Shots for Newborn Puppies

For the first two days of their life, newborn puppies receive immunity against diseases from their mother's milk. This will last for a few weeks, at which time the puppies need additional vaccinations to protect them from devastating diseases such as parvovirus and rabies.

Age of Vaccination

Puppies are born with an immunity to certain diseases that they receive from their mother's placenta. For the next two days, they continue to receive immunity through their mother's milk. However, this is only true if the mother has been properly vaccinated. If she has not, she has no immunity to pass on.

While the mother's immunity is still circulating in the puppy's bloodstream, any vaccination given will not be effective. Thus, the proper timing for vaccinations is crucial. Veterinarians vary widely in the age at which they begin vaccinating and the number of vaccinations given.

A study of a cross section of puppies showed that at 6 weeks, only 25 percent of puppies vaccinated were effectively immunized. At 9 weeks, that increased to 40 percent. At 16 weeks, 60 percent responded to the vaccination, and at 18 weeks, that number increased to 95 percent.

Many veterinarians recommend giving the first vaccination at 6 weeks and then giving boosters every three weeks until the puppy reaches 16 weeks of age. Boosters are repeated at 1 year, and then annually or every three years thereafter.

However, many puppies have adverse reactions to vaccinations, and many veterinarians are now taking a different approach, starting the vaccinations later and repeating boosters less frequently.

Before choosing a veterinarian, discuss the vaccination policy with the candidates and choose one whose philosophy is similar to yours. Though more expensive, titers are also available to test immunity to various diseases. If the immunity remains high, another vaccination is not needed.

Required Vaccinations

Core vaccines for puppies consist of:

  • Distemper
  • Canine adenovirus
  • Canine parvovirus
  • Rabies

Some of these are often given in a combination shot known as DHLPP, which includes:

  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus (also known as hepatitis)
  • Leptosporosis
  • Parvovirus
  • Parainfluenza

Depending on the risk level, puppies are often vaccinated for parvovirus as early as 5 weeks, but often, the first shot puppies receive is a combination shot at 6 to 9 weeks. Since combination shots are more likely to cause a reaction, some people recommend separating the combination shot. Discuss this with your veterinarian.

A combination booster is usually given at around 12 weeks along with the rabies shot. The combination may be repeated one more time, depending on your veterinarian, and then all vaccinations will be given again at 1 year.

Other vaccinations that may be recommended, depending on your dog's lifestyle and location, include bordatella, Lyme disease and coronavirus. Consult your veterinarian for which diseases your dog is at highest risk.

Since puppies have weak immune systems that are prone to contracting many diseases, puppy shots are important. Which vaccinations your puppy receives and how often he receives them depends on your veterinarian and your particular puppy.