Having your pet dog vaccinated helps them avoid certain diseases prevalent in canines. Puppies are prone to contracting infectious diseases, so as soon as they are old enough to build immunity, they must get their vaccination. Diseases that dogs can suffer from include distemper, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, and rabies. Vaccinations against bordetella, bronchiseptica, coronavirus, giardia and leptospirosis are optional. This mainly depends on the prevalence of such diseases in your area as well as the risk factors of your dog.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has made guidelines to categorize the dog vaccines as core or noncore. These guidelines usually suggest that puppies as young as six weeks can already be vaccinated, but most of the time, breeders and veterinarians wait until the dog is seven or eight weeks old. Additionally, vaccine recommendations state that a lot of dog vaccines do not require booster beyond 12 weeks of age, but veterinarians, most especially in endemic disease areas, might do a final vaccination at about 16 weeks.
A recombinant distemper vaccine for puppies is now available, and more often than not, pups will receive an MLV or a recombinant version of distemper vaccine.
The first shot for distemper must be given right after weaning and before puppies are placed in their new home and exposed to other dogs. Other veterinarians recommend getting puppies vaccinated at five to six weeks of age with the use of a combination canine distemper-measles-parainfluenza vaccine. The reason behind the combination of the vaccines is that a high percentage of six-weeks-old puppies do not get a satisfactory response from the distemper vaccine alone due to maternal antibodies which neutralize the distemper antigen. The measles virus in dogs, which is almost similar to the distemper virus, have the ability to overcome maternal antibody interference and activate partial distemper protection. In the event that the maternal antibodies have disappeared in the puppy that is six-weeks-old, the distemper portion will activate complete protection.
The combination vaccine of distemper-measles must be used only once for the first vaccination, and only in puppies. The newer recombinant distemper vaccine is believed to overcome maternal antibodies and is now perceived as a better option than the distemper-measles combination.
Post-vaccination encephalitis has occurred occasionally when an MLV distemper vaccine has been used together with a vaccine for parvovirus in puppies younger than six to eight weeks of age. As such, parvovirus vaccine must not be administered along with the first distemper vaccination in very young puppies. The recombinant distemper vaccine is not likely to cause encephalitis in dogs, so it is recommended for young puppies.
Puppies ages eight to nine weeks must be re-vaccinated after every four weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. The recommendations as of the moment are to re-vaccinate at one year of age, or in a year from the last vaccination, and then every three years.
The vaccine for infectious hepatitis is an MLV vaccine which contains CAV-2. This vaccine serves as a protection against canine hepatitis and two of the adenoviruses involved in the kennel cough complex (CAV-1 and CAV-2). The vaccine for hepatitis is included in the DHPP shot given to dogs at eight to twelve weeks of age and at 16 weeks of age, with a possible booster in between for puppies that have been vaccinated initially at eight weeks of age or younger. It is suggested that a DHPP booster should be given to a dog at one year of age or one year from the last vaccine. Revaccination against infectious hepatitis is also recommended every three years, though the initial immunity can already persist for life.
Vaccines that are available commercially have the ability to cross-protect against all the current strains of parvo, including variant strains. The MLV vaccine is said to be more effective compared to the killed vaccine because it produces a faster and stronger immune response.
Because the age at which puppies can respond to parvovirus vaccination varies, the AAHA 2006 guidelines recommends giving the vaccine at six to eight weeks of age. After that, every three to four weeks, until the dog is already 12 to 14 weeks of age. However, a lot of veterinarians opt to wait until puppies are seven to eight weeks of age before starting parvo vaccinations, then conclude them at 16 weeks.
High titer-low passage vaccines are more effective compared to older vaccines, even though the maternal antibodies of puppies are present, and have decreased the level of susceptibility which occurs between declining levels of maternal antibodies and acquired immunity from the vaccine.
Even after puppies have received their first vaccination series, they should not be exposed to dogs who may be a source of infection, not until after they receive their final vaccination at 16 weeks of age. Boosters are recommended after every three years to ensure immunity, which will be followed by an initial booster at one year. This interval in vaccinations may be increased with the help of further research on the efficacy of vaccine.
Unvaccinated puppies that are older than 16 weeks, it is recommended to give two doses of vaccine two weeks apart. Brood bitches must be given a vaccine two to four weeks before breeding to ensure high levels of antibodies in their colostrum.
The first rabies vaccination for puppies must be given at three to six months of age, followed by a first booster shot given one year later (at 15 months of age). After that, they can be given annual boosters or every three years. Vaccination schedules of puppies against rabies are being regulated by the law.