Vaccines: How they help our pups!
Puppies under 1 year of age are particularly prone to contagious illness, some of which are serious and can be fatal like Parvo Virus, Pneumonia and Distemper. Others are less fatal but still require immediate treatment such as Bordetella ("kennel cough") and Influenza.
Luckily, there are several vaccinations available to help prevent the likelihood of our pups becoming ill from these pathogens in the environment. Just like with any living creature with an immune system, vaccines are NOT perfect and do not guarantee immunity.
Around 4-8 weeks of age, mom stops nursing the puppies. From the womb to about 6 weeks old, puppies are mostly protected from maternal antibodies passed to the pups through the placenta and then moms milk, though once they reach 4 weeks old, those benefits start to drop quickly, fading below the protective threshold by around 6 weeks old.
So, if you have a pup who is weaned at 6 weeks old, you'd better call your vet and ask what age you'd like them to get their first vaccines and keep them indoors, off of the floor anywhere you go (hopefully nowhere) and not allowed anywhere other dogs have been. In a kennel is best for trips to the vet for the same reason.
Once we start giving vaccines, they over-ride the maternal anti-bodies that may be left, so this is why "vaccine boosters" are important! This is also why giving vaccinations before they're 6-8 weeks old "don't count" because what's left of the maternal antibodies may actually fight against the vaccine until about 8 weeks old. This is a big reason a lot of vets won't accept "breeder's vaccines" as medically accurate, since they're usually administered at or around 6 weeks old, which we now know does not work so we will have to repeat these again a few weeks later anyway.
8 Weeks old- Generally, pups should receive their "first set of vaccinations" at around 8 weeks of age. This doe NOT mean they're suddenly safe against those pathogens. It simply stimulates the immune response and encourages the dogs immune system to make anti-bodies for those viruses. It then takes the body's immune system about 2-4 weeks for maximum vaccine immunity response.
12 weeks old- However, the effects of that first set of vaccines will not last beyond about 4 weeks, as the levels won't be high enough to produce a protective level of anti-bodies. But, cumulatively these booster vaccines "boost" the immune response. So to make it effective, it's best to do the second boosters 2-4 weeks after the first set. Your veterinarian will guide you in this process. ***Some veterinarians will say it's OK to start carefully interacting with older, fully vaccinated dogs but not in public areas or with dogs that are young or environments like a park, groomers, pet store etc. Socialization is vital, we want to maximize these dog to dog interactions between birth and 4 months old to help with bite inhibition but also to be more receptive to learning canine social cues and manners. Ask your vet!***
16 weeks old- Then, we want to have a 3rd booster around 16 weeks old, this is when your vet can administer the Rabies vaccine, final set of vaccine boosters and make sure your heart worm, flea and tick preventative treatments are started also. A general rule is that 2 weeks after their 3rd set of vaccines is just about as much of an immune response as you can expect to get, so 18 weeks is the prime GO TIME for getting signed up for a puppy group class, puppy play dates, puppy day camps and other safe, clean environments. At this point, we have very little time to squeeze in as MUCH intentional, positive, proper socialization with pups one-on-one, off leash, different ages, sizes, environments. Also, socialization with people, places and things!
Yearly booster vaccines- They help to add a necessary "boost" to the existing anti-bodies, either the naturally occurring ones from the environment or from their "puppy shots" (3 sets of vaccines and boosters given before 6 months of age). This helps keep the circulating anti-body levels adequate to continue providing them a protective level of immunity.
Rabies vaccines- The US requires all dogs to have a Rabies vaccination from 16 weeks old and beyond, every 1-3 years for their entire life. Some states say that the vat can allow these vaccines to be administered every 1 year or 3 years, depending upon the state laws where your pup resides.