Puppy Vaccination Program

When puppies are born, their immune system is not fully developed. This would normally leave the puppy open to many forms of infection. But, thanks to maternal antibodies, these puppies get immunity from their mother while in the uterus and also from the first couple days of her milk (colostrum). This is crucial for their survival.

How long those antibodies last in any given puppy varies from individual to individual, even within the same litter. Maternal antibodies against different diseases even wear off at different times within the same puppy.

While maternal antibodies are present in the puppy, any vaccines that are given to that puppy will be inactivated by Mom’s antibodies without ever stimulating the puppy’s own immune system. Because of this fact, we, as veterinarians, give a series of vaccines in order to stimulate that puppy’s own antibodies. The problem is that we don’t know when each puppy will become susceptible to the vaccine. Unfortunately, they must be susceptible to the virus in order for the vaccine to be effective (because that is when Mom’s immunity wears off). The goal then becomes to get the vaccine in the puppy before he/she encounters the virus.

We do know that at 16 weeks of age, maternal antibodies in 95% of all puppies are gone. That means that if you vaccinate your puppy at 16 weeks of age, there is a 95% chance that he is covered for those viruses you vaccinated against. However, when you vaccinate against a specific disease for the first time, even in an adult animal, it is best to give at least two vaccinations. This is because the second vaccination will produce a much greater response if it is following a vaccine given 2-4 weeks earlier. (The first one sort of “primes” the system.)

So you ask, “Why don’t we pull blood and check the puppy’s antibody titers, to see when they need to be vaccinated?” Answer: Economics! It actually cost more to pull blood, send it off to the lab, wait on results, continue to re-check levels every couple of weeks, and then vaccinate when the titers drop. Other than that — there is nothing wrong with that approach.

At Sequoyah Animal Hospital, we use the following vaccination program:

AGE: Treatment: Comments:
2-4 weeks First exam including fecal and deworming. This is usually done by the breeder. Often breeder “cut costs” here resulting in so many new puppy buyers having “wormy puppies”.
6-8 weeks Complete physical exam including his first set of vaccines (DHPP):

    • Distemper — starts as Upper Respiratory infection
    • Hepatitis — contagious viral disease of dogs (if desired)
    • Parainfluenza (involved with Kennel cough complex -if desired)
    • Parvo — affects GI tract and can lead to death in 24-48 hours

Start appropriate Flea/Tick control and heartworm preventative. Perform fecal check-up and deworm.

No matter what age you start your vaccines, we recommend that you continue vaccinating every 3 weeks until your dog reaches 16 weeks of age.
9-12 weeks Second examination looking for heart murmurs and other physical congenital defects. Second set of vaccines given (DHPP). Repeat fecal exam and deworm appropriately. Don’t forget to pick up your heartworm preventative and appropriate Flea/Tick control each month until your puppy reaches his mature weight. Dosages are size dependent so weigh your puppy at each visit
13-16 weeks Examination, fecal, deworming, and vaccinations–Your puppy is now old enough for his rabies vaccines: DHPP plus Rabies. The Rabies vaccine does not usually get “boostered” in the dog until 1 year later. Then in some states it can be given every 3 years by law.
6 months Last puppy exam and vaccination. This set of vaccines usually includes Leptospirosis in affected areas. Leptospirosis is the most common causes of vaccine reactions, especially in young puppies. We recommend waiting until your dog is 4- 6 months before giving this vaccine. The immunity for this vaccine does not last long and would need to be boostered in heavily affected areas every year.

All dogs that are highly exposed to other dogs (i.e. show dogs, boarding dogs, or dogs in training) should also be vaccinated against Bordetella (Kennel Cough) every 6 months to avoid missing out on any competition time secondary to 2-4 weeks of coughing. This vaccines can be given anytime during the vaccination schedule.