Dog Vaccinations

Dog vaccinations are an important way for the young puppy to be protected against many diseases.



Dog vaccinations ward or fight off disease by destroying the invading bacteria or virus trying to enter the dog’s body.  For this to work, the body produces antibodies to the viral or bacterial antigen.  Think of it this way.  A key to your door is the antibody and the lock is the antigen.  If it is a perfect fit; meaning the key fits perfectly in the lock, it is the same identical concept of antibody meeting antigen.  In this case, the intruding germ is neutralized or killed.


Puppies at 6 weeks are like sitting ducks making them extremely susceptible to picking up severe viral infections such as Parvovirus.  When the puppy was nursing, it got the mother’s colostrum; milk that is rich in passive immunity.  These antibodies are short lived and that is why they are called passive.  They protect the animal against disease for only a short period of time before the effect wears off.


For a puppy to develop into a healthy adult it is important to go through a series of dog vaccinations.  Animals at a young age have an immature or underdeveloped immune system.  Going through dog vaccinations boosts the immune system so that at about 16-18 weeks of age the dog is completely immunized.  No vaccine is perfect but dog vaccinations are extremely effective.




Each veterinarian may have a slightly different approach depending upon brand of vaccine used or his or her location in the country but the following is what I have done for years.  Dog vaccinations are started out at about 6-8 weeks with its first parvovirus and distemper virus immunization.  This is repeated every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is a minimum of 16-18 weeks of age.  During this schedule, veterinarians often recommend the puppy be vaccinated against kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica).  This entails a series of two vaccines administered by injection or intra-nasal routes.  I highly recommend Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination for all pets.  Especially so for dogs that will be boarded many times over their lifetimes.


Rabies vaccine is usually administered with the last set of dog vaccinations at 16-18 weeks of age.  However, the minimal age for rabies vaccination is 12 weeks of age.  The animal is than given a rabies booster one year after the first dose.  Whether a veterinarian signs the boost vaccine for one or three years depends upon the part of the country you live in.  In Ohio, I signed them for 3 years.  In Florida, like most other practitioners, I sign them for only one year since rabies is more common in the latter state.


This vaccine schedule should be completed by a licensed veterinarian.  If you buy a puppy from a breeder inquire and make sure that the breeder did not do the work.  You want a health record from a veterinarian.  This only means that the dog vaccinations were done correctly plus a physical exam was also completed.  This protects YOU, the consumer.  Veterinarians in Florida, under the Florida Veterinary Practice Act, issue a health certificate signed off on all puppies sold, be it from a puppy store or private breeder.  Each person that purchases a puppy (or kitten) is provided with a copy.



The most common side effect of dog vaccinations is post vaccination discomfort in particularly the small breeds of dogs.  Dogs can be sore to touch over the neck area and act feverish.  If this persists for more than a good part of the day call your veterinarian.  I usually prescribed some sort of an analgesic, if necessary.  Most dogs do fine over time.


Facial swelling, particularly of the lips, eyes and ears 1-2 hours after a vaccination is usually an allergy to one component of the vaccine.  Because it itches, the dog will scratch at the head and eye area.  Immediately take your puppy to the veterinarian for an exam.  Most of us administer:  adrenalin, a corticosteroid and Benedryl® (an anti-histamine).  If you wait, you never know if the allergy is going to cause a closure to the windpipe!  For this reason, it is a good idea to stay around the animal several hours after the vaccine has been administered to make sure there are no problems.


Allergies to vaccine components do not necessarily happen on the first or second dose.  It can be anyone’s guess.  Some dogs have a reaction to the first vaccine but not the second or vice versa.  For all dogs that suffered an allergic reaction, subsequent doses of vaccine are prefaced by a low dose of an antihistamine given several hours before the appointment.




One of the worst things to do is to go through all dog vaccinations except the last scheduled one.  This is a serious error.  It is known that 25% of all dogs vaccinated at 14 weeks against Parvovirus can still pick it up if challenged from a dog diagnosed with Parvo!  Give one more dose at 18 weeks, that probability drops to 1-2%; a HUGE difference.  I have treated many a dog in these situations.


Do not do dog vaccinations yourself.  This is fool hardy.  Do not go to the feed store and buy XYZ vaccine.  Sure, anyone can give an injection but you have to have medical knowledge of how vaccines work amongst many other things.  Before any animal is vaccinated, a complete physical is completed; body temperature included.  Vaccinating a dog with a fever is ill advised.  Vaccinating a dog carrying or exhibiting early signs of Parvo can be deadly!  All canine vaccines (except rabies) are modified live vaccinesThese vaccines also go by the name of attenuated vaccines. Simply said, the manufacturer removes the disease causing potential of the virus but leaves the strong immune response that a live infection would provide. This provides the best of both worlds; immunity from the disease without suffering through the disease to get the immune response. not killed.  Administering this type of vaccine to a dog carrying or incubating Parvovirus can throw the dog over the edge.




Your puppy will soon be an adult.  Dog vaccinations are an important part of his or her life so that the puppy can enter adult life in maximum health.  There have been debates on vaccinating adult dogs and cats.  What if your dog has a suppressed immune system or some other medical disorder? The place to go is Adult Pet Vaccinations.  You will encounter a lot of good advice!

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