Which vaccines are necessary for a puppy?
Original Question: We are getting a new 6 week old Shih Tzu puppy and I am new to vaccinations. I have friends who do vaccinate their pets and also know some who choose not to. I'm wondering if we should go ahead with the 8, 12 and 16 week shots or would the 16 week shot be sufficient? - Lisa
Thanks for your question. I love answering questions about vaccinations but everyone has different opinions and I must to be very careful with my responses.
The first thing I’m going to say is that we have a few videos on this topic that I encourage you to take a look: “Which Vaccines Should I Give My Dog or Cat”, “Everything You Need to Know About Vaccine Reactions”, and “How Often Vaccines Need Boosters & The Benefits of Titer Testing for Dogs & Cats”. I really outline a lot of great information there that doesn’t push any single agenda when it comes to vaccination.
There are a few fundamentals to consider. The first thing is that vaccination is used to protect against diseases that your pet is at risk of being exposed to. So the first thing is you should be considering each vaccination based on your pets and lifestyle. You should have a good discussion with your veterinarian about this and figure out the risks of exposure to the diseases that we have vaccines for and then you can decide which vaccines you want your dog to have. Having said that, as a veterinarian I have to consider the entire population and the fact that vaccinations keep a lot of these diseases under control. If I were to stop recommending a particular vaccine, I’d have to consider the risks to an entire population, therefore, I need to study the evidence and make recommendations based on these types of considerations.
So here’s what I recommend to clients. First I will tell them that it’s important to take care of the core vaccines. These vaccines protect against these diseases that we still see, such as parvovirus and distemper. I also recommend that every pet have a rabies vaccination. Rabies is well-controlled in our society but there is a legal requirement to use it. If you don’t use it, and your pet bites someone then you risk your pet being quarantined and getting into trouble with animal services in your area. This is the case here in North America where I practice. The core vaccinations are administered at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age and the rabies is administered at 16 weeks of age. All of the shots require a booster one year later. Then I highly recommend that they are on a three-year protocol to limit the number of vaccinations over a lifetime but still provide protection and be consistent with the legal requirements in your area.
The other vaccinations are non-core. They are typically Bordetella for kennel cough, vaccination for Lyme disease, and leptospirosis. Whether to administer these vaccines really depends on your pets lifestyle and your personal feelings about vaccination. Most boarding and grooming facilities require that you give a vaccination for kennel cough to use their facilities, but you can avoid this by taking your pad to a home groomer or personal boarding Company that operates out of their own home where there are not multiple pets that can share this disease. Leptospirosis covers for only some of the variants of this disease and it is often found in the urine of urban wildlife like skunks and racoons. If you have a lot of these critters in your backyard and your dog shares that’s base with them, your risk of exposure increases and you may want to consider the vaccination. Lyme vaccination is an interesting one. Many people will know whether there are ticks in their area by just asking their veterinarian or other pet parents they see you in the park so ravines that they visit. The interesting thing about Lyme disease is although it has exploded in activity particularly around the area that I practice if a dog contracts Lyme disease only about 10 to 15% of them will ever have the disease state and clinical symptoms. So sometimes people will consistently use products to protect them from exposure rather than giving a vaccination for the possibility of those ticks transferring Lyme disease to their dog.
It’s so important that you realize that this is your pet and you have the final say about which vaccinations are appropriate for your pet. You will get all sorts of recommendations that will be based on personal bias and conjecture. What you need is factual information about the risk of your pet being exposed to these diseases to make a decision. My recommendations are in accordance with the American and Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. You must remember that when you use a vaccine you are not only protecting your dog but your neighbours’ dog and another dog in your city or country.
This is a touchy subject so hopefully, you find good practical advice from me who has your best interest in mind. Please spend some time with your veterinarian discussing what is best for your dog.
Good luck and take a look at our videos about vaccinations.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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