There has been much research into vaccinations in recent years. Previously it was thought that dogs should be vaccinated annually in order to maintain their immunity levels. However, it has emerged that over-vaccination can be harmful, and many dogs have suffered health problems due to being vaccinated too often.
The current advice from the World Small Veterinary Association is that puppies SHOULD have their first vaccinations from the age of 8 weeks old, AND have their booster vaccination at 1 year old. Thereafter they should be vaccinated every 3 years.
There may be some diseases prevalent in the area where you live for which annual vaccination is necessary. You should discuss vaccinations carefully with your vet and make sure that the core vaccines (for canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus and canine parvovirus type 2) are not give more often than tri-annually. Leptosprirosis is an example of a vaccine that may need to be given more often, but whether you dog needs it is dependant on your locality and the dog's lifestyle.
Immunisation Programme for Puppies
Your breeder may have arranged the first vaccination and you will be responsible for the second. Make sure your vet has the same brand - you may need to ask different vets which they use. It may be better if your breeder has not vaccinated your puppy - if puppies are vaccinated before the immunity from their mother has worn off, it can actually stop the vaccinations having the right effect. Puppies should really only start their course of vaccinations after they are 8 weeks old.
Vets normally advise that the puppy settles down in its new home for about a week before any vaccination is given to allow it’s hormone levels to settle back down after the stress of moving. The vaccine is given by way of an injection in the scruff of the neck and most don't even feel it. Your vet will tell you how long after the second vaccination you need to wait before taking her out into the big wide world.
As noted above, the first annual booster is advised to make sure your dog is fully protected.
Puppy Health Check Ups
Vets should offer a package which includes the cost of the vaccinations, the two necessary visits and brief health checks at each (weight, check on heart, general health etc.) and they will also advise on worming and flea treatments. You will need to have found out from your breeder whether your puppy was wormed during its initial few weeks, when it was last wormed, and what the breeder used. The vet will discuss a worming and flea treatment programme with you. Much of the advice might be localised, for example, lung worm might be a problem in your area and you’ll need to protect against that too. Too give your dog the best start and to keep it healthy throughout its life you should listen carefully to the advice given.
You will have the opportunity to ask the vet any questions such as diet, and often you will be given a Puppy Pack which will include a free sample of a reputable puppy food. You may also find you get a month’s free insurance at the same time, which gives you some time to think about taking out a full insurance for your puppy.
Vaccinations and the First Visit to a Vet
Puppies need to be vaccinated before they can go out to places where other dogs have been. They receive some natural immunity from their mother, but around the age of 8 weeks this has all but disappeared and an immunisation programme is necessary.
This normally involves having two vaccinations two weeks apart. Your vet will advise you, but normally the puppy is able to go out about 7 days after the second injection.
There are a few different brands of vaccinations used, and some recommend keeping the puppy in for 14 days after the second vaccination. Because it’s so important to start socialising the puppy as soon as possible, most vets nowadays prefer to use the type that allow the shorter interval.
The cost of vaccinating your puppy should be between £50 and £60.
Choosing a Vet
If you have not used a particular veterinary surgery before it’s worth asking around your dog owning friends which they would recommend. You can also get in touch and see if they offer any particular extras that you might be interested in. For example, many offer free ‘Puppy Parties’ which they invite all new pups too once they are fully vaccinated. These give the pups a great time at the surgery which helps them get over what seems otherwise to be a universal canine fear of going to the vets. Their experience is that full grown dogs bound in to see the vet as they associate the visit with the fun they had as a pup!
Veterinary surgeries vary greatly in their charges for visits and treatments, and also in the cost for the puppy's first vaccinations. Normally they will quote you one price for the first two vaccinations. Talk to a few vets about their different charges. Although you may well have taken out insurance for any major illness most minor ailments and visits will fall below the excess level and you'll be paying this out of your own pocket. Paying more does not necessarily mean getting better treatment. I would advise that you select your vet on the basis of a) reputation, b) facilities and c) cost.
Do I have to wait until after both vaccinations before taking my puppy out?
It's as important to the dog's future welfare that you start socialising her early as it is to protect her health. Socialisation is vitally important for puppies. If you waited until the puppy was fully protected before taking her anywhere then you would lose valuable time when she could have been getting used to new sights and sounds. Although you cannot let her walk on the ground whether other dogs have been, you can carry her around with you or let her play with dogs you know have been vaccinated.
Microchipping Your Puppy
Microchipping you dog is already compulsory in Northern Ireland, will be coming in for Wales in 2015, and in England in 2016 (there are no current plans for Scotland, but it's likely they will follow suit).
For any dog owner, whether compulsory or not, microchipping is a sensible move. A small electronic chip, the size of a grain of rice is inserted into the neck of the puppy. If the puppy ever gets lost or stolen, having a microchip means that there is much more likelihood of her being returned to you. Vets often recommend having this done at the same time as neutering (if you're going to do that) but will do it at any time. Really it's sensible to have it done as soon as possible. Some breeders will microchip puppies before they go to their new homes. If your breeder has done this, make sure you get the paperwork so you can change their details for yours.
Microchipping your puppy will cost between £20 and £30, but remember this will give you peace of mind for life.
Why Vaccinate your Puppy?
There are some diseases that dogs are susceptible to for which there is no effective treatment. Vaccinations build up a puppies immune system so that she does not succumb to these diseases which are normally fatal. The diseases vaccinated against are: Canine Parvovirus, Canine distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parainfluenza Virus and Leptosprirosis. In the UK it is not routine to vaccinate against Rabies unless you are going to take your puppy abroad.
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