After Your Puppy Gets a Vaccine: Steps for Success

Puppy vaccines are vital to the health of your puppy. A newborn puppy's immune system is not yet strong enough to protect it from disease; newborn puppies receive antibody protection from their mother's milk. These antibodies need to be replaced artificially with vaccines when the puppy ceases to receive them from his mother's milk.

Puppy Vaccine Schedules

Veterinarians recommend that puppies receive their dog vaccinations against rabies and other diseases such as canine distemper every three weeks from the ages of six weeks to around sixteen weeks. The reason for this schedule is that your puppy may experience what is known as a "window of susceptibility" between the time he is weaned from his mother's milk and the time he receives the vaccine. During this time, the antibodies in his blood will be too strong to allow the vaccine to take effect, but too weak to protect your puppy from disease.

The window of susceptibility varies from puppy to puppy, because it all depends on the level of antibodies your puppy got from his mother. The higher the level, the longer the window of susceptibility. To play it safe, you should keep your newly vaccinated puppy away from other dogs and puppies until he is twelve weeks of age (six weeks after the schedule of dog vaccinations begins).

Side Effects of Puppy Vaccines

Your puppy may experience some common side effects after receiving dog vaccinations, so you should know what to watch for. Minor reactions to the shot could include fever, soreness around the injection site, and loss of appetite. Your puppy may seem somewhat tired or uncomfortable immediately following vaccination. These symptoms should resolve themselves within 24 hours.

A more severe reaction to dog vaccinations is a skin condition called uticaria. Uticaria causes hives and itchy red inflammation around the lips, eyes, and neck. It usually appears quickly and can be treated with an antihistamine injection.

Severe Reactions to Puppy Vaccines

The most severe allergic reaction that your puppy could have to his vaccine is called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis comes on suddenly, and causes a swelling of the larnyx that leads to difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, and seizures.

Anaphylaxis can be deadly, but it is also rare. It comes on so quickly that it often occurs right in the vet's office after the shot is given. Only puppies with previous exposure to the vaccine are vulnerable to anaphylaxis. If your puppy exhibits signs of anaphylaxis after a vaccination, contact your vet or emergency vet clinic immediately.