Puppies should be vaccinated every 3-4 weeks from 6 or 8 weeks of age until they are at least 16 weeks old.
The goal of this vaccination schedule is to overlap the stimulation of your puppy’s immune system with the drop-off of the protection he got from mom’s colostrum. This protection may start to wane anytime between 6 and 14 weeks of age, but without doing individual blood work on every puppy, we cannot tell exactly when any individual’s immunity changes. Vaccines given before mom’s protection has worn off are not very effective at stimulating the puppy’s immune system, but waiting too long may leave your puppy exposed to disease, so it is better to vaccinate several times.
Parvo virus is very common, and can survive in the environment for up to 16 months. You can carry it home to your puppy on your shoes, so even strictly indoor dogs should be vaccinated. Parvo causes depression, diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Left untreated, about 85% of puppies who contract parvo die.
Distemper is less common but it is around. This virus is also quite stable in the environment, especially in cold weather. Early signs of distemper are a runny nose and eyes, sneezing, and coughing. Dogs do not get human colds; if your puppy is sneezing for longer than 24 hours or has mucous discharge from eyes or nose, you should contact a veterinarian promptly.
Both of these diseases are difficult and expensive to treat, and potentially fatal, but they are 99% preventable by routine vaccination. Vaccines can be administered by a veterinarian, or purchased at most feed stores. Compare the cost of vaccinations at about $7-$15/dose to the cost of treating a parvo case ($400-$1000, and possibly a dead puppy), and it is a fairly straight-forward case for vaccination.
If you have any questions about proper vaccination or puppy care, please contact a veterinarian.
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