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What is the point in vaccinations?
You may have come to the decision that there is little risk to unvaccinated puppies these day, but this is not the case.
At the time of writing, none of the diseases below have been eliminated in the UK. Your puppy is definitely at risk from serious diseases if left completely unvaccinated.
How do vaccinations work?
Bacteria and viruses that cause disease carry substances that your dog’s body can recognise as foreign and dangerous. We call these substances antigens.
Because your dog’s body recognises the antigen as dangerous, once the antigens enter the dog’s system, it immediately begins to manufacture antibodies against them. This manufacturing process takes time.
When infected with serious diseases, many dogs will be unable to manufacture sufficient antibodies in time to protect them from the disease.
Vaccinating is a way of giving the body opportunity to manufacture a stock of antibodies in advance.
A vaccination puts these antigens into the dogs body, without giving the dog the actual disease that they are associated with.
What vaccinations are available for my puppy?
The RSPCA recommends that all dogs are routinely vaccinated against the following diseases
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine distemper
- Infectious Canine Hepatitis
For the most up to date information, always check with your vet.
Does my puppy get immunity from his mother’s milk?
Your new Labrador puppy was initially protected against disease through his Maternally Derived Antibodies (MDAs). These antibodies can fight disease and your puppy gets them through his mother’s milk.
However, they do not last long. And by the time you bring your puppy home, most of his MDAs will be gone. Indeed, it is important that they are gone by the time your puppy has his final vaccination because these MDAs can actually block the good work that the vaccination is trying to do.
Why does my puppy have to be vaccinated twice?
One reason is that a single vaccination does not give such good long term protection against disease as two injections spaced apart. Another reason is because some puppies will have no protective MDAs by about seven weeks of age, when the first vaccination is given whilst others will still have some MDAs.
In order to protect those puppies whose maternal antibodies may have partially blocked the action of their first vaccine, it is very important that you remember to take your puppy back for his second jab.
Do vaccinations have side effects?
The short answer to this is yes, there are rare but recorded examples of dogs reacting badly to vaccinations. You need to balance this small risk against the benefits that vaccination offers to your puppy. We have two articles devoted to the important issue of vaccination safety Should you vaccinate your puppy? and Herd immunity and the safety of vaccines
How do I socialise my puppy if I can’t take him out?
Some dog experts are very concerned about the emphasis some vets put on not taking a puppy out until vaccinations are complete. It is very important that puppies are socialised properly and the principle window for socialisation is beginning to close at around 12 to 13 weeks of age.
Many vets will tell you that taking your puppy out and about before one week after the second vaccination is too risky. However, as this vaccination does not normally take place before 11 weeks old, this means your puppy would be 12 weeks old before you can begin taking him out and about.
If you do not take your puppy out until then, this gives you just days in which to socialise your puppy.
There is a compromise, and that is to take your puppy out and about, but to keep him off the ground. This way you can introduce him to quite a lot of new experiences, buses, train stations, town centres, different sorts of people, children etc.
It isn’t quite the same as having him down on the ground, and it is more difficult to do with a very large breed, but it is a start.
Some breeders and dog experts believe that you should allow your puppy to mix and play with other dogs provided they too are vaccinated and provided you avoid popular outdoor dog walking areas where there may be a lot of dog faeces.
Only you can decide whether or not you want to take this risk, and you might want to consider other factors.
If, for example your dog belongs to a guarding breed such as a Rotweiller, or Doberman, or if he is from a breed which is known to be potentially aggressive if poorly socialised for example a pit bull type dog, then the risks of aggression may outweigh your concerns over the risks of disease. These are all factors that you will need to weigh up.
Talk to your vet
Most vets these days understand the socialisation dilemma. Talk to your vet about any concerns you may have. He or she will be able to let you know if there are any particular hazards in your area at the moment. And to help you make an informed decision about the best course of action for your dog.
More help and information
If you enjoy Pippa’s puppy articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.
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