Puppy vaccinations give your furry baby protection against some unpleasant and potentially fatal diseases. Today I’ll share the typical puppy vaccination schedules veterinarians recommend. Along with ideas for socializing your puppy before they are full vaccinated.
Before you bring home a new puppy it’s normal to feel anxious about doing everything right. In this article we answer all of your frequently asked puppy vaccination questions. Common puppy vaccination questions include:
Should I Vaccinate My Puppy?
When you read the list of diseases puppy vaccinations protect against, you’d be forgiven for not recognising any of them. Since they give the impression of being so uncommon, does that mean the risk to unvaccinated puppies is actually quite small? Not at all!
Depending upon where in the world you are, your puppy could be at very high risk of catching some very nasty diseases. The diseases your puppy is at risk from differ between the US and the UK, so we will take a look at both for our readers. Regardless of your location though, your young puppy will be vulnerable and in order to give him the best chance of survival vaccinations are essential.
Doesn’t My Puppy Get Immunity From His Mother’s Milk?
Your new Labrador puppy was initially protected against disease through his Maternally Derived Antibodies (MDAs). Antibodies fight disease. Before your puppy’s immune system is strong enough to make his own antibodies, he gets protection from antibodies delivered with 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 – MDAs can actually block the good work that the vaccination is trying to do. In a minute we’ll see how following the right vaccination schedule overcomes this. But first, let’s see how vaccines work.
How Do Puppy Vaccinations Work?
Bacteria and viruses that cause disease carry markers called antigens which your dog’s body recognises as being foreign and dangerous.
When your dog’s immune system registers the presence of antigens, it immediately begins to manufacture antibodies against them. But this manufacturing process takes time. Many dogs are unable to manufacture sufficient antibodies in time to protect them from infection by a serious disease.
Vaccinating gives their body an opportunity to manufacture a stockpile of antibodies in advance. It does this by exposing their immune system to harmless copies of antigens – ones not attached to live bacteria or viruses.
What Diseases Can Puppy Vaccinations Prevent?
The diseases your dog can be vaccinated against differ depending upon where you are.
In the USA the risks to your puppy’s health vary to a greater extent depending upon where you are. In the USA all puppies should be vaccinated against:
- canine parvovirus
- canine distemper
- infectious canine hepatitis
- and rabies.
In the UK all dogs are routinely vaccinated against:
- canine parvovirus
- canine distemper
- and infectious canine hepatitis.
You can also optionally have your dog vaccinated against kennel cough. This is given nasally using an aerosol rather than as an injection. This will be the same wherever you are based in the United Kingdom.
But There’s More!
Depending upon the risk level to your puppy, your veterinarian in the US may also offer you one or more of the following vaccinations:
How Many Vaccinations Does My Puppy Need?
The number of vaccinations your puppy will need will depend upon their risk level for certain diseases.
Your veterinarian is likely to follow the vaccination principles agreed by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. These state that every dog should receive the core vaccines, but non-core vaccines should only be given to dogs at risk due to their location, local environment or lifestyle. This reduces unnecessary “vaccine load” on dogs, minimizes the number of occasions on which they might suffer side effects from vaccines, and also reduces the time and financial pressure on you.
Take a look at the puppy vaccination schedule below to see the average puppy vaccination requirements.
Why Do Puppies Need More Than One Vaccination?
A single vaccination does not give such good long term protection against disease as two injections spaced apart.
The most common reason for a single puppy vaccine to fail is because Maternal Derived Antibodies still in the puppy’s body counteract the effect. Since rate at which the number of MDAs dwindle varies from individual to individual, the best way to catch every puppy as soon as the vaccine can “take”, but without ever leaving them vulnerable to infection, is by vaccinating more than once.
To protect puppies who lose all their MDA’s rapidly, it’s important to start vaccinating them from around 6 weeks old. And 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.
What is the 5-in-1 Shot for Puppies?
The 5 in 1 shot, also described as the 5-way puppy vaccine, immunizes your puppy against
- and coronavirus.
Puppies in the United States typically receive three or four doses of the 5-in-1 shot. Puppies in the UK usually receive a four in one shot which protects against canine parvovirus, canine distemper, leptospirosis and hepatitis.
Puppy Vaccination Schedules
Puppy vaccination schedules will vary depending upon your vet, your puppy and your location. We have put together an average vaccination schedule for the UK and the USA, into a handy quick guide chart.
USA Puppy Vaccination Schedule
5 Weeks Old
- Parvovirus vaccine is given to high risk puppies
6 Weeks Old
- First combined 5-in-1 vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
- Second combined 5-in-1 vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
12 weeks old
- Third combined 5-in-1 vaccine(distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
- Leptospirosis and/or Lyme if in high risk area
16 Weeks Old
- Fourth combined 5-in-1 vaccine if applicable
In the USA a minimum of three sets of the combined vaccine are required. So if your schedule only includes three courses then don’t worry, this can also be standard practice.
UK Puppy Vaccination Schedule
8 Weeks Old
- First combined vaccination (canine parvovirus, canine distemper, leptospirosis and hepatitis)
12 weeks old
Puppy Vaccination Side Effects
If your dog experiences vomiting, diarrhea or difficulty breathing after receiving a vaccine, call your vet’s office for further advice. Side effects are most common in small breeds, and as of 2019 there is no evidence that Labradors are more than averagely susceptible to side effects from any puppy vaccines. You need to balance this small risk against the benefits that vaccination offers to your puppy.
How to Socialize Your Unvaccinated Puppy
There are lots of other safe but effective ways to socialize a puppy who hasn’t had his final shots.
- Invite people into your home! Stock up on coffee and snacks, and invite in your neighbors, friends, kids’ friends, even the mailman in to meet your puppy.
- Go to the park. If you’ve invested in a puppy playpen, it’s time to get your money’s worth. Set it up on a blanket in the park and let your puppy watch the world go buy.
- Take a drive. Park up in a couple of different places and let your puppy soak up the sounds and smells from an open window.
- Weigh him. This is great practice for being calm and confident at the vet’s clinic, and also a fantastic opportunity to socialize your puppy around other animals. Book a weigh-in, and take lots of treats to make the experience fun and happy.
Do you have another suggestion? Please leave a comment at the end of this article!
Talk To Your Veterinarian
Vaccination appointments are incredibly routine for vets. But don’t be embarrassed to say if you have questions before going ahead. 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.
Puppy Vaccination Questions – Answered!
Hopefully we’ve addressed all of your questions about Labrador puppy vaccinations and vaccination schedules now. Puppy vaccinations are important milestones in a young dog’s life to secure their future health. Luckily, they coincide with a period in their life when they should be receiving regular veterinary check ups anyway, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to discuss any concerns you have with your vet.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website