The moment you first hold your new puppy in your arms or feel their leash in your hand, you make a silent promise to protect them from harm. By safeguarding your puppy’s health and helping them build a strong immune system, vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to fulfill that promise. Learn how to help keep your puppy healthy by reading our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team’s answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about vaccines.

Question: How do vaccines protect my puppy?

Answer: Vaccines train your puppy’s developing immune system to recognize specific pathogens (i.e., harmful viruses and bacteria) so that when a real threat is encountered, the immune system responds appropriately. Each vaccine contains a small inactivated (i.e., noncommunicable) pathogen particle. When this is injected into your puppy’s body, their immune system can safely study it, create a memory, and develop tailored antibodies to fight off the condition in the future. Without receiving these antibodies, your puppy is vulnerable to serious illness and disease.

Q: Why do puppies need so many vaccines?

A: Nursing puppies obtain temporary, maternal (i.e., passive) protective immunity through their mother’s early milk (i.e., colostrum), which is natural, rather than acquired through controlled exposure (i.e., vaccines). This short-term passive immunity fades, usually by the time a puppy has reached 12 weeks of age. However, because maternal immunity overrides vaccine-induced protection, and veterinary professionals cannot determine exactly when temporary immunity fades, they vaccinate puppies at regular intervals to prevent immune-protection gaps.

Q: What vaccines are recommended for puppies?

A: Our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team adheres to current American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) puppy vaccination guidelines. This ensures every puppy in our care receives the most comprehensive protection available. AAHA recommends that puppies receive the following vaccines:

  • Distemper virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parvovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

These vaccines are core vaccines, essential for every puppy, because the diseases they protect against are potentially fatal. Keep in mind that rabies is a zoonotic threat (i.e., transmissible to humans), and in many jurisdictions, rabies vaccines are required by law.

AAHA classifies other vaccines as elective, and our team makes recommendations based on each individual puppy’s lifestyle and exposure risk. We recommend elective vaccines for puppies who will be attending training and socialization classes, and grooming salons, or will be boarded at our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers facilities in Calder or Groves. Elective puppy vaccines include:

  • Bordetella (i.e., kennel cough)
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Canine influenza 

Q: How many times will my puppy be vaccinated?

A: Distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza (DAPP) are the most common infectious threats to puppies, and our team recommends young dogs receive vaccination for these diseases at three- to four-week intervals, beginning when they are 6 weeks of age and continuing until they are 16 weeks of age. Fortunately, DAPP is a combination vaccine, meaning your puppy will only experience one needle poke, not four. If your puppy is older than 16 weeks when they receive their first vaccine, they should still receive two DAPP vaccination rounds. 

We administer the rabies vaccination when your puppy is 16 weeks of age, at the same time we administer elective vaccines.  

Q: Are vaccines safe for puppies?

A: Puppies generally tolerate vaccines well, but as with any medical treatment or medication, side effects can occur. Mild side effects are the most common and may include irritation or pain at the injection site, lethargy, and temporary appetite loss or fever. Although rare, allergic reactions to specific vaccines can occur. Reaction signs include vomiting, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing. If your puppy exhibits these vaccine allergic reaction signs, immediately bring your furry pal back to your Neighborhood Veterinary Center’s location for emergency care. 

Q: When can my puppy socialize and attend classes?

A: While we strongly advise avoiding direct contact with unfamiliar dogs and visiting high-volume areas, such as dog parks and pet stores, until your puppy is fully vaccinated, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) advocates early socialization outings for puppies as soon as they’ve received their initial DAPP vaccine. This is because early socialization is crucial for reducing future behavior problems that could affect your puppy’s quality of life. To balance your puppy’s socialization and safety effectively, we recommend vetting each environment to ensure it is routinely and appropriately disinfected and that all other dogs and puppies that attend are required to be up-to-date on their vaccines.

Despite your good intentions, your loving arms can only provide limited protection to your growing puppy, while vaccines build a comprehensive defense against unseen transmissible threats. Take the first step toward safeguarding your puppy’s health and wellness by scheduling an appointment at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers.