Basics of Puppy Vaccinations

Vaccinations are critical for puppies. The formulations protect them from many diseases, including hepatitis, rabies, lyme disease, and others. If pups are not vaccinated, they will be vulnerable to these and other ailments.

Depending on how early you adopt your puppy, he may or may not have received all of his shots. If you adopt him within his first few weeks (most professional breeders recommend waiting eight to ten weeks), he will not have been vaccinated. If you adopt him during his eighth week, he will have received some, but not all.

For this reason, it's important for owners who are considering adopting a pup to understand the importance of vaccinations, and when they are typically given. We'll provide an overview below. First, we'll explain how puppies are protected from various diseases during their first few weeks. We'll then describe the typical timeline over which they receive their shots.

Protection During A Pup's First Few Weeks

When a pup is born, he already enjoys a small degree of protection from diseases. This protection is not due to an innate immunity. Rather, it is due to antibodies that he receives from his mother.

Some of the antibodies are delivered at the time of his birth. They are transferred to him through his mother's blood (through her placenta). Others are delivered through a special milk she produces during the first two days following the puppy's birth. This milk is known as colostrum.

Any antibodies that are transferred from the mother to her puppies are the result of past vaccinations she received. For example, if the mother has never received a vaccine for Lyme disease, she would be unable to pass along antibodies that protect her litter from it.

When Should Vaccinations Be Given?

Vaccinations begin depending on the type and level of protection a puppy has already received from his mother. The reason is because antibodies that were passed along to him can prevent the vaccines from working properly. Essentially, the shots might be wasted.

Over the course of a few weeks, the amount of natural antibodies in the puppy's body declines. When the level reaches a point where they cannot sufficiently protect him from diseases, the artificial vaccines are given. This can begin as early as five weeks or as late as four months (though this is unusual). If a puppy receives his first vaccination at five weeks, he will normally receive others at six, nine, and twelve weeks. Occasionally, supplemental vaccines are given at fifteen weeks.

Appropriate Dosage And Time To Protection

Despite what many owners believe, the size of the pup, or the typical size of the breed, has nothing to do with the dosage. A Boston Terrier puppy will receive the same amount (typically, one milliliter) as a Great Dane.

Several days may pass before a vaccine begins protecting the pup from the disease for which it was created. In some cases, two weeks may pass. This is because the antigens are not immediately recognized by his immune system. His body cannot produce the associated antibodies until this occurs.

Are Vaccinations Guaranteed To Protect Pups?

In a word, no. Puppies that are vaccinated can still become sick after contracting the targeted diseases. For example, a puppy may receive a vaccine for Lyme disease, yet still contract the ailment down the road. Experts claim such problems are due to a poor response from the puppy's immune system rather than an ineffective vaccine. If his immune system fails to produce the appropriate antibodies as a response to the vaccine's antigens, he will remain susceptible.

Many puppies receive all of their vaccinations prior to being adopted. But many do not. If you are adopting your puppy from a breeder, he or she will explain which formulations are still necessary. If you are adopting from a shelter, have a veterinarian examine your pup.

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