Have you welcomed a new puppy into your home? Apart from the essentials like food, water, and shelter (check out our new puppy checklist here); they also need worming, flea control, tick control, vaccinations, and regular health checks with a Vet. As a puppy parent, there’s a lot of information to take in, so we’ve created this guide to puppy vaccinations to help answer any questions you may have.
It’s a big, wild world out there for a little puppy, and we all want to do the best that we can to protect them from harm. Vaccinations help protect against common diseases that in some cases, could easily take the life of a precious puppy. In this article, we’ll discuss common vaccination protocols for puppies, the different types of vaccines Vets use, and adverse reactions to vaccines.
When Should You Vaccinate Your Puppy?
A new-born puppy receives antibodies through their mother’s milk. These antibodies help to protect the puppy against the diseases that the mother has immunity to. This is known as maternal immunity. By around 8 to 12 weeks old, the maternal immunity starts to wear off. Although there is variation between individuals, the number of vaccinations a puppy needs is determined by the age at which they first started and has this maternal immunity in mind. The idea is to ensure that the puppy is protected as thoroughly as possible, at first with maternal antibodies, and then through vaccination.
A common protocol is included below. Remember that your Vet may recommend a different protocol depending on your puppie’s individual needs and the type of vaccination they use.
First Vaccination 6- 8 weeks
First vaccination is generally recommended between 6 and 8 weeks of age. When started at 6 weeks of age, a fourth booster vaccination may be recommended by your Vet.
Second Vaccination: 10-12 weeks
The second vaccination is generally administered two to four weeks after the first vaccination.
Third Vaccination: 14-16 weeks
Fourth Vaccination: 16- 18 weeks
This may be recommended by your Vet depending on the vaccination type and age at which your puppy received their first vaccination, but in some cases may not be required.
First Booster Vaccination: 52 weeks
After their first booster vaccination, your Vet may recommend that your pup goes onto an annual or triennial (meaning every three year) vaccination protocol. An annual booster for the components of canine cough (also known as kennel cough or Infectious tracheobronchitis) is often recommended, especially if your dog goes out often and has contact with other dogs, such as going to the dog park.
Types of Vaccines and administration
Vaccines may be classified as modified live or attenuated vaccines. These vaccines produce immunity by giving a small infection of the organism which prompts an immune response. Killed or inactivated vaccines don’t deliver the live organism, rather use an inactivated version and an adjuvant which helps to stimulate the immune system. Most vaccinations for dogs are delivered via injection under the skin between the shoulder blades. However, a common live attenuated vaccine for canine cough which includes Bordetella bronchiseptica and canine parainfluenza viruses that the Vet may recommend for your pup is delivered into the pups nostrils (an intranasal vaccine). On the upside, it is one less needle for your fur baby!
What Vaccines Does Your Puppy Need?
Vaccinations are regarded as either core, which are recommended for all dogs, non-core, which may vary depending on where you live or other factors that may put your pup at higher risk of encountering certain diseases, and not recommended vaccines, which as the name suggests are not recommended in Australia.
Dog vaccinations Australia:
Canine distemper virus
Also known as Kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis, it is a very common and contagious disease of dogs. There is usually more than one organism involved and commonly includes Bordetella bronchiseptica and Canine parainfluenza viruses. The disease generally manifests as a harsh dry cough which may sound like gagging or retching. It might sound like something is stuck in you pups throat. Occasionally the pup patient might have a fever and loss of appetite. Severe cases can lead to complications like pneumonia. More often than not, however Canine cough requires no or minimal treatment of cough suppressants, anti-inflammatories or antibiotics.
A vaccination success story, Canine distemper was once very common in Australia but thanks to vaccines the virus is much less common today. Caused by a paramyxovirus the virus affects multiple body systems including the respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal tract. It is transmitted through contact with an infected dog or things like shared food bowls. Treatment is largely supportive, meaning managing the symptoms, but unfortunately this virus is frequently fatal.
Canine parvovirus is a nasty gastrointestinal disease that can be fatal in puppies. Pups present with vomiting and diarrhoea which often has blood in it. Although it can affect any dog, unvaccinated puppies of four months or less are at high-risk of contracting the virus. Vaccination is highly effective against this devastating disease. Treatment often includes intensive care in hospital with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, plasma transfusions, pain relief and management of secondary complications including respiratory disease. This is definitely a case of prevention being better than cure!
Infectious Hepatitis (Canine adenovirus)
Causing inflammation of the liver, this virus is transmitted through contact with infected dogs or discharge including urine or eye discharge of infected dogs. Infected pups may have fever, be lethargic, have vomiting and diarrhoea, and may even have respiratory signs. Some dogs develop cloudy eyes. The liver is a vital organ, so severe cases of hepatitis can quickly be fatal in young pups. Similarly to the other viruses discussed here, treatment is often supportive care, managing the symptoms and secondary complications.
What about vaccine reactions?
Understandably, nobody wants their baby to suffer from negative side effects of any treatment. The good news is that the vast majority of puppies take vaccination in their stride and are back to normal straight away.
It is normal to expect mild pain where the vaccine was administered, so be gentle around that area for a couple of days after the vaccination. It is also quite normal for some puppies to be a bit sleepy, have a mild fever and be a little quiet for a day or two after a vaccine. Occasionally a lump may develop at the vaccination site. Puppies who have had an intranasal vaccine might sneeze for a day or two. These are all quite normal after vaccination, and usually no or minimal treatment is required. If you are worried at all however, call your Vet who will be able to advise you.
Rarely, a pup has a severe reaction to a vaccine. If you notice any of these signs following a vaccination, get in touch with your Vet straight away.
- Swollen face
- Urticaria or hives, which are raised lumps on the body
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Breathing difficulties
These can be signs that your pup is having a severe allergic reaction known as an anaphylactic reaction, which can be life threatening.
If your puppy has had a vaccine reaction in the past, make sure you let your Vet know before giving your puppy further vaccinations.
What about Titre Testing?
You may have heard of titre or serological testing Titre testing checks in place of vaccinations. This is a blood test that checks for antibodies against diseases. The main ones tested for are Canine parvovirus and Canine distemper virus, but Canine adenovirus can also be checked. If your pet has high antibodies, then vaccination may not be indicated. This test can be helpful especially in pets who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past. However, it does have some limitations in that it only reveals one type of immunity (antibodies) and is not a full reflection of the immune status of your pet. Bear in mind also that some facilities such as boarding kennels for example, may not accept a titre test as a valid confirmation of protection against disease and may still require a vaccination certificate. Your Vet will be able to help you plan the best strategy to help keep your pup protected.
Whatever you and your Vet decide, remember that an important component of your pups. Vaccination appointment is a thorough check over by the Vet which helps to catch early signs of disease and gives you a chance to discuss any concerns you may have about your pup’s health with your Vet.
When it comes to vaccinations in puppies, prevention is certainly better than cure for these harmful viruses. Armed with the knowledge about common vaccination protocols, diseases, and options for your pup, you and your new fur baby are off to a fantastic start! Remember, if you are ever concerned about your pup’s health or wellbeing, get in touch with your Vet.