While there may be an ongoing debate about the scheduling and requirement of all types of vaccinations for adult dogs, the research is very clear about the need for puppies to have regular vaccinations as they grow and develop.
Vaccinations for puppies work in the same way as vaccinations for children. They allow the puppy’s rapidly forming immune system to build up the necessary antibodies to ward off the disease if they are exposed later in life. These vaccinations can include modified-live (live-attenuated) or inactivated (killed) vaccines.
Often, without vaccination, there is limited ability to treat the disease once the puppy has become infected. They are simply too small, and their systems are yet undeveloped to fight back against the virus or disease as it attacks.
These vaccines are not given all at once, but rather over a period of a few weeks to months. Different areas of the country and different seasons of the year may also impact the vaccinations the vet will recommend. Some type of vaccinations, such as the vaccination for Bordetella, which is responsible for kennel cough, is not given unless the puppy is in contact with other dogs and puppies or will be kenneled.
Choosing the optional vaccination is your choice as the owner. Finding information online is relatively easy, helping you to evaluate if these optional vaccinations are of importance. Your vet can also provide insight and information based on your location, the breed, the age of the puppy and other factors.
According to the American Kennel Club, the general guideline of recommended vaccinations at the age of the puppy include:
- 6-8 weeks – parainfluenza, measles, distemper
- 10-12 weeks – DHPP (a combination vaccination detailed below)
- 12-24 weeks – Rabies
- 14-16 weeks – DHPP
- 12-16 months – DHPP, rabies
DHPP is a special combination vaccination that is given to puppies and then every one to two years for adult dogs. The DHPP actually stands for the diseases it treats including distemper, hepatitis, Parvo, and parainfluenza.
Generally, most puppies will tolerate the vaccinations extremely well. They may be a bit lethargic for an hour or so after the vet visit, but this is very limited in scope. Some breeds, particularly toy breeds, may have a more significant reaction that may include muscle aches, fatigue, and a slight fever. This may last a day or two and then disappear.
Any signs of vomiting, swelling in the facial area, areas of the skin that are itchy and hot to the touch or red and bumpy after the vaccination is a more serious reaction. Call the vet immediately as an antihistamine can be administered and the symptoms eliminated.
The chances of a reaction to a vaccine are very small. The risk of a puppy coming down with parvo, distemper or parainfluenza is high, particularly if the puppy is in contact with other dogs. Vaccinating after the puppy shots can be discussed with your vet to develop a schedule that is safe for your dog and meets your requirements.