Vaccinating your puppy – everything you need to know

Having your pup vaccinated after it leaves its mother is vital to a dog’s health, particularly in the first 12 months of its life. But knowing how to approach the issue can be confusing for a new dog owner.

Why should I get my puppy vaccinated?

In my experience, vaccinations provide invaluable protection against several diseases that your puppy is likely to be exposed to. Remember that initial vaccinations and annual boosters are also needed under the terms of your insurance cover.

How do vaccinations help my puppy?

Vaccinations will help to give your puppy the immunity it needs against potentially fatal infectious diseases. It also prevents them from passing these diseases on to other animals.

What diseases does vaccination protect against?

Vaccinations will help your puppy avoid five of the most serious dog diseases that I see in my surgery, these are:

  • Canine distemper virus: a contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies. It’s a virus with no known cure.
  • Infectious canine hepatitis: usually affects dogs less than two years old.
  • Leptospirosis: a bacterial disease spread via infected urine or contaminated water.
  • Canine parvovirus: a highly contagious viral disease that’s especially severe in puppies.
  • Canine parainfluenza: one of the causes of ‘kennel cough’.

Annual boosters are required for some of these diseases. And if your dog will regularly visit boarding kennels, I strongly recommend that they’re vaccinated against kennel cough too.

If you’re planning to take your puppy abroad then they’ll need a rabies vaccination. This can be done at any time once your puppy is 12 weeks old. Legislation may change with Brexit, but currently you need to wait for at least 21 days after the vaccination before you can travel.

When should I get vaccinations done?

I recommend that puppies usually have their first vaccination at around eight weeks old, followed by another vaccination two to four weeks later to make sure they’re fully protected. Until your puppy has had all of their vaccinations, it’s best to avoid them being in contact with other dogs or being walked in public places.

What about boosters?

Your pup’s first annual booster will need to be given a year after their first vaccination. This will need to be repeated every year throughout their adult life. If more than 15 months pass between boosters, I’d recommend restarting the vaccination programme.

How will the vaccinations be given to my puppy?

Most vaccinations involve an injection, but the vaccine for kennel cough is usually dispensed as a nasal spray.

Your vet will usually carry out vaccinations in the surgery, but home visits can often be arranged if necessary.

How much do vaccinations cost?

In my experience, an initial set of vaccines usually costs between £40 and £60 with regular booster vaccines costing £30-40.

When can I take my puppy outside after vaccinations?

I recommend waiting until 10-14 days after your puppy’s first vaccination before taking it out for a walk on pavements or a visit to the local park. Until then, it’s best for your pup to be carried if they’re going outside.

How can I get my puppy used to going to the vet?

What I often see in my surgery is that well-prepared pups tend to settle in much quicker. Here are some top tips to help make your puppy’s vet visits calm and stress-free.

How can I give my puppy medicine?

Getting your puppy to take their medicine can be tricky. From giving your puppy tablets with and without food to using a dropper or syringe to offer liquid medicine, here are a few useful tips I’d recommend for making it easy for both you and your four-legged friend.

Vaccination myths vs reality

 Myth: Once I’ve had my puppy injected, they’re immune for life.

 Reality: Unfortunately, this isn’t true. It’s important to have your dog vaccinated every year to maintain his or her immunity against these diseases. While some of these vaccinations last for more than a year, dogs need to be boosted against at least one of the most serious diseases every year.

 Myth: My puppy is confined to the house and garden, so they won’t have contact with disease.

 Reality: Many of the diseases we vaccinate against aren’t spread directly from pet to pet, meaning your puppy could still catch an illness from something as simple as venturing outside. For example, canine parvovirus can be caught off pavements or in parks, while canine leptospirosis is contracted by drinking from ponds or puddles which rats may have contaminated.

 Myth: The vaccinations will make my puppy feel poorly.

 Reality: These days, this is extremely unlikely. Most vaccines are a modified form of the disease that they protect from. The most your puppy may feel is a little sleepy for a short period of time, but these symptoms will soon pass.

 Myth: Pets are given boosters too often.

 Reality: Vets will never prescribe vaccinations unnecessarily. Instead, we always determine the correct intervals between vaccines according to your pet’s age, their potential exposure to diseases, and the brand of vaccine (for example, immunity against canine parvovirus lasts for three years with several brands of vaccine).

 Myth: I missed giving my pet a booster last year, but I can just give them one this year instead.

 Reality: This depends on the injection that’s been missed but, if more than 15 months passes between boosters, I’d recommend restarting your pet’s vaccination programme from the beginning.

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