By T. J. Dunn, Jr. DVM
Well, you've really gone and done it now, haven't you? You went out and found yourself a puppy. And if this is your very first pup, there may be just a bit of "What have I done?" anxiety about this major moment in your life. This is natural as owning and caring for a puppy is a huge responsibility. Here are some good health care tips that will hopefully help your little rascal live in to its late teens.
One common multivalent vaccine used for dogs is DHLPPCv. Instead of giving six different injections, all these "vaccines" or antigens can be given in a single small volume injection. Certainly administering the DHLPPCv is easier on your puppy than getting six separate injections.
D... Canine Distemper Virus - This contagious and serious viral illness has no known cure, which makes it even more vital for your puppy to have a vaccine that combats it.
H... Hepatitis - This viral infection is actually caused by two related viruses; it mainly affects the liver.
L... Leptospirosis - This bacterial infection affects a puppy's kidneys. It can also infect humans, cows, dogs, pigs and other mammals.
P... Parainfluenza - This virus can cause upper respiratory infections in puppies.
P... Parvovirus - A severe and often fatal virus that affects the lining of the intestinal tract.
Cv... Coronavirus - Similar to the Parvovirus, it can be very severe; however, it has a somewhat different effect on the intestinal tract and is generally not considered fatal.
When to Vaccinate Your Puppy
Call your veterinarian before you pick up your puppy and have him or her examined as soon as possible. In fact, it's best if you bring in the pup to the vet before you even go home for the first time; and don't forget to bring in a stool sample for analysis (your puppy may have worms).
During the examination the veterinarian will look at the pup's medical/vaccination history. If the breeder or shelter gave your puppy vaccinations recently, and your veterinarian is confident that it was done properly, a schedule for follow-up vaccinations will be made.
Vaccination Protocols and Schedule
Every veterinarian will have a preferred protocol for vaccinating puppies and for follow-up vaccinations. In addition, protocols change because of new research findings for the duration of the vaccine's immunity. Here is a general vaccine protocol for a puppy. Consult a veterinarian to learn what's best for your puppy.
6 to 7 weeks of age: Administer first combination vaccine (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza, Coronavirus).
9 weeks of age: Administer second combination vaccine.
12 weeks of age: Administer the third combination injection and possibly a lyme vaccine inoculation. Generally a lyme vaccine is repeated two weeks later, then once a year.
16 weeks of age: Adminster the last combination vaccine.
12 to 16 weeks of age: Adminster rabies vaccine. The timing of this vaccine may depend on the laws in your area (since this can be a human disease, too). Confirm with your veterinarian and check your local and state laws.
Special considerations: Many veterinarians believe some breeds, such as Rottweilers and Dobermans, should have at least two Parvo vaccines with the last one being given at 20 weeks of age.
Why So Many Vaccinations?
Good question! The reason is that no one can be sure that the pup will actually mount a good antibody response to the disease just from one vaccination. The age of the pup and just how much immunity it has received from its mother will complicate the "probability of protection". So a puppy that has "borrowed" a lot of imminuty for the mother during early nursing (called passive immunity) will limit a vaccine's effectiveness.
The idea is to get the vaccine into the pup as soon as the mother's passive immunity wears off so that the pup can make more lasting immunity of its own. (Consequently, this is also the time when the pup is most prone to diseases.) The precise time when a pup can respond well to a vaccine is variable -- it might occur at 6 weeks or perhaps 12 weeks. So why not begin vaccinations at 6 weeks and end them at 16 weeks?
On very rare occasions your puppy may have a reaction to a vaccination. If your puppy has any trouble breathing after a vaccination, or seems weak, staggers, has pale gums or seems at all unresponsive, contact your veterinarian immediately! If, however, your pup simply seems a little tired or slightly uncomfortable where it was vaccinated, that is an entirely different and mild response to the vaccination. When in doubt, call your vet.
Image: Jerry / via Flickr