When you bring home your cute little bundle of fur, you’re bound to have questions about taking proper care of him. Along with food, water and love, getting him vaccinated is one of the most important things you can do for your new puppy.
Puppy shots protect your new buddy against distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis. He also may need vaccinations for other diseases, such as leptospirosis, if he’s likely to be at risk, but your vet can help you to decide on the proper vaccines. The exact age when your puppy should get his first shots often depends on when you bring him home. Puppies raised by a reputable breeder or obtained through a shelter normally will have had their first shots before you get them, but typically your puppy should get his first shots when he is between six and eight weeks of age.
You puppy will need additional vaccinations after his first shots. Your vet will determine the exact schedule, but typically these booster shots are given every two to four weeks until the pup is about 16 weeks old. The reason for the boosters is that puppies normally get some immunity from their mothers, and this natural immunity actually prevents the shots from doing him any good. Since you can’t tell exactly when his mother’s immunity will wear off without special blood tests, giving your puppy a series of shots helps to make sure the vaccine is there when he needs it.
Rabies is a serious disease that almost always is fatal, once symptoms appear, but vaccination can prevent it completely. Since this deadly illness can be transmitted from animals to humans, the vaccine is mandated for dogs in all parts of the country. Your puppy will need his first rabies shot when he’s about three to four months of age, something that usually is set by your county or town, rather than your vet. He’ll need a booster again in a year, and then once every one to three years after that.
Puppies don’t always get their first shots right on schedule. If they are strays, come from backyard breeders, or were owned by someone who didn’t know or didn’t care, pups easily can get well beyond the optimal age for first shots. As long as the puppy is in good health, he can begin getting his shots at any point. If he is an older pup, or even and adult dog, his vaccination schedule will be different from that of a young puppy, but the shots will offer him the same protection.