in point. How can a puppy get the disease and possibly die if it was vaccinated? Unfortunately, for some reason the vaccine did not stimulate the immune system enough to protect the puppy from disease. The reason may be interfering maternal antibodies, the vaccines themselves, the dog’s own immune system, or genetics.