If you are just about to bring home a new Labrador puppy, you will want to make sure that you have done everything right.
In this article we are going to answer all of your frequently asked puppy vaccination questions, and provide you with clear puppy vaccination schedules to follow.
Helping you to make the right decisions when it comes to looking after your new puppy’s health.
Should I Vaccinate My Puppy?
You may have come to the decision that there is little risk to unvaccinated puppies these days, but this is not the case.
Depending upon where in the world you are, your puppy could be at very high risk of catching some very nasty diseases.
The diseases you are 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 vacations 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). 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.
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 Diseases Can Puppy Vaccinations Prevent?
The diseases your dog can be vaccinated against will differ depending upon where you are.
In the UK all dogs are routinely vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine distemper
- 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. However, in the USA the risks vary to a greater extend depending upon where you are.
In the USA all puppies should be vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine distemper
- Infectious Canine Hepatitis
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.
This will be affected by where in the world you live, what environment the puppy was brought up in and will be best advised on by your vet.
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.
Some puppies will also 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.
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.
Now let’s have a look in more detail at those vaccination schedules.
USA Puppy Vaccination Schedule
5 Weeks Old
- Parvovirus vaccine is given to high risk puppies
6 Weeks Old
- First combined vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
9 Weeks Old
- Second combined vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
12 weeks old
- Third combined vaccine(distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
- Leptospirosis and/or Lyme if in high risk area
16 Weeks Old
- Fourth combined 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
- Second combined vaccination (canine parvovirus, canine distemper, leptospirosis and hepatitis)
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 explain and discuss the important issue of vaccination safety in our extensive Vet Care article.
When Can I Take My Puppy Out?
You have probably heard you need to keep your puppy indoors until his vaccinations have ‘taken effect’.
But many people are confused about when it is actually safe to take their puppy outside.
Check with your vet, because different vets use different vaccines, but most vaccines are fully effective one week after the final shot.
So if you are in the UK and your puppy’s final vaccine is given at 12 weeks, he can usually go and play on the ground in public places at 13 weeks.
However, most experts now believe that does not mean your puppy should stay indoors, shut away from the world until he is 13 weeks old. We’ll look at that in a bit more detail below, and you can also check out our article ‘when can i take my puppy out?’
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.