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Vaccinating puppies: When, where and how often?

When you get a puppy, the question is probably when, against what and how often you should vaccinate the animal. There are some underlying diseases that your dog should definitely be vaccinated for, and other vaccines that you might consider. In the first few weeks after birth, the dog builds up sufficient antibodies due to the ingredients in the mother’s milk and has an adequate natural immunisation which, however, decreases with time. This basic immunisation also prevents vaccines from being fully effective.

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Vaccinating puppies after they move in

Breeders normally have puppies vaccinated against distemper (S), hepatitis (H), parvovirosis (P) and leptospirosis (L) when they are eight weeks old. Many breeders also prefer dogs to be vaccinated against kennel cough, although the need for this vaccination is disputed. Vaccines against the pathogens responsible for kennel cough, i.e. parainfluenza virus (Pi) and Bordetella bronchiseptica are said to fail relatively often. Thus, the question arises as to which vaccinations you, as a responsible pet owner, should give your dog and when.

How many vaccinations does your dog need?

Very young dogs don’t tolerate vaccines as well as adult ones, meaning that they may experience more frequent and more severe side effects after vaccination. You should therefore talk to your vet in advance to find out which vaccinations make sense, which ones your dog may not need at all and which ones you can leave for later.

Vaccinating puppies: the complete vaccination schedule

The Standing Commission on Vaccination in Veterinary Medicine (StIKo Vet) has issued guidelines for puppy vaccination.

Guidelines for puppy vaccination.

  • According to the recommendations, puppies should be vaccinated against the following diseases when they are eight weeks old: parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper and leptospirosis.
  • These vaccinations should be repeated at twelve and fifteen weeks.
  • It is also recommended to vaccinate puppies against rabies twelve weeks.

This vaccination schedule is designed to ensure that puppies are adequately protected against the relevant diseases, i.e. that they have enough antibodies to fight them.

 

After that, your pup won’t require re-vaccination against parvovirus (P), distemper (S), leptospirosis (L) and hepatitis (H) until it is 15 months old. A rabies booster is also due at this time, but since there are different vaccines against rabies with different dosing intervals, the timing of the booster shot depends on the product. After these vaccinations, dogs are considered to have basic immunity. As per StIKo Vet recommendations, vaccinations against leptospirosis (L) and kennel cough (Pi) are then repeated annually, and those against hepatitis (H), parvovirosis (P) and distemper every three years.

Sometimes, less is more

If you’d rather not subject your dog to so many vaccinations, especially at such a young age, you can also follow a lighter vaccination schedule such as that recommended by Martin Rütter DOGS dog trainers.

  • This vaccination schedule includes vaccination against parvovirus (P), distemper (S) and hepatitis (H) between eight and nine weeks, to be repeated at twelve or thirteen weeks.
  • The rabies vaccination is not scheduled until after twelve weeks. It should be given alone, not in combination with other vaccinations, and a vaccine should be used that requires a booster dose three years after a single dose.

Vaccination against leptospirosis depends on necessity, but should only be given once and not before twelve weeks of age. The animals should then receive booster shots against parvovirus (P), distemper (S) and hepatitis (H) around 16 weeks and then one last time at the age of six months if desired, as their immune systems are fully developed by then.

Vaccines and side effects

Vaccines can have various side effects. Swelling at the injection site for example, which is very common, subsides after two to three weeks. Other possible side effects include itching, shortness of breath and vomiting. Exceptionally, intolerance to a vaccine can lead to the death of the animal if left untreated. However, such severe side effects are rare.

Conclusion: when it comes to vaccinating puppies, their owner has a say

Dog owners in Germany are not obliged to vaccinate their pet, but vaccination certificates are necessary to travel abroad. For example, puppies usually have to be at least 15 weeks old and vaccinated against rabies to be allowed to enter an EU country. This also applies to re-entry into Austria (Entry requirements for dogs).

 

Vaccination is a subject of controversy among dog owners and veterinary professionals. The debate mainly concerns the points mentioned above, such as which vaccinations are actually necessary. Rabies for example is no longer widespread in our regions, but you will need the vaccination if you want to travel abroad with your dog. It’s best to talk to your vet about the vaccinations that are important for your dog.

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You can read more on the topic in our guide “Make an informed decision about vaccinating your dog”

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