A 6-week-old puppy is a cuddly and irresistible addition to your family, but he comes with some serious responsibilities. Besides food and love, he needs good medical care, starting with a full series of vaccinations to keep him safe and healthy.
Core vaccines are essential to your puppy’s health. The American Animal Hospital Association has a list of core vaccines that includes vaccinations against distemper and parvovirus, both of which can be fatal to your puppy. The third core vaccine that your 6-week-old pup needs is for hepatitis, which affects the liver and other organs. The rabies shot is a fourth core vaccine, but it is not administered to puppies until they are at least 3 months old.
Non-core vaccines protect your puppy against diseases that he’s not very likely to be exposed to, and are usually only given if your puppy is going to be at risk. The bordatella, or kennel cough, vaccine is a non-core vaccine, but many vets recommend it for dogs that stay in a boarding kennel or who go to the groomer. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys and other organs also falls into this category. The final non-core vaccination recommended by the AAHA is for Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that can cause neurological damage.
Puppies need more than one shot to develop the immunity they need to resist doggy diseases. While pups get protection from their moms while they’re nursing, this immunity begins to wear off once they leave home and disappears completely somewhere along the line. This causes a bit of trouble, because it’s not practical to test your puppy’s immunity, so just when his immunity goes is uncertain. The problem is that until the antibodies from his mother are no longer guarding him, the shots from the vet won’t do him any good. The solution is a series of shots, carefully spaced, to ensure your puppy gets the best protection possible.
While deworming doesn’t involve a vaccination, it can be just as essential to your pup’s health as any of the core vaccines. Worms can cause a host of ills for a puppy, including vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and, in extreme cases, death. Puppies commonly have intestinal worms such as roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms. Your vet may do a fecal analysis to determine which of these worms your new pup has, but quite often the vet will automatically deworm your dog for the internal parasites most common in your region.