As a dog owner, vaccinating your puppy is one of the most important things to do once they reach the right age.
Regular vaccinations help puppies grow into healthy dogs who remain free of infectious and potentially life-threatening diseases.
However, there are several things to think about when preparing for your puppy’s vaccinations, and so, the GoWalkies team have put together some helpful information to clear up any common questions and concerns.
Why is it important to vaccinate your puppy?
When a baby is born, most parents opt to vaccinate to strengthen their immune system. The same can be said for puppies, as vaccinations not only prevent nasty diseases, but also give peace of mind that your dog is protected and healthy.
Many of the infectious diseases that your pets can catch can be fatal for unvaccinated dogs in most cases. If they do recover, then it’s likely that they will suffer with long-term problems that can be very painful for your pet and leave you with costly vet bills.
In terms of puppy growth, it’s important that they’re socialised from a young age. The puppy vaccination helps prevent other dogs and humans catching anything dangerous, as well as protecting your puppy while mixing with others.
But according to the PDSA Animal Wellbeing [PAW] Report, there is an increasing number of dogs that are going unvaccinated, particularly when young, and sadly, since 2014 there has been a steady increase in cases of canine distemper and parvovirus, which can both be devastating for dogs.
What are the diseases and illnesses that vaccines protect against?
All dogs living in the UK should receive their core vaccines, which protect against:
- Parvovirus – a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs. These injections are usually given every 3 years.
- Distemper – a disease, often fatal, that affects different organs in dogs, including the heart, guts, immune system, brain, nerves, and lungs. These injections are usually given every 3 years.
- Infectious Canine Hepatitis – a virus that attacks the kidneys, eyes, liver, and blood vessels, and spreads through bodily fluids. It can survive in the environment for up to a year. These injections are usually given every 3 years.
- Leptospirosis – a bacterial disease that damages vital organs, including the liver and kidneys. Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans and is known as Weils disease. This injection is usually given every year.
In addition to core vaccinations, some require additional vaccines depending on their circumstance:
- Kennel Cough – this is usually a requirement if your dog spends time in kennels, doggy day care, or has a dog walker. Your vet may recommend the kennel cough vaccine if your dog is at high risk of catching it – for example, if they mix with lots of other dogs, or they have health conditions that could make the disease more serious. This vaccine should be given every year that it’s required.
- Rabies – this is necessary for dogs that travel in and out of the UK. Rabies vaccines need to be given annually or every 3 years, but your vet will discuss the best schedule in order to keep your dog safe.
At what age do puppies need to be vaccinated?
Puppies usually receive the first dose of their vaccinations between 8 and 10 weeks of age, followed by the second dose at 12 weeks.
Before their vaccinations, your puppy is safe to mix with other vaccinated pets within your own home. But there is still a small risk of them picking something up from human visitors, so it’s best to wash their paws regularly to avoid picking up any bugs.
If you have a secure garden where other animals can’t go, your puppy should be able to explore the area straight away. But before their vaccinations are complete, it’s best not to take your puppy to anyone else’s home, and you shouldn’t take them outside for a walk.
Important considerations when vaccinating your puppy
Once you’ve picked up your puppy, the first thing you should do is register with your local vet. These will be the ones to carry out your puppy’s vaccinations, as well as performing any required health checks.
They are the best source of information on the vaccinations and treatments that your pet may require and speaking to your vet before travelling out of the UK, or leaving your dog in kennels, is a good idea.
It’s also important to remember that dog vaccines are not 100% fool proof. Many diseases are caused by different strains and infections, and scientists are only able to develop vaccines against the most common ones, just like the flu jab in humans.
If your pet is fully vaccinated and happens to come across a rarer strain of a disease, they can still contract it, but will usually have milder symptoms. Ultimately, this means that they need less treatment and will have a much higher chance of survival.
As with humans, dogs can also sometimes experience side effects following a vaccine, though they are usually mild and tend to pass between 24 – 48 hours. More common side effects include:
- Low energy or sleeping more
- Decreased appetite
- High temperature
- Tenderness at the vaccine site.
More serious side effects are rare, so speak to your vet if you notice any significant symptoms that cause concern. It’s a good idea to monitor your dog and allow them to rest if they want to, keeping in mind that they will be back to normal after a day or so.
It’s important to remember that while vaccines can cause side effects, so can almost every other medicine. The risks of side effects are very small in comparison to the risk of remaining unprotected.
All vaccines used by vets in the UK are licensed, meaning they have been through rigorous safety checks before being approved for use. These licenses are also constantly under review by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to make sure they are safe and up to date.
How much does it cost to vaccinate a puppy?
The costs can vary between what vaccines are given and when, but they are usually significantly less than the treatment required for the diseases they prevent.
However, it’s impossible to say exactly how much a vaccination will cost, as this will vary year to year and between each individual practice. If you speak to your local veterinary practice, they will be able to tell you their most up to date prices.
What to expect at a vaccination appointment?
Before vaccinating your dog, the vet will complete a full health check and ask some questions about your pet, as it’s important they’re generally healthy when having their vaccinations.
Your dog will be given the vaccine as an injection under the skin on the back of the neck, however this doesn’t apply to kennel cough, which is a squirt up the nose.
They will need to be held still while the vaccine is given, but don’t worry, if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, let the vet know so they can find someone else in the practice to help. Vaccines aren’t usually painful, but they can sting a little, so it’s normal to be concerned about your pet.
The vaccine appointment is an ideal opportunity to ask questions or voice any concerns you have about your pet, as your vet will be able to advise and hopefully put you at ease.
How long are vaccines effective for?
After receiving their vaccinations, your puppy will require booster vaccinations every 12 months. As previously mentioned, different vaccines last for different periods of time due to weakening immunity, so your vet will provide you with a vaccination record. Keep this safe and take it with you to all future vet appointments.
If your dog misses their yearly booster, they may have to receive all of the core vaccines again. Dog owners should make a note of their dog’s vaccination date in order to avoid missing their booster and keep them protected.
If life gets in the way and you miss your appointment, don’t panic, call your vet and book your dog in for their injections at the earliest opportunity.
As a result of vaccinations, many of the diseases that we can protect our puppies from have become less common, and vaccination protection is the only way to keep them from becoming too widespread.
As with any medication, there is always the possibility of side effects, but they are rare, and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
If you have any questions about puppies or the required vaccines, speak to your vet or contact the GoWalkies team at [email protected].