Common puppy vaccination questions include:
- Should I vaccinate my puppy?
- Doesn’t my puppy get immunity from his mother’s milk?
- How do puppy vaccinations work?
- What diseases can puppy vaccinations prevent?
- How many vaccinations does my puppy need?
- Why do puppies need more than one vaccination?
- What is the 5-in-1 shot for puppies?
- When should my puppy be vaccinated?
- Do puppy vaccinations have side effects?
- How much do puppy vaccinations cost?
- When can I take my puppy out?
- How do I socialise my puppy if I can’t take him out?
- Where can I socialise an unvaccinated puppy?
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.
We’ve got clear puppy vaccination schedules to follow, and helpful ideas for socialising your puppy before their immunity is established. Helping you to make the right decisions when it comes to looking after your new puppy’s health.
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 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.
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.
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. This will be affected by where in the world you live, what environment the puppy was brought up in, the kind of activities they do.
Your vet 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.
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 5-in-1 vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parvo, parainfluenza and coronavirus)
9 Weeks Old
- 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
Do Vaccinations Have Side Effects?
The short answer to this is yes, there are rare but recorded examples of dogs reacting badly to vaccinations. The most common side effect of puppy vaccinations is an immediate allergic response to something in the vaccine.
Your vet is likely to recommend that you wait at the clinic for twenty to thirty minutes after your puppy’s shot, so that an allergic reaction can be caught and managed quickly. Besides this the most usual reactions to puppy vaccines include swelling at the injection site, slightly raised temperature and a general lethargy. These reactions are usually mild, and short-lived.
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 Much do Puppy Vaccinations Cost?
The cost of puppy vaccinations varies by region, individual veterinarian, and the brand of vaccine they use. As a rule of thumb, a course of the core vaccines costs $75-100 in the United States, and £60-80 in the United Kingdom. Some vets offer packages of treatment that include all the vaccines for your area, plus flea and worm treatment.
When Can I Take My Puppy Out?
You have probably heard you need to keep your puppy indoors until his puppy 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 to socialise puppies properly. The principal window for socialisation begins to close at around 12 to 13 weeks of age. But what if your vet tells you that you can’t take your dogs out and about until one week after their final shot? In the US, this might mean your pup is 17 weeks old.
How to Socialise Your Unvaccinated Puppy
There is a middle ground to try and make the most of both protocols, 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 young Lab who’s destined to grow quite big, but it is a start.
You might also allow your puppy to mix and play with other dogs provided they too are vaccinated, so they can’t pass on infection. Avoid popular outdoor dog walking areas where there may be a lot of dog faeces.
Places to Socialise an Unvaccinated Puppy
There are lots of other safe but effective ways to socialise 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 socialise 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 Vet
Most vets these days understand the socialisation dilemma. For example if your dog belongs to a guarding breed (such as a Rottweiler), 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 about any concerns you may have, about this, or any other aspect of vaccinating your puppy.
Ask if you’re Unsure
Vaccination appointments are incredibly routine for vets, and you might find that your vet is appears rather brisk about getting the procedure done. 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.
You can also post your questions on our forum, to find out the experiences of other Lab owners who have already completed the vaccination schedule.
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References and Resources
Dodds, Vaccination Protocols for Dogs Predisposed to Vaccine Reactions, Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 2001.
Schultz, Duration of immunity for canine and feline vaccines: A review, Veterinary Microbiology, 2006.
Datz, Adverse vaccination events: Separating fact from fiction, DVM360, 2009.
Day et al, Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs and Cats, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2016.
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