Puppy Vaccination FAQs and The Answers You Need to Know

From their super soft fur and sleep barking to their smelly breath and, yes, even their razor-sharp biting teeth, puppies are just the cutest. But if you've recently adopted one, you hopefully realize that there is more to dog wellness than a steady flow of kisses from your family members (although those are good, too). One of the key parts of getting your pup on a path to wellness is dog vaccinations and, if you are new to the puppy game, you might have questions. We've taken the chance to explore some of the most frequently asked questions about puppy vaccinations and shared them below.

puppy vaccination schedule

When do puppies start their vaccinations?

In general, distemper shots are given at 8, 10, and 12 weeks. And then, three weeks later, at 15 weeks. Some vets give them at 8, 12, and 16 while others choose 6, 12, and 16. The main rule to adhere to is that they should be given 3-4 weeks apart (4 weeks is the maximum), and the last should be given at or after 15-16 weeks.

The reason to vaccinate more frequently when dogs are young is that the mother-given immunity against distemper, parvo, adenovirus, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and other diseases tends to fall off really precipitously around 10 weeks of age.

For any immunity to be rendered with most of the vaccines, it's an initial series which sensitizes the body, and then a second vaccine that actually turns on the immune system. And that second vaccine says, "Okay guys, this is a real threat, so we're actually going to really protect you." And that's called an anamnestic response. So most vaccines are a two-shot series. The rabies vaccine is a little bit different, as it will be given once, and that vaccine is good for a year. After that, it is given every three years, although some municipalities require it to be an annual vaccine. 

What is the difference between the core and non-core vaccines?

Core vaccines are considered to be cat and dog rabies and distemper. And of course in the cat, there's not a distemper vaccine. It's not a disease called distemper, but we loosely use the term feline viral rhinotracheitis calicivirus and panleukopenia vaccine as distemper in the cat. 

core and noncore puppy vaccines

What are non-core vaccines?

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella 
  • Canine Influenza 
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme vaccine

If a vaccine is considered to be "non-core", why does my puppy need that?

Although puppy vaccines and dog vaccinations are very important to the overall health and wellness of your canine companion, not every puppy or dog needs to be vaccinated against every disease. Your puppy's environment, travel habits, and lifestyle are considered when determining which vaccines are appropriate. Bordetella and Canine Influenza are almost always recommended if not required if your puppy will go to boarding grooming, dog parks or has any interactions with other dogs. If you are in an area where your puppy might be exposed to ticks or if you will take your puppy hiking or camping a Lyme vaccination would be advisable. Leptospirosis does depend on the area you live in and if it is present in your region. Leptospirosis can cause death and some strains can be transmitted to you and your family.  At your puppy's next appointment, we will be happy to review which of the above makes the most sense for your dog and make the appropriate recommendations.

What if my puppy misses a vaccine in the series?

The manufacturer's recommendation says it should be given within a certain period of time. So if it's been a long time, your veterinarian will determine the age and week when the dog received each of the vaccines and they will then determine the new series for your dog. For example, if your dog had its first vaccine at 8 weeks and then there was no proof of a vaccine after 8 weeks and your puppy is now 15 weeks, the vet will give one right away, and then another vaccine in 3-4 weeks when your puppy is about 18 weeks. It is best for your dog to adhere to the vaccine schedule to guarantee 100 percent efficacy.

socializing puppies after vaccinations

Can I bring my puppy around other pets before they are fully vaccinated?

There is a certain amount of risk associated with exposing your puppy to other dogs and puppies before we are certain that the vaccines are optimally effective. Because we give the vaccine and that stimulates the immune system to say, "Okay, we need to build defenses." And it's not quite convinced until the second shot, in most cases, and then it takes a while for the body to actually build up immunity. It's not like we give the shot and we have immediate immunity. So it's safest to do it a week or two after they've finished their entire vaccine series. Of course, we also understand that puppies are social beings and that you will likely want to get them into training classes, too, so if you're going to bring your puppy around other dogs before being fully vaccinated, just make sure the other dogs are vaccinated and that you're doing so in a safe environment that's not frequented by other dogs.

Can a tiny puppy get all of those vaccines?

If you come in with a two-pound Chihuahua, we're not going to give distemper and rabies and parvo and lepto and Lyme and influenza—we can't go ahead and give all of those vaccines because it's just going to be too much and it will overwhelm for the immune system. In cases like that, we'll have you bring your pet back more frequently to stagger the vaccinations, giving them once every 2 weeks instead of every 4 weeks. It may take longer, but it's safest for your tiny pet this way! 

What are the side effects and risks of vaccinating my puppy?

The benefits of vaccinations far outweigh any risks. Adverse reactions to dog vaccines are rare. However, As with any medication or immunization protocol, puppy vaccinations and dog vaccinations can cause some side effects. We do recommend that you schedule your puppy or dog's appointment so that you will be available for at least two hours in order to monitor them possible vaccine reactions.

How do I know if my dog is having a vaccine reaction? If your dog does experience any reaction to vaccinations, symptoms may include:

  • Fever Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial or paw swelling and/or hives
  • Vomiting Diarrhea
  • Pain or swelling around the injection site
  • Collapse, difficulty breathing, and seizures (anaphylactic shock)

Just as with human vaccines, mild symptoms can be ignored. The majority of reactions are mild and short-lived. If you suspect a more severe reaction to puppy vaccines or dog vaccines, such as facial swelling, vomiting, or lethargy, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Inhale that puppy breath and savor those pup snuggles like crazy, but make sure you're also getting your dog on a path to puppy wellness so they can live a long and healthy life. If you have any more questions about vaccinations, please don't hesitate to give us a call.Puppy care in The Woodlands


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