Puppies need a series of vaccinations to help protect them against certain deadly infections as they grow and are building their own immune system.  When they are born, their immune system is weak and not able to fight off infection. The puppy’s mother naturally releases maternal antibodies through her milk within the first few days of birth.  These antibodies wear off after approximately 12 to 20 weeks. It is recommended to start vaccinating BEFORE 12 weeks in case the antibodies start to wear off sooner. We typically recommend to start the vaccination series (boosters) at 8 weeks old and then every 3 to 4 weeks thereafter until they are approximately 16 weeks old.
Puppies should be weaned by the time they are 6 weeks old, ready for their forever homes and ready to start their puppy boosters at 8 weeks of age. Every veterinary hospital has a different “short-hand” for puppy boosters. Sometimes called “7-in-1”, “5-in-1”, “DHLPP”, “DHPP”. Basically all of those mean: “Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (DHLPP)” These are all potentially deadly and contagious viral and/or bacterial infections that are spread by various means, such as infected soil, water, urine, feces or respiratory secretions. You want to make sure your new puppy is protected from these viruses and diseases which is where vaccinations come into play.

Vaccinations should begin around 8 weeks of age and then “boostered” every 3-4 weeks after that to help give these puppies the best chance of responding to the vaccination. Around 12 weeks of age your puppy returns for the second round of boosters. This usually includes another DHLPP and Bordetella. Remember, we’re trying to help them build up their immunity. Bordetella is the vaccination against the contagious respiratory disease, often called “kennel cough”. “Kennel cough” is a term used because when dogs are in close quarters such as a boarding facility or grooming facility, the infection can spread quickly through airborne organisms (i.e. sneezing or coughing). Just because your puppy doesn’t board at a kennel does not mean he doesn’t need this vaccine.  Your dog can catch it from the outside dog down the street who’s never been vaccinated. After this round of vaccinations, your puppy will return one more time for the last round of boosters which includes a final DHLPP and a Rabies vaccination.

According to the AVMA, Oklahoma law requires a Rabies vaccination be given to all owned “dogs, cats and ferrets at 4 months of age and at regular intervals thereafter according to the vaccine used…by a licensed veterinarian”.  The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) only recognizes a Rabies vaccine given by a licensed veterinarian, so this means you cannot vaccinate your own pet. Rabies is one of the most well-known deadly viruses that affects the central nervous system. It is spread through contact with the saliva of an infected animal – through a bite, scratch or existing open wound. Both indoor and outdoor pets can be exposed to Rabies. They can become infected when bitten by a rabid wild animal (i.e. bat, skunk, fox, raccoon, coyote, etc). People can also be exposed to Rabies so it is extremely important your pet is vaccinated! Your pet MUST be vaccinated for Rabies yearly thereafter or every 3 years depending on the type of vaccination given.
Every veterinary hospital has their own preferred vaccination protocol once the puppy boosters are finished at 4 months of age. Many of them can be given every 3 years after a certain period of time, but there are a few that will still need to be boostered every 6 months or yearly. Check with your veterinarian to ensure your pet is getting the coverage they need to stay happy, healthy and protected from these potentially lethal infections that are sometimes contagious to you as a pet owner.
Preventative care through vaccinations is one of the best ways to protect your pet! Keeping your pet up-to-date on vaccines can help save your pet’s life. Remember to have vaccinations done through a licensed veterinarian. Too often we see puppies with these infections that could be avoided with a rather inexpensive vaccine compared to treatment and risking death.  Everyone wants a happy and healthy puppy so let’s give them the best start possible.

By Karen Marcile, Riverbrook Animal Hospital Tulsa, Oklahoma

Love, The PetsWell Team

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