Puppies are wonderful. When they first enter our houses a little timid and unsure, the whole family is in love within minutes. A new pup added to the family brings happiness, joy and new sense of purpose. They also bring responsibility.
Keeping our puppies healthy is one of our responsibilities and the better we do this the longer, happier, more enriching a life we and our new four legged friends will have. Puppies are usually protected from many harmful diseases for a short time after birth depending on how healthy their mom was. The pup’s mother will through the colostrum or ‘first milk’ will pass on antibodies to protect her pups for 6-8 weeks. These antibodies do not last and if the pup is not helped, these antibodies will disappear leaving our new family member vulnerable to getting sick.
One of the first things we can do to help ensure a healthy life is to help our pup develop his own immunity to potentially life threatening diseases. We do this by administering vaccinations. It would be nice if one vaccination protected the pup for life but, through studies we know that puppies need a series of vaccinations over a two month interval to develop antibodies to these harmful diseases and then intermittent vaccination through their lives.
The diseases we worry about in puppies are mostly diseases caused by viruses.
- Canine Distemper virus affects the liver, intestines, lungs, teeth, skin, eyes, brain. In essence it is a whole body disease which is often fatal within 2 weeks.
- Canine Parvovirus affects the intestine and sometimes the heart. The intestinal form causes severe bloody diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and painful intestines. Often bacteria invade the intestines making the disease worse. Some pups will survive, some will not. It is expensive to treat.
- Canine parainfluenza virus causes bronchitis and is one of the causes of Kennel cough a debilitating disease which can lead to chronic bronchitis.
- Canine adenovirus causes swelling and disease of the liver which is often fatal.
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease acquired by drinking water from ponds, puddles or lakes. Dogs affected with this virus have liver and kidney disease. This virus can be passed to humans.
- Rabies virus like Leptospirosis is transmittable to humans. Unlike all the above diseases which sometimes the pups can recover from, Rabies is always fatal.
Protection against these diseases uses vaccinations to build up antibodies in each pup. Typically puppies need their first vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age, a booster one month later (10-12 weeks) and then their final vaccination (which includes a vaccination against rabies) at 16 weeks of age. Boosters are then given one year later and subsequent vaccinations are based on the risk the pup faces. This is the typical way of vaccinating puppies and since every puppy is different sometimes the schedule or the number of vaccines is changed.
Keeping our puppies healthy is important so they can live with us a long time. Vaccinations are the first step in keeping them healthy. Vaccinating your puppy is important.