Vaccinating Your Puppy
Puppy vaccinations are necessary for a healthy life.
Julie Ryan Johnson, DVM
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To be as accurate as possible, your veterinarian can run a blood test to determine the most effective time to start vaccinating your puppy. Most puppy owners forgo these tests because of the extra expense and time involved. In general, most veterinary hospitals recommend a series of vaccines, beginning with the first round between 6 and 8 weeks of age, since that is typically when it is believed that material antibodies start decreasing. Vaccine schedules for puppies attempt to minimize the unprotected period between loss of passive immunity and the beginning of active immunity from the vaccinations.
How Often, How Many?
The puppy vaccination DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus) is generally given every three weeks until the puppy is 4 months old, beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The Bordetella vaccine, which protects against the bacteria that causes kennel cough, is generally given once or twice during the course of the series of puppy vaccinations. The Bordetella vaccine does not interfere with maternal antibodies and can be given as early as 3 weeks of age.
The rabies vaccine is generally given at 4 months of age, but this may vary based on your state's requirements. Some veterinarians may recommend a six-month parvo booster for their patients. Different areas of the country and different lifestyles of dogs may dictate a different protocol. Customization of your puppy's vaccines is very important for maximizing the immunity of your puppy.
To help determine the correct vaccines choices and schedule, tell your veterinarian whether your puppy will become an outdoor enthusiast or an indoor couch potato. Combining vaccines with deworming will help ensure your puppy's health status. Your puppy will likely receive deworming medication when it begins its vaccination series, and may require subsequent dewormings.
But Are They Safe?
Currently, one of the most important issues in veterinary medicine is vaccine safety. Dogs can have hypersensitivity reactions to vaccines that range from increased temperature, swelling at vaccine sites, facial swelling, and vomiting and diarrhea, to the rarer severe anaphylaxis reaction (potentially fatal reaction that causes difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, hives and shock). Sometimes a mass may form at the vaccination site; if the mass doesn't go away or becomes larger it should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
The best way to increase safety is to have your puppy vaccinated at a veterinary clinic. A vaccine administered by a trained veterinary technician or veterinarian in a veterinary hospital ensures that the vaccine is injected correctly and with sterility. If the puppy does have a vaccine complication, treatment can be given rapidly, minimizing the risk to the puppy. If your puppy has a vaccine reaction, work with your vet to determine whether your puppy should be pre-treated with drugs before his next vaccine to prevent another reaction.
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