Knowing When to Vaccinate Puppies and What Vaccines Puppies Need at a Certain Age to Fight Infections

You know very well that the moment you take home a sweet and loving puppy, it becomes completely dependent on you. It is all up to you to provide all the loving care it needs for its entire lifetime. One of the important things that a puppy needs is a complete vaccination program. The importance of this program cannot be underestimated, as it has a huge impact on the overall health of your pup.

There are so many types of vaccines, that things can get a bit confusing at times. Perhaps you ask yourself ‘is all of this really necessary?’. Some vaccines truly are essential for your pup, while others such as the one against Lyme disease are optional. I’ve listed below the available vaccines which you can avail of at your local veterinary clinic. Your vet will discuss a detailed vaccination program with you so that you ensure the optimum growth and health of your puppy.

What are Vaccines?

Vaccines are developed in order to help the body ward off infections. These contain antigens, which are pretty much like the disease that causes sickness, but they do not make the puppies sick. Once the vaccine is injected into the body, the immune system is stimulated so as to prepare the body for a possible attack of that particular disease, say for example canine distemper. And if a real disease attacks the body of the puppy, the immune system will recognize it and ward it off or at least reduce its effects.

There are basically two categories of vaccines, namely the core and the non-core vaccines. The core vaccines are the ones needed by puppies to fight off diseases. On the other hand, non-core vaccines are optional, thus being required depending on the animal’s exposure to the disease, its lifestyle or geographic location.

What vaccines do puppies need? (Core Vaccines)

1. Canine Distemper: This is a serious and highly contagious disease which is caused by a virus which targets the nervous, the gastrointestinal, and the respiratory system of a puppy. It is easily spread through sneezing and coughing. Sharing of water and food bowls is also a form of canine distemper transmission. In addition, it can also be spread by means of blankets, clothing, and brushes. A pup can easily catch it if it is not vaccinated.

If the mother of the puppy is vaccinated against canine distemper, she can passively immunize her puppies up until weaning. After weaning, the puppy should be given a shot against canine distemper.

If a pup is infected, the symptoms include high fever, coughing, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis and then death. There is still no cure for this viral infection and treatment only revolves around care to avoid secondary infections.

2. Canine Hepatitis: A highly contagious viral disease which affects the liver of the puppy. The virus is transmitted through nasal discharge, the urine, feces and blood of infected dogs. If a puppy is exposed without having been previously vaccinated, it can easily catch the virus.

Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, lethargy, and an enlarged liver. This viral infection can be prevented through vaccination. This disease develops rather quickly – the pup may be healthy one day and then become very ill the following day.

3. Leptospirosis: This is a bacterial infection which may not present any symptoms. It is usually described as a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be passed on to humans. All the more reason to get your pup vaccinated against this bacterial infection.

During the latter stage of the disease, the symptoms will begin to manifest in the form of fever, jaundice, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting, pain in the abdominal region, and in worse cases, kidney failure. It can also cause the puppy to suffer from extreme pain.

The only way to prevent this health problem is by vaccination. Not only does the vaccine provide protection to your puppy, but it also protects you and your loved ones from contracting the disease as well.

4. Parvovirus: This virus is pretty much transmitted to dogs the same way as canine distemper. There are two forms of parvovirus. The first one results in inflammation of the heart muscle. Once infected, the puppy will collapse and die due to heart failure.

The second form is the parvoviral enteritis. The symptoms include foul-smelling diarrhea, foamy yellow to brown vomit and abdominal pain. Immunization against parvovirus is the best defense a puppy can get.

5. Parainfluenza and Tracheobronchitis: This refers to the viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract of the puppies. Tracheobronchitis is also referred to as kennel cough. These viruses are common in areas where dogs congregate such as doggie hotels and even dog grooming salons. Some may argue that the kennel cough vaccine is not necessary, but the added protection is worth the effort of having the vaccine administered to your puppy.

6. Rabies: This is a viral infection that infects the nervous system of infected mammals, including humans. Transmission is through saliva, from the bite of an infected mammal. Symptoms include irritability and frequent urination. Advanced symptoms include viciousness, drooling, paralysis and death.

The aforementioned vaccines are the so-called core vaccines. These should be administered to your puppy at the right age in order to prevent them from getting infected by diseases.

At what age are core vaccines administered to puppies to fight off diseases? (when to vaccinate puppies?)

The usual shots which are given to puppies are called 5 in 1. This means that one injection or shot already includes vaccination against five types of diseases, namely: canine distemper, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Four shots of the 5 in 1 vaccine are needed for the dog to receive complete immunity from virus and bacterial diseases.

  • 6 to 8 weeks of age: The first shot of 5 in 1 vaccine is administered
  • 10 to 12 weeks of age: The second shot of 5 in 1 vaccine is administered
  • 12 weeks: Puppies are given an anti-rabies shot
  • 14 to 16 weeks: The third 5 in 1 vaccine is administered
  • 18 to 20 weeks of age: The fourth and last shot of 5 in 1 vaccine is administered

Take note that your puppy must be in a healthy state when receiving the vaccines. They should not exhibit signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal body temperature.

Why are puppies given a series of four vaccine shots of 5 in 1?

Perhaps you are wondering how come your puppy has to go back to the vet clinic almost every two weeks for a series of 5 in 1 vaccine (a total of four times). Newborn puppies carry antibodies from their mothers in their bloodstream. These antibodies provide protection from virus and bacterial infections. However, they slowly fade as the puppies get older.

Research shows that puppies carry these antibodies with them up until the age of eight weeks old. This is why the best time to administer the first shot of 5 in 1 is at eight weeks of age. But not all puppies are the same, some may still carry their antibodies when they’re ten or twelve weeks old.

If a puppy receives the first shot of vaccination at a time when the mother’s antibodies are still in its bloodstream, the maternal antibodies will kill the antigen in the vaccine, rendering it futile. This is the reason why puppies are given a series of 5 in 1 shots – there are no tests that can determine if the mother’s antibodies are still active in the puppies’ bloodstream.

What are the non-core vaccines and when are they administered to puppies?

If you are wondering whether you should give your pup non-core vaccines or not, you should know that it all depends on the lifestyle of your pup. For example, if you think you will fly with your dog oftentimes, then it is a good idea to give it non-core vaccines. If you live in a place where there is a prevalence of certain ailments such as Lyme disease, you should also consider non-core vaccines for your furry pal. Listed below are some of the illnesses warded off by non-core vaccines:

1. Lyme disease: This disease is prevalent in Northeast or Upper Midwest of the US. The deer tick is known to spread this disease. Since dogs come into contact with deer quite often, they are prone to catching the disease. Lyme disease causes kidney damage.

The vaccine is given at 14 weeks of age. Two doses are administered at two to four-week intervals.

2. Kennel cough: The vaccine against Kennel cough is normally administered to dogs that are placed in boarding houses. This illness can be likened to the common colds in humans, which are transmitted through nasal discharge. If your puppy does not socialize ‘heavily’ with other dogs, then this non-core vaccine may not be necessary.

Given at 16 weeks of age. There are also two doses administered at a two-week interval.

3. Coronavirus: This is an intestinal disease which is highly contagious and can easily affect an unvaccinated puppy. Though short-lived, it can cause severe abdominal pain in puppies. This virus is transmitted through shared food bowls, contact with the fecal matter of an infected animal, and hanging around in dirty living quarters.

The administration of non-core vaccines depends upon the discretion of the owner and the advice of the veterinarian.

What are the common side effects of puppy vaccinations?

The benefits that your pup will get from vaccines should outweigh the common side effects. There are no known adverse reactions reported, but any type of vaccine can have some mild side effects on puppies. These can include lethargy, pain in the injected area, and slight fever. However, they are short-lived and will not endanger the life of your puppy.


Newborn puppies are protected by their mother’s antibodies, which keep them safe from virus and bacterial infections. However, once they are weaned, they need to be vaccinated with core vaccines. A total of four shots is required for the puppy to become fully immune from contagious diseases. It is highly advisable that you complete all four shots of core vaccines plus anti rabies, lest you put the health of your puppies at risk.

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