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Puppy Vaccinations: What You Should Know

Find out why vaccinations are so important for puppies what you should do to keep your pups safe.

Puppies are an absolute delight to have in your home. Their playfulness and cute antics are enough to melt any heart.

Watching your pup grow is an amazing experience, but taking care of a pup is a big responsibility. From pet food to training to vaccinations, everything has to be done right to give your pup a strong foundation. Find out why vaccinations are so important for puppies what you should do to keep your pups safe.

Why is vaccinating your pup important?

Unlike an adult dog, a puppy’s immune system is immature and underdeveloped. Due to their underdeveloped immune systems, puppies are more prone to contracting deadly diseases like parvo and distemper. Generally, puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk (colostrum) that protects them during the first months of their life.

Once puppies are weaned off their mother’s milk, they need protection in the form of vaccines. The vaccination schedule also depends on how well the puppy is nursing from the mother.

Why is vaccinating too early is not a good idea?

If a puppy is vaccinated while his mother’s antibodies are still in his system, the mother’s antibodies will see the vaccine as a harmful foreign body, and they will attack and destroy the contents of the vaccine. Therefore, you should wait for some time before getting his first shots (typically around eight weeks from birth).

Common diseases puppies need protection against

Parvo: Parvo is a highly contagious disease that spreads through contact with infected animal’s stool. The virus attacks the intestines causing severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and, in some cases, even death.

Distemper: Distemper is a deadly, contagious disease which is caused by Canine Distemper Virus, and it is believed to have no cure. Distemper mostly affects puppies and young dogs and attacks multiple systems, including the central nervous system and respiratory system.

Rabies: Rabies is a fatal and incurable disease that can affect humans in addition to other animals. Rabies virus is passed onto dogs, puppies, or other animals through a bite from an infected animal, attacking the nervous system until the animal succumbs to the disease. Puppies should receive their first rabies vaccination by 12 weeks of age.

Canine Influenza: Although adult dogs suffering from canine influenza typically recover within two to three weeks, puppies and senior dogs are more likely to become severely ill after infection because of their decreased immune system functionality.

Kennel Cough: It is caused by Bordetella Bronchiseptica, which is a highly contagious bacterium. Kennel cough causes coughing, whooping, vomiting, and even death in rare cases.

When should puppies receive their first vaccination?

It is generally recommended that puppies receive their first core vaccination between 6–8 weeks of age, followed by vaccine boosters every 3–4 weeks until the puppy is 16–17 weeks old.

Some factors that influence the number, type and schedule of vaccines, include:

  • Puppy’s age
  • Number of puppies in the litter
  • The duration for which the puppy was nursed
  • Mother’s immunity and vaccination status
  • The place and conditions where they were born and raised

Appropriate vaccination schedule for puppies

Generally, it’s your vet who will decide the appropriate vaccination schedule for your pup, as one size never fits all. Here are the generally accepted guidelines for puppy vaccination:

  • At 6–8 weeks: Distemper, measles, parainfluenza
  • At 10–12 weeks: DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus)
  • At 12–24 weeks: Rabies
  • At 14–16 weeks: DHPP Booster vaccine
  • Every 1–2 years: DHPP Booster vaccine
  • Every 1–3 years: Rabies vaccine (as per the local law)

Some vets and researchers believe that vaccinating adult dogs every year poses various health risks. Therefore, they suggest titer tests before administering annual vaccinations. Titer tests help determine the immunity levels of a dog. They also help determine if vaccinations are necessary.

As far as the rabies vaccine, your state’s law should determine the schedule of the vaccine.

Are there any side effects associated with vaccines?

Vaccines can have certain side effects ranging from mild to severe. In some cases permanent consequences may also occur, but they are very rare.

Type 1 reactions: Type 1 reactions include anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction to a foreign substance. The initial symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swollen eyelids, lips, ears
  • Puffy face
  • Vomit

Severe symptoms include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Cold legs
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Shallow breathing

Type 2 reactions: Type 2 reactions are less severe than Type 1 reactions. The symptoms include:

  • Eye discharge
  • Bleeding at the injection site
  • Lump at the injection site
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Swelling of the face

The reactions typically start occurring within 48 hours of vaccinating a dog. However, some symptoms take longer to appear. Therefore, you should always be careful after vaccinating your pup and call your vet immediately if any of the above symptoms occur.

Caring for a pup after vaccination

Most pets need no special care following vaccination but young puppies do need some care after vaccination. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Provide your pup with a warm, cozy place to lie down and rest.
  • Check on your pup time to time, just to make sure he is comfortable.
  • If your puppy is on his vaccination schedule it is advisable to wait for 15 days after each inoculation to give him a bath.
  • Until your puppy is fully immunized, don’t take him to the dog park or any other place where he is likely to come in contact with other dogs.

While you can use this guide to get a general idea of the vaccines and vaccination schedule your pup will need, talk to your veterinarian to find out exactly which vaccines your pup will need and when he will need them.


Harsh Arora is a proud father of four rescued dogs and a leopard gecko. Besides being a full-time dog father, he is a freelance content writer/blogger and an educationist, with more than 6 years experience in the field of content writing.


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