Vaccinations for Puppies through Adulthood
It is especially important to ensure adequate vaccination in puppies early on due to their immature immune system. Inadequate vaccination may result in contraction of various infectious and sometimes fatal diseases. Vaccinations are given throughout a dog's life to provide protection against infectious disease. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies so that the body is then able to fight off infection upon exposure to disease-causing organisms. It is especially important to ensure adequate vaccination in puppies early on due to their immature immune system. Inadequate vaccination may result in contraction of various infectious and sometimes fatal diseases.
In the first few weeks of life, puppies obtain antibodies from their mothers' milk; specifically the colostrums, which is the first milk produced. This imparts some level of disease resistance to an otherwise immature and naïve immune system. These antibodies, however, offer protection for only a short period of time leaving puppies vulnerable to infection. To combat this loss of protection, vaccination typically is initiated between six to eight weeks of age. Some breeders and shelters may start the vaccination series prior to adoption.
The first vaccinations given stimulate the puppy's immune system to start forming its own antibodies. Subsequent boosters are administered to enhance this response and ensure adequate defense against infectious agents. Boosters are typically given three to four weeks apart, and your veterinarian will be able to tell you how many boosters are needed for each vaccine.
Which vaccines are recommended can vary by geographical location, lifestyle and exposure risk, and their administration will depend upon exposure risk. Vaccines are typically classified as "core" vaccines and "non-core" vaccines. The core vaccines are those recommended for every dog, while non-core vaccines are not needed by every animal.
Your veterinarian will assess your dog's specific lifestyle and subsequent risk of infection and tailor the necessary vaccination protocol accordingly. To ensure the best protection for your pet, be sure to tell your veterinarian about any intended travel and the degree of contact your puppy will have with other dogs (grooming, boarding, dog parks, daycare, etc.), as these factors will influence which non-core vaccines are appropriate.
The primary core vaccines typically include distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus (generally all found in one vaccine collectively called distemper) and rabies. These vaccines are recommended for every dog. There are many non-core vaccines available, the most commonly used being Lyme, Bordetella (kennel cough vaccine) and Leptospirosis. If appropriate, your veterinarian may recommend these or additional non-core vaccines for your pet.
After your puppy receives the initial vaccination series, the adult boosters are typically given one year after the last puppy immunization. For the rest of your dog's life, vaccine boosters will need to be given to ensure ongoing protection against infectious disease. Some vaccines require annual or semi-annual boosters, while others are labeled for administration every three years. Frequency of the rabies vaccination specifically is governed by individual states and can range from once yearly to once every three years depending upon state and local statutes.
Early initiation of vaccination and other preventative care measures will help start your puppy out on the right track! Consult with your veterinarian on the vaccine regimen that will offer the best level of protection for your puppy throughout its lifetime.