Your veterinarian considers a lot of factors when deciding on the appropriate vaccination protocol for your puppy. Thus, you should expect that apart from giving your puppy a physical exam, your vet will first look over your puppy’s vaccination record if available, and ask many questions that can give the veterinarian clues about the current immunization status and susceptibility to disease of your puppy.
The following is a list of some of the questions veterinarians generally ask before formulating a vaccination schedule and how the information these questions provide is important:
Question: How long since you acquired the puppy from its previous home, petshop or breeder?
- If your puppy’s recent history (from before he came under your guardianship) is unknown, or if he came from a questionable source, a short observation period may be warranted to determine if the puppy is not presently incubating a disease the symptoms of which may become apparent within a week or so. Vaccinating a puppy that may already be infected with a disease may cause added stress to the immune system and aggravate the illness, and may also result in poor immune response to the vaccine.
- Also, if your puppy was transported from a distant location before arriving at your home, the puppy may still be recovering from the stress of travel and from suddenly being separated from all things familiar. The puppy needs to have adequate time to rest and get used to his new environment before receiving his next shots.
Question: Was the mother vaccinated before her pregnancy? And did the puppy suckle from its mother in the first 24-48 hours of its life?
- Your vet needs to determine if the mother of your puppy developed antibodies through vaccination or exposure to the disease. Antibodies are good, they help fight disease.
- IF the mother has developed antibodies for a certain disease, AND the puppy is then able to suckle the mother’s milk within the first 24-48 hours of its life, THEN the mother will have passed maternal antibodies for that disease down to her puppy providing it with protection from the said disease.
- However, maternal antibodies also block effectiveness of a vaccine:
- Lots of maternal antibodies in the puppy = Vaccine is not effective
- Few to no maternal antibodies in the puppy = Vaccine is effective
Question: How old is the puppy? What is the puppy’s date of birth?
- Over several weeks following birth, maternal antibodies in the puppy decrease in number, thus, a Window of Susceptibility is opened. This is when maternal antibodies are too low to provide protection, but too high to allow a vaccine to work. During this time, puppies can get sick even if they have been vaccinated.
- Immunization is different from vaccination: A puppy is said to be vaccinated if it has received the vaccine shot. Depending on the response of the puppy’s immune system to the vaccine, the puppy may then become immunized or protected from a certain disease.
- According to scientific research, generally, at 6 weeks of age, maternal antibodies are low enough in number that vaccines can work. Vets may decide to start vaccinating around this time.
- At around 3-4 months of age, maternal antibodies will have decreased in number to such a point that there is no longer a chance for these to interfere with immunization. The puppy’s immune system will have fully “kicked in” without need for revaccination until about a year later.
- The anti-rabies vaccine is given only once, generally at 3 months of age or older, and repeated annually. Read Puppies Are Not Born With Rabies for more information.
Question: Has the puppy received previous vaccinations from any other vet?
- Repeated vaccinations are given every 2-3 weeks, generally starting at 6 weeks until the puppy is around 3-4 months old.
- If a puppy has been vaccinated by a previous vet, the vet presently attending to your puppy will need to know how long ago the puppy had received the last vaccination because over-vaccination may cause hypersensitivities and have other adverse effects on your puppy’s health.
Question: Where do you live? Where do you keep the puppy? Do you live with a lot of people, dogs or other animals?
- These questions can help the vet identify what diseases your puppy is at risk of contracting. She may then recommend additional vaccines for your pet outside of those usually given.
- The risk of exposure to disease may be greater if your puppy is often exposed to possible disease-carrying agents such as humans, other dogs and other animals. Your vet may make adjustments to the vaccination protocol depending on this.
- It is a reality that not all Filipino pet owners can afford or are willing to spend on the series of shots that a puppy requires to protect him from disease. (I would argue that people who have not figured pet health care bills into their budget should not be owning pets in the first place, however, that point is moot when the client already arrives at your clinic with the puppy in hand.) Because of this reality, some vets – sometimes at the insistence of the client – may try to come up with a vaccination schedule that figures in financial concerns. The puppy’s surroundings and general quality of life are important factors to consider for the vet when formulating a vaccination schedule for your puppy. Your vet should always inform you of the risks of going against a recommended vaccination protocol.
Please bear in mind that, although based on scientific findings and recommendations as well as on standard veterinary practices, this article contains generalizations, and simplified information and explanations. It is meant for the understanding of pet owners and laymen and should not be taken as a scientific guideline or a statement of scientific fact.