Like most young animals, puppies are at risk of many illnesses and diseases, so it’s vital that you get your puppy vaccinated (the so-called puppy shots) at a young age and that you follow the correct puppy vaccination schedule.
Puppy vaccination schedule: when, what and why
In order to do that you need to know what to vaccinate against, and when. Luckily, that’s easy – you just need to follow the advice of your vet and you’ll be fine.
Having said that, it’s important that you know what shots your puppy needs. You also need to know when your puppy needs his shots. Missing even one of the vaccinations could have tragic consequences for your puppy.
You will also need to be aware that while vaccinations are essential for your puppy’s health and well-being, they do also have some associated risks and side effects.
Why you must vaccinate your puppy
Most young animals are born with under-developed immune systems and this makes them vulnerable to disease. To give them a fighting chance at survival, nature provides a substance called colostrum, which occurs naturally in their mother’s milk.
However, from the age of about 5 weeks the effects of the colostrum begin to diminish, and by 16 to 20 weeks it will offer no protection at all. Vaccinating your puppy provides him with the protection against nasty diseases that he needs when this happens.
Diseases that puppy shots protect against
Puppy vaccinations are often called a “five in one” vaccination because they’re given in combination to protect against 5 dangerous diseases. There may also be other vaccines based on dangers specific to the environment where you live, such as if there’s a heartworm risk. And sometimes, vets will offer a “six in one” that includes the five vaccinations from the “five in one” plus vaccination against Coronavirus.
Your puppy’s immunization will be against these 5 “core” diseases:
Canine distemper is a highly contagious and usually fatal disease. Transmission of the disease is usually via contact with discharge and secretions from the eyes or nose of an infected dog. If it’s left untreated it causes seizures, convulsions and ultimately heart and respiratory failure.
Canine hepatitis virus
The canine hepatitis virus spreads by contact with the saliva, urine or stool of an infected dog. It attacks the abdominal organs and can cause death within 6 to 10 days of infection.
Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial disease. It’s spread by coming into contact with the urine of an infected dog. It’s got a very high mortality rate because it causes extensive damage to the digestive tract, liver damage and kidney failure.
Parainfluenza is an extremely contagious form of kennel cough. It’s usually transmitted via physical contact with an infected dog, although it can also become airborne and be transmitted that way.
The Parvo virus is highly contagious. It’s a viral disease that’s spread through contact. Parvo is particularly dangerous to puppies and young dogs and can often be fatal if it’s left untreated.
Puppy vaccinations schedule
Your puppy will receive his or her first series of vaccines between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Your vet will decide the proper puppy vaccination schedule for your dog and each vet will have their own preferred schedule, but this is a common timetable:
5 weeks: Parvovirus (for puppies at high risk, check with your vet).
6 and 9 weeks: 5 in 1 vaccine (Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvo), plus Coronavirus where this is a concern.
12 weeks: Rabies (timing may vary, according to local bye-laws).
12 & 15 weeks: 5 in 1 vaccine, plus Coronavirus and Lyme disease where these are a concern.
Adult (annual shots): 5 in 1 vaccine plus Coronavirus and Lyme disease where these are a concern, Rabies.
Risks and side-effects of puppy vaccination
Although vaccinations are an absolute must for your puppy, there are some risks involved. Mostly these are mild reactions such as swelling and/or pain at the injection site, lethargy and/or mild fever.
In some cases though severe allergic reactions can occur. Although these are rare, the reactions can include hives, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing. If your puppy develops any of these symptoms you should call your vet immediately.
Auto-immune disorders are also a possibility, but such reactions to vaccination are extremely rare, and despite the potential risks, most veterinarians agree that the benefits of puppy vaccinations far outweigh the risks. It’s important though that you follow the correct puppy vaccination schedule recommended by your vet.