Puppy Shots: The Canine Vaccination Schedule
An important part of being a responsible dog owner is vaccinating your dog as directed by your veterinarian. While adult dogs are vaccinated yearly, puppies need to have their vaccinations boostered while their bodies build up enough of an immune response to fight off diseases and viruses. Below we will discuss the recommended timeline for all puppy shots to occur.
6 – 9 Weeks
This is when your puppy will receive their first Distemper combo vaccine. This helps to protect your puppy temporarily from viral infections commonly seen in young, unvaccinated dogs. At this age, veterinarians also commonly administer an oral deworming medication, as many puppies are carriers of intestinal parasites. It is important to note that over the counter dewormers may not be effective. Your veterinarian may also request that you bring a sample of your puppy’s feces with you to your appointment to test it for intestinal parasites. This process may be repeated a few times.
At this point another Distemper combo is typically given, as well as the first Bordetella vaccine. Bordetella vaccines can be administered nasally, orally, or subcutaneously (under the skin, like the Distemper combo vaccine.) Some practices will also administer the Coronavirus vaccine at this time, but some Distemper combos will include this, depending on the vaccine manufacturer.
It’s now time for another Distemper combo, this time in combination with the Leptospirosis vaccine. While some choose not to vaccinate for Leptospirosis, it would be very wise to protect your puppy from this serious bacterial infection. Leptospirosis is transferred from wild animals and is also infectious to humans.
At 16 weeks, the Rabies vaccine may be given. Puppies must be at least 16 weeks old to be given this legally regulated and required vaccine. Boosters of Distemper combo, Leptospirosis, and Bordetella will also typically be administered at this time. The Lyme disease vaccine is another vaccine that some choose not to administer, but it is still highly recommended. Lyme disease is zoonotic (pets and humans are susceptible) and is a tick borne disease. Those opting for this vaccine will typically start the first booster at 20 weeks old.
At 6 months (24 weeks), the second Lyme booster may be given. Six months is also the youngest age to accurately test for Heartworm disease. Owners of puppies and kittens should also start to schedule spays and neuters for their pets at this age, if they haven’t already done so.
As we all know, puppies quickly grow into adult dogs. A year after your puppy shots are complete, they will be due for their second annual booster. Some veterinary practices will offer two or three year spans of time between the Distemper combo vaccine. Rabies vaccines can also be given either every year, or every three years.
Below you will find definitions of the diseases we vaccinate our canine companions for.
Rabies: The rabies vaccine is required by law. Only a licensed veterinary hospital may administer this vaccine. Rabies is not only transmissible to our pets, but also to humans. It is a fatal, viral disease of the nervous system. Early stages of rabies can easily be confused with other diseases. A rabies diagnosis must be verified with laboratory tests and the animal must be euthanized.
Distemper: Symptoms of distemper include fever, loss of white blood cells, and inflammation of the lungs and brain. Typically, cases develop after an animal breathes in the virus from an infected animal. Distemper is viral infection that can affect several body systems, including the respiratory and nervous system.
Hepatitis/Adenovirus 2: A respiratory virus that is spread by bodily fluids including nasal discharge and urine. The virus first affects the tonsils and the larynx causing a sore throat, cough and occasionally pneumonia. As it progresses, it can affect the kidneys, eyes & liver.
Parainfluenza: Similar to “the flu” in humans, parainfluenza is a respiratory virus that causes mild respiratory tract infections and is transmitted via contact with the nasal fluids of infected dogs.
Parvovirus: This is a very serious and potentially fatal viral disease that most often affects puppies or unvaccinated adult dogs. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the infected dog as well as indirect transmission such as contaminated objects by feces. Some signs symptoms may include: sudden loss of energy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Leptospirosis: A bacterial infection of the urinary tract. This zoonotic disease (contagious to humans as well) enters the bloodstream via infected urine and can cause kidney failure, liver failure and death. Some sign/symptoms can include: fever, joint pain, nausea, low platelet count (excessive bleeding), depression and loss of appetite.
Bordetella: A bacterial component of kennel cough (infectious Tracheobronchitis). This disease affects the upper airways and is highly contagious. The most common signs are harsh, dry coughing, which may be followed by retching and gagging. Animals that are housed in close confinement with other dogs (such as kennels, boarding and daycare facilities, should be vaccinated. Vaccinations should be given in 2 initial doses given 4 weeks apart. Boosters should be administered biannually or annually, depending on risk and veterinarians advice. This vaccine can be given orally, nasally or by injection depending on the vaccine manufacturer and the patient’s temperament.
Corona Virus: A viral infection of the digestive tract. The corona virus is usually transmitted by infected feces. It causes gastroenteritis similar to Parvo and is highly contagious. This virus can affect puppies as well as adult dogs. Symptoms of coronavirus may include depression, fever, inappetence, vomiting and diarrhea.
Lyme: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect the joints and other body functions. This disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick to animals and humans. The most common signs can include: fever, loss of appetite, painful or swollen joints, lameness that progresses from mild to severe, swollen lymph nodes, and lethargy, although some Lyme positive patients can show no symptoms at all. If left untreated, it can lead to damage of the kidneys, nervous system and heart. Initial vaccination should be in a series of two 3 to 4 weeks apart. Annual vaccination is recommended from the date of the last booster, just before tick season begins.
To review, there are many diseases and viruses that unvaccinated puppies are vulnerable to. Luckily, vaccines have been created to greatly reduce the risk of our puppies and dogs contracting these diseases and viruses. When vaccinating our pets, we are helping to ensure they live long and happy lives, while also protecting ourselves against zoonotic diseases. Is your dog up to date on the recommended vaccines? Contact a veterinarian today to see if your furry friend is due for boosters!