Vaccination, or immunization, is the controlled, purposeful introduction of a small amount of an organism into the dog’s body to produce an immune response. Then the dog should be able to respond and fight off any future exposure to that organism. There are three different types of vaccines: killed, modified live, and recombinant. Killed vaccines contain a variety of the organism but it cannot reproduce or cause disease in the dog. However, the immune response in the dog is not strong or long-lived, so it must be repeated frequently. Modified live vaccines contain a variety of the organism which can reproduce but does not cause disease in the dog. This type of vaccine produces a stronger and more long-lived immune response in the dog, and revaccination can be less frequent. Recombinant vaccines contain only some of the antigenic portion of the organism, and cannot cause disease in the dog. The response to these vaccines varies.
When puppies are born they have very few antibodies. Only 3% of the antibodies they need to protect them from disease can cross the placenta. But in the first 24 hours, the mother’s first milk (colostrum) is full of antibodies, which will last the pups about 4 weeks until they can generate their own immune response. So it is very important that the puppies nurse during the first 24 hours. The immunization schedule for puppies is a bit of a balancing act. If the puppies are immunized too early, the presence of antibodies from the mother will neutralize the antigens introduced by the vaccine. If the puppies are immunized too late, the concentration of antibodies from the mother’s milk may fall too low and leave the puppies unprotected from disease. Because the level of protection is uncertain, it is recommended that puppies not be exposed to strange people or dogs before the vaccination program is complete. Most puppies are immunized at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Others prefer to begin the vaccination program earlier at 6 weeks of age. These “Puppy Shots” usually include canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, canine parvovirus, and may also include parainfluenza virus (for “Kennel Cough”). The kennel cough vaccine should be administered if the dog will be around a lot of other dogs as in a dog show or dog boarding situation.
The vaccine manufacturer’s instructions should always be followed. If the dose is too small the immune response will be short lived. If the dose is too large, the immune system may be overwhelmed, and the animal may become ill.
Rabies is a separate vaccine that is required by law. A Rabies vaccination must be administered by a veterinarian or a veterinarian’s agent under supervision.
An occasional puppy will not respond to vaccination. A vet can test the antibody concentration in serum 2 weeks after the final vaccination in the series to determine if the puppy is adequately protected, or if another vaccination may be needed.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) suggests that adult pet dogs be vaccinated every 3 years. However, the health and lifestyle of the dog should be considered. Dogs who run outside unsupervised, or are involved in hunting or fieldwork may have a greater exposure to disease should be vaccinated more frequently.
This Information is from:
The Dog Breeder’s Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management
By Margaret V Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT