How to keep track of your puppy’s vaccinations

Best vaccination schedule

Bringing home a new puppy is exciting for everyone in the family. In addition to having a new playmate to bond with, there is a certain excitement that comes along with puppy preparation. Purchasing toys, selecting the perfect food bowls that match the kitchen, picking out a cozy bed, and trying to figure out which collar and leash set best suits his personality are fun details when it comes to bringing the baby home.

Then there’s the wellness side of the new puppy equation. Getting a pup checked out to ensure he’s healthy is a top priority but many pet parents find vaccination schedules a little puzzling. And it’s easy to see why. Although veterinarians agree that vaccinations are a necessary step in protecting puppies from contagious diseases, finding the perfect schedule for your puppy’s shots isn’t as definite. It depends on each individual pup, geographical location and lifestyle. A consultation with your veterinarian can help determine your dog’s best vaccination schedule.

Puppy shots don’t come all at once—they are administered in a series, which is one of the reasons for the confusion. Why do they need to come in a series?

The answer comes from Mother Nature. Puppies receive antibodies, or proteins, from their mothers’ milk as they nurse called colostrum. Antibodies provide immunities to diseases, but these natural protections don’t last very long and they aren’t completely reliable in that there may be gaps in defense. In other words, antibodies can decrease and immune systems, which take time to develop, might not yet be ready to fend anything off.

Administering vaccinations in a series, therefore, is the safest route to ensuring continued protection. Generally, the first series of shots are given when a puppy is around 6 to 8 weeks of age. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the pet’s immune system against the virus or bacteria while subsequent doses help to further stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies needed to protect a pet from specific diseases.”

After that first dose, vaccines are typically scheduled for every three to four weeks until the pup is about 16 weeks of age unless the veterinarian determines the dog is at risk for something and adjusts the vaccination schedule. With so many vaccinations available, it can be difficult to determine which ones your puppy really needs. Fortunately, they are broken up into two groups — core and noncore — that help clarify which vaccinations puppies typically need.

The “core” group refers to vaccines that most puppies should receive as standard care: parvovirus, canine distemper, rabies, canine adenovirus. Some veterinarians administer vaccines that combine these and possibly a couple or more, such as leptospirosis or coronavirus. A typical combination virus protects against distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and parainfluenza or DHPP for short.

The “noncore” vaccines include those for parainfluenza, bordetella, and lyme disease. Veterinarians typically determine if a dog needs these by the its age, health, geographic location or lifestyle, such as exposure to dog parks, visiting specific regions on vacations, participating in shows, and boarding.

A typical schedule might look something like this:

  • 6-8 weeks: Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Adenovirus, or DHPP

Based on veterinarian’s recommendations: Parainfluenza, Bordetella

  • 10-12 weeks: Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Adenovirus (second round)

Based on veterinarian’s recommendations: Bordetella

  • 12-16 weeks: Rabies
  • 14-16 weeks Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Adenovirus (third round)

Once your veterinarian has set your pup’s vaccination schedule, be sure to stick to his or her recommendations. Not completing the vaccination series may result in incomplete immunization.

It’s also important to remember that once administered, vaccinations are not a 100 percent guarantee that a puppy will not contract an infectious disease. There are a couple of reasons vaccinations might fail. One is not allowing enough time to pass after a pup gets his shots and exposing him to a high-risk situation. It generally takes a few days for a vaccine to begin working effectively. Other reasons may include a puppy’s immune system is not functioning properly or that the vaccines were not correctly administered.

If possible, schedule your veterinarian visits in advance and write your appointments down on a calendar to remember. There are also several great apps available for smart phones that can help you keep track of appointments and other essential veterinary information. Once through the puppy stage, your veterinarian will let you know which adult vaccinations, or boosters, your dog will likely need during his annual physical examination to maintain optimal results.

Working closely with your veterinarian and getting your puppy’s shots on time can greatly lower the risk of a youngster getting sick. With the proper vaccinations, healthy diet and exercise your new puppy will be by your side for many years to come!

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