Vaccinations; Vaccinating Your Puppy on a Delayed Schedule
Vaccinations are one of those hot topics in the dog world right now. In recent decades many have followed a schedule of several vaccinations done early and often during puppy hood, than again at least yearly into adulthood. However, titre tests have made it clear to us that dogs maintain their immunity for the things they are vaccinated against throughout their lifetime suggesting that repetitive vaccinations into adulthood are unnecessary. There's also a great deal of research and information so consider when vaccinating your puppy.
We do not vaccinate our adults on a yearly basis. We provide 1 booster at 1 year and again at 5 years only if needed. We also take a very minimal approach to vaccinating our puppies.
I'd like to offer two bits of information about now - the first is that a puppy is born without any immunity of it's own. Nursing from his mother provides him with antibodies during his first 5-6 weeks of life. At around 6 weeks the immune system really starts to develop but maternal antibodies stay in the system at least 8-12 weeks especially if the puppy is otherwise healthy and was 1. kept warm and 2. experienced no trauma during his first few weeks of life. When the immune system first starts to work on its own it is small and young and delicate and as such should be given time to grow. The second bit of information is that the first vaccination given to a puppy does not actually result in immunity against what you are vaccinating for. Instead it serves as a sort of primer - an introduction to the white blood cells that are your puppy’s immune system soldiers.
Now, considering those two bits of information you might draw the conclusion, as we have, that tossing that first vaccination into the mix at a very early age would be rough on your puppies system while it is still attempting to establish itself. Vaccinations are hard. Not just on puppies. On all of us. But they are easier and more effective to a mature, healthy and capable immune system who can put them to good work. As such we post pone the first vaccine on our puppies as long as possible. Factor in that the maternal antibodies in a puppy's system will interfere with vaccinations and you may deduct further still that early (before 8 weeks) vaccinations are essentially pointless.
So, why so early and so often (is the typical schedule recommended) you might ask? Well, I suppose there are two answers I can provide but invite you to ask your friend Google about other reasons. First, money. That's right, money. If pet owners take their puppies into the vet 4-6 times during puppy hood and at least once a year for life the vet makes money off the visit and the vaccination manufacturer makes out like a bandit. I doubt either of those parties would be quick to say "Whoa! Your dog only needs half as many vaccinations as a puppy and almost none as an adult."
The second reason I am aware of is a genuine concern and attempt to protect our puppies and dogs. When vaccinations were first developed they were a medical miracle! Just think, you could take a small altered version of something deadly or devastating, inject it a few times, and be immune to it for the rest of your life! What a wonder! And, if a little worked, than surely a lot will work even better!
Come on, you never took a double dose of NyQuil because you really (REALLY) needed to sleep through that flu you got? But just as doubling up on acetaminophen has twice the health risk with only the same efficacy so does frequent and many vaccinations. You multiply the toxins and risks associated with vaccinations without providing further protection. In fact, by repeated assault on the immune system there's some speculations that excess vaccinations do more harm than good and are linked to the alarming rate of cancer in dogs.
I'd like to touch on how many vaccinations to do and how often. I strongly recommend to my puppy families to follow up with vaccinations every 4 weeks. There is less harm in waiting too long than in doing your vaccinations too close together. Ideally the final vaccination of puppy hood should be done at or after 16 weeks. There's even some research out there to suggest the final vaccination be done after 20 weeks because of the presence of maternal antibodies late into puppy hood. As such, any puppy we raise here for ourselves doesn't receive his or her first vaccine until 12 weeks. I do vaccinate puppies leaving at 8 weeks but impart the information for you to consider -- antibodies still present in your 8 week old puppy may mitigate that vaccine!
My recommendation is only 3 puppy vaccinations done at 8 weeks (by me) and then 12 and 16 weeks after your puppy goes home. We administer only a DPv shot (Parvo and Distemper). While I do not think your puppy should receive more than 3 vaccinations at this stage nor should they be done closer than 4 weeks I firmly insist you consult your veterinarian and follow the guidelines of his or her opinions as you feel comfortable with them. The next vaccination should be done 1 year later at 1 year and 16 weeks of age. After your puppy matures you have the choice to do a simple blood test for the presence of titres which will tell you which, if any, vaccinations your dog actually needs. Many dogs will never require another vaccination past 1 year. The titer tests will provide you with the information you need to determine if any additional vaccinations are needed.
For puppies we retain for ourselves we delay our vaccination schedule a few more weeks because they are kept in the environment in which they were born with only familiar, healthy, dogs. This schedule is based on the research and recommendations of Dr Jean Dodd, a leading voice in the vaccination debate and a well respected authority amongst all 27 Vet schools in the US. Visit Dr Jean Dodd's Pet Health Resource for more info. Again, per Dr Jean Dodd's recommendations we do not administer the 5-way or 7-way shots to our puppies or dogs; we vaccinate using only the DPv shot (Parvo and Distemper).
Looking for more information on the adverse effects of vaccinations? For more information on allergic reactions, anemia, immune system damage, and more visit Dogs Adverse Reactions to Vaccines.