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Your Puppy's Vaccinations

Make sure you're up on all the shots your pup needs.

Immunizations keep puppies healthy just as they do babies. And while the thought of getting a shot yourself may make you weak in the knees, most puppies don't mind a bit.

Vaccinations stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies and prevent disease. Some take only one shot, but others take a series of shots or boosters to provide adequate protection.

In puppies, the mother's immune system plays the role of protector by passing antibodies in the first milk, or colostrum. This benefit starts to wane when your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old. That's when your veterinarian will want to start the puppy shots.

At the First Visit
When your puppy is 6 to 8 weeks old, your veterinarian will give her a combination vaccine (DHPP) to protect her from four dangerous diseases: canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus infection.

Canine distemper is a viral disease that usually begins like an upper respiratory infection or cold but soon progresses to seizures and often death. It's usually transmitted by foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and dogs.

Infectious hepatitis is another serious viral disease. The virus responsible for the disease is passed in the urine and causes liver and kidney infections.

Parainfluenza is a viral disease that contributes to kennel cough. The disease is spread when tiny droplets of nasal secretions fly through the air and are inhaled by other dogs, and it causes upper respiratory infection and coughing.

The injectable form of the vaccine protects against disease but doesn't prevent dogs from being contagious. A nose-spray vaccination that combines parainfluenza virus and Bordetella (a bacteria that contributes to kennel cough) vaccines protects your pup from both infection and transmission.

Parvovirus infection is a viral disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea because of an intestinal tract infection. The virus is passed in the feces and can remain infectious in contaminated soil for one to two years. Untreated infections may lead to death.

At the Second, Third, and Fourth visit
When your puppy is 9 to 12 weeks old, she'll get a second DHPP vaccination and possibly vaccinations against coronavirus infection, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and kennel cough, depending on her risk for those diseases.

At the next visit, when she's 13 to 16 weeks old, she'll get another DHPP and any of the others that your veterinarian recommends, plus she'll get her first rabies shot. And when shes 15 to 16 months old, she'll get all of them again then you'll be done with vaccinations for a whole year.

Coronavirus infection is a viral disease of the intestinal tract and is characterized by diarrhea that can last three to four weeks. Some veterinarians choose not to vaccinate against this disease, because it's a fairly mild condition; most dogs recover with minimal treatment. If your veterinarian recommends it, the vaccine may be combined with the DHPP vaccination.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that's usually spread when infected urine contaminates the water or soil and the bacteria is ingested or inhaled. This disease can cause severe or fatal liver or kidney infections in dogs and can be transmitted to humans.

Sometimes veterinarians give the leptospirosis vaccine in conjunction with the DHPP combination vaccination. This vaccine is somewhat controversial because it may not protect against the most common leptospira bacteria, and yet it may be the cause of many pets adverse reactions to the combination vaccination. Newly developed vaccines address this problem and will likely become more common in the vaccination series.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne, bacterial disease. Dogs can't transmit the disease to humans, but they can bring ticks that carry the bacteria into your home. The infection causes fever and lameness in affected dogs. Experts disagree about the effectiveness of the vaccine, but its still recommended for dogs who are exposed to ticks in areas where the disease is prevalent.

Kennel cough, an infection of the upper respiratory tract, causes a persistent hacking cough and a now-and-again runny nose. Every cough sends infected particles of drool and mucus flying through the air, which makes the condition highly contagious to other dogs. One cough and they all get it! Kennel cough can be caused by several viruses and bacteria, which may act individually or as a group to cause disease.

The fastest and most complete protection is a form of the vaccine that's delivered as a nose spray. High-risk groups like show dogs and working dogs, who are regularly exposed to other dogs, may need to be vaccinated more than once a year.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The infection is fatal, and its passed in the saliva via a bite from an infected animal. Skunks, foxes, raccoons, and bats are the most common sources. Humans are also at risk for rabies, of course, which is why this vaccine is always required.

Ongoing Vaccinations
Every year at your dogs annual examination, she'll get a booster shot for DHPP, and for coronavirus infection, leptospirosis, Lyme disease, and kennel cough, depending on her risk factors for those diseases. And every one to three years, depending on your local health ordinances, she'll get a booster shot for rabies.

Is your puppy behind on her vaccinations? Call your veterinarian right away and protect her health!

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