The 2011 AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) recommendations for puppy shots are the most up-to-date veterinary guidelines for puppies and dogs in the USA.
The four CORE vaccines (those that all puppies should have) are:
Canine Adenovirus-2 (aka CAV-2 or Canine Hepatitis) - this protects against a viral disease affecting your pup's liver
Canine Parvovirus (aka 'Parvo'- - protects your puppy from the dreaded (and deadly) Parvovirus. A viral disease which affects his intestines, lymph nodes, bone marrow and sometimes even his heart
Distemper - protects against a viral disease which affects his intestines, lungs and brain
Rabies - protects against this deadly viral disease which affects your pup's central nervous system.
These same vaccinations are also recommended by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association).
It's worth remembering that there are no 'cures' for any of the illnesses listed above. if your pup gets one of them, it's quite possible that he will die.
Vaccinations save the lives of puppies just like yours every single day. They're one of the most important parts of your new pet's health care and are NOT optional.
Usually there will be three sets of combination vaccinations (a shot that protects against more than one disease) given at 3 week intervals.
The puppy shots timeline that most vet's traditionally recommend starts vaccinations at around 8 weeks.
A second shot is given at 11 weeks and then the third at 14.
The Rabies vaccination is given at around 16 weeks.
Giving puppy immunizations is good, but giving them at the right time is essential if you want them to work!
Very young puppies have a certain amount of natural immunity that they get from their mothers milk, but that begins to diminish somewhere between 5 and 8 weeks of age.
If a puppy is vaccinated while he still has a significant level of maternal antibodies in his bloodstream, the vaccine won't be effective.
Some studies have indicated that at 6 weeks old only 25% of puppies vaccinated respond to a vaccine by producing antibodies.
By 18 weeks that figure has risen to 95%.
All puppies need to have the core shots to protect them from the most common dog illnesses, but there are also other diseases/conditions that some pups may be at risk of catching.
These can also be prevented by vaccination, but it's important to know that not all puppies need (or should have) these.
Sometimes it depends on the part of the country (or world) that you live in.
Other times the activities your pup will take part in or where he'll spend a lot of his time is the key.
These optional 'extras' include vaccinations against:
Certain vaccines are often grouped together and give as one shot. The most common would be the 3-in-1 shot for Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvo. These are all CORE vaccines.
Then there's a 5-in-1 option which also includes protection against Leptospirosis and Canine Parainfluenza.
A 7-in-1 puppy shot option is available which gives additional protection against other strains of Adenovirus and Leptopsirosis.
If your pup will be boarded, kenneled, attend dog training classes or be 'out-and-about' a lot (which hopefully he/she will to get those valuable puppy socialization experiences ) you need to have the Bordatella vaccine given.
There are two options for administering the Bordatella vaccine - a 'shot' or nasal drops.
I prefer my puppies/dogs to get the nasal drop option as it works faster and doesn't need to be repeated in 4 weeks the way the shot does.
If your dog isn't a hugely social animal, then annual boosters are enough.
BUT if he travels a lot, goes to doggie day care, is boarded or at the dog park regularly then having the vaccine given twice a year is recommended.
Some veterinarians prefer to start vaccinations a little later at 9 or 10 weeks due to concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines when given too early and the possible side effects.
As your puppy is very vulnerable to disease until he's been fully vaccinated, the only problem with this 'late start' is that you will need to keep him well clear of any strange dogs or outdoor/indoor areas where other dogs may have been for longer.
There is a fair amount of conflicting opinion among vets and veterinary care professionals as to how many vaccinations puppies (and dogs) should be given, how often they should get them, and how the shots should be given.
Although the AAHA and AVMA still recommend yearly boosters for all dogs, a lot of research shows that this is not strictly necessary - and can even cause health problems.
Some research seems to indicate that giving 'combo-shots' (ie a vaccination that contains more than one vaccine, such as the 3-in-1 mentioned earlier) can lead to a higher risk of allergic reactions and other side effects.
If you are concerned about any of this discuss it with your veterinarian. You can ask for vaccinations to be given singly (if your vet has/can get) these.
After the first set of shots you can also ask for your pup's blood titers to be checked before you give him any subsequent ones.
You can do the same thing when it comes to the regular (usually annual) boosters that adult dogs are given (with the exception of Bordatella/Kennel Cough, Leptospirosis and Lyme Disease whose vaccines are usually only effective for 6 or 12 months)
Here's a quick look at what these 'titers' are.....
Worried about over-vaccination?
If you're concerned about over-vaccinating your puppy talk to your veterinarian.
After your puppy has had his first set of vaccinations you can ask your vet to check the 'titers' in his bloodstream before he gets any more shots.
Simply put, titers are a measurement of antibodies to disease that exist in your puppy's bloodstream as a result of vaccination.
It takes about a week to 10 days for the antibodies to show up in tests, so you can ask your veterinarian to run a blood test for specific antibodies 10 days after he's been vaccinated.
If the level of antibodies in his blood is high enough to confirm that he has immunity to a particular disease, you may not need to re-vaccinate him.
Generally once your puppy has had three sets of the combination puppy shots, plus the Rabies shot, he will be well protected.
Protection isn't immediate though, and I would recommend waiting at least a week after your pup has received his final set of puppy shots before venturing out into public areas.
There are however no guarantees and even after three sets of combination vaccines occasionally puppies still get sick.
So always be careful to avoid dogs who might appear sick, or areas where stray dogs might roam.
Did you know that it's possible to vaccinate your own puppy at home?
Adult dogs must by law receive annual dog 'booster' vaccinations for Rabies (although some vaccines provide 3 years of protection).
There is an annual booster recommendation for most CORE vaccines too but your vet can check the antibody 'titers' (basically the level of antibodies in your dog's bloodstream to any particular disease) and vaccinate only if they are too low.
This can help to prevent over-vaccinating your dog, which may lead to auto-immune problems and other illnesses. BUT these tests do cost extra money.
In some states/areas vaccines are now available that are effective for 3 or even 5 years. I'd recommend asking your vet if these are available for your dog/pup.
The best advice I can give you is to ask your own veterinarian about this, and follow his/her advice and recommendations about canine vaccination procedure.
If you've adopted an older pup or adult dog and don't know their puppy shots history, then the minimum vaccinations you'll need to get them are against Distemper, Parvo and Hepatitis.
He/she will need two rounds of shots, given 3 weeks apart.
Again though, individual areas (and each veterinarian) may have different recommendations, so talk to your own vet to find out what he/she thinks is best.
Although most puppies hardly even notice when their puppy shots are given, and show no ill effects afterward, it's not terribly unusual for a pup to have an allergic reaction of some sort to a vaccine.
Most of the time these reactions to puppy vaccinations are mild, and last only a day or two.
But now and then they can be severe enough to warrant a trip to the veterinarian.
All puppy owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, because if your puppy does have a bad reaction, you need to know!
Symptoms vary from mild or moderate to severe, and may include:
moderate to severe allergic reactions to puppy shots are pretty rare and
are generally much less of a danger to your puppy than the diseases
IMPORTANT: If your puppy does have a bad reaction to his shots, it's important to remind your veterinarian about that at his next vaccination appointment.
Some vets may want to give a puppy like this an antihistamine before giving the shots, and/or to monitor him for a while afterwards... just to be safe.
It's also possible that your vet will recommend giving the vaccines separately rather than as a 'combo' vaccine to reduce the risks of a reaction.
Although a puppy or dog can react badly to any canine vaccine, there seems to be a higher incidence of allergic reaction to the vaccines for Rabies, Parvo and Leptosirosis.
There are some dog breeds that are more likely to suffer an allergic reaction, these include (but aren't limited to).....
West Highland White Terriers
Old English Sheepdogs
Portuguese Water Dogs
Harlequin Great Danes
Also dogs who are mostly white in color, or have 'diluted' coat colors (such as blue or fawn, or blue-fawn) and merle or black/white color combinations seem to be more at risk.
So, the bottom line is that you need to watch your puppy closely for the first day or so after he's had his puppy shots.
Any major reaction is most likely to occur within 24 hours (often much sooner).
An allergic reaction of any sort is unlikely to happen after the first shot though, it's subsequent ones that you should pay particular attention to.
Although it's necessary to be aware of what could happen, don't panic about this! Thousands of puppies are vaccinated every day with no ill-effects, or only a very mild reaction.
The risks you run if you don't vaccinate your pup are much higher, so protecting your puppy is way too important to be forgotten or avoided.