Puppy Vaccination Guide

Once you’ve welcomed your adorable new puppy into your home and successfully settled them into their new surroundings, it’s time to vaccinate them.

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Vaccinating your puppy is one of the most important things to take care of in the first few weeks. You’ll need to follow the full course of vaccinations with annual booster shots. Keeping up to date will help ensure that your puppy is free from common infectious diseases.

But what specific vaccinations do they need, and when? How far apart should each vaccination be, and how much will it cost? In this brief guide, we’ll answer some of the most common questions puppy owners have regarding vaccinations.


Why does my dog need vaccinating?


Vaccines help to protect your pet from disease. But are yearly dog vaccinations really necessary in the UK? We all want the best for our furry friends, and there are many important reasons to get your dog vaccinated:

  • Vaccines can save your dog’s life: Some diseases can be fatal. Dog vaccinations protect against these.
  • Vaccines benefit your dog and others: Mass vaccination creates herd immunity. This means that diseases are less likely to spread.
  • Treatment costs can be high, even with pet insurance: If a disease is preventable and you choose not to vaccinate against it, you may not be covered for treatment by your insurance policy. And depending on your policy, you may still have to pay an excess on your pet insurance if your dog gets sick.

Your dog’s immunity to these diseases can diminish over time. To keep them safe, you’ll need to keep up with their booster vaccinations to maintain their immunity.


What vaccinations does my puppy need?


There are five main vaccinations that puppies need. Your vet will be able to advise on the best timings for these vaccines:

  • Canine Parvovirus — a highly contagious life-threatening viral disease. It’s passed on through infected dog faeces. Symptoms include vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and severe dehydration. Unfortunately, there is no treatment, and puppies can be particularly vulnerable. The disease is more prevalent in certain parts of the country, so vaccination advice may vary.
  • Canine Distemper — a severe contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks several body systems, including the nervous and respiratory system. Symptoms include a temperature, eye and nose discharge, coughing and lack of appetite. In later stages, it can cause seizures and limb weakness. Extreme cases are sometimes fatal, and dogs can suffer ongoing complications if they recover. Canine distemper spreads through direct contact with infected saliva and urine. There is no cure, only prevention.
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis — a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, lungs and eyes of a dog. It spreads through the bodily fluids of infected dogs. Infectious canine hepatitis can be fatal, but most dogs do recover.
  • Leptospirosis — a bacterial disease which causes kidney and liver failure. Often, it progresses quickly and is fatal to dogs and humans. Dogs pick it up from contact with infected urine or contaminated water. It enters the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin, such as a cracked paw pad. Symptoms include a temperature, excessive drinking, vomiting and muscle pain. Antibiotics can treat the disease, but there are often long-term complications.
  • Kennel Cough (or canine infectious tracheobronchitis) — a respiratory infection that can be caused by several different bacteria and viruses. It gives your dog a bad cough similar to flu in humans. Kennel cough is highly contagious and spreads through close contact with an infected dog, as well as sharing toys or water bowls. If your dog is going into kennels, doggy day care or competing in dog shows, it is highly likely that they will need to have this vaccine. The treatment is given up the nose and is valid for six months.

You should consult your vet before deciding which vaccinations your puppy needs and when to get them. If your puppy will be travelling abroad, they may also need the rabies vaccination when they are around 12 weeks of age.


Who can vaccinate my dog?


It is important to choose a vet and register your puppy with them before you bring them home. Then you can get your puppy booked in promptly for their second vaccinations. Make sure that you choose a vet that is registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Vets with the initials MRCVS or FRCVS after their name indicate that they are members of the RCVS and fully qualified. Ask for recommendations from family, friends and neighbours to help find a vet that you can trust.


When should I get my puppy vaccinated?


Puppies are usually safe from most diseases for a few weeks after birth due to the immunity passed onto them from their mother’s milk. As a general rule, puppies will need to get their first vaccination at around eight weeks, but they can be vaccinated as early as four to six weeks old.

They will then require a second course of injections two to four weeks after the first set. Always consult with your vet about the best timings for your puppy. Vets will need to see your puppy’s vaccination record, too — responsible dog breeders will give this to you when you pick up your pup. After the initial course of injections as puppies, regular annual boosters are required throughout their adult lives to protect them.


How often do I need to vaccinate my dog?


Every country has a different schedule for puppy vaccinations, and in the UK, vets will have a set timeline you should follow for your puppy.

You will need to take your dog for boosters every year or every three years, depending on the vaccine.

  • Kennel Cough and Leptospirosis need a yearly booster.
  • Distemper, Canine Hepatitis and Parvovirus need boosters every three years.

Booster frequency also depends on your dog’s overall health and how common diseases are where you live. If you miss your dog’s annual booster, talk to your vet as soon as possible. Some vaccinations may need to be restarted if boosters are left too long, which will ultimately cost more. 


How much do puppy vaccinations cost?


Prices for puppy vaccinations vary according to your vet, your location, and what vaccinations your puppy needs.

As a guide, initial dog vaccinations in the UK are usually between £40 and £70. The cost of annual dog booster vaccinations will be less than their first course of vaccinations. This is normally around £50.

Some vets may be able to offer boosters and other care such as worming or flea treatments at the same appointment, saving time and money. Ask your vet about health plans to help spread the cost of routine preventative care visits. Remember, vaccines are a lot cheaper than the cost of treating a sick puppy.


What is titre testing?


Titre testing is a set of blood tests your vet can carry out to check if your dog is immune to three key diseases:

  • Parvovirus
  • Canine Distemper
  • Hepatitis

The blood test will show if your dog carries antibodies to these diseases. Antibodies are produced when a virus triggers a response from the immune system. If your dog has adequate antibody levels in their blood, it shows that they have immunity against the bacteria or virus that causes a disease. If they do not have adequate levels of antibodies, your dog will need a booster vaccination.

Titre tests can be used to decide if an annual booster is needed. Talk to your vet about titre tests and whether they would recommend them for your dog. 


How long after vaccines can your dog go out?


You’ll need to keep your puppy indoors for around a fortnight until their vaccination course is complete. Your vet will be able to advise you on the exact timings according to your puppy and their vaccination schedule.

Don’t take them to any public areas or any gardens where an unvaccinated dog could have been. It’s still important to socialise your puppy with dogs and people. Lots of vets run puppy classes where your puppy can learn to socialise with minimal risk of exposure to disease.


Can I walk my dog after vaccination?


Until your puppy has completed their course of initial vaccinations, they could still be at risk of picking up harmful diseases. You will need to wait for about two weeks before taking your puppy for a walk in a public place.

This is to minimise the risk of exposing them to an infectious disease that they are not yet ready to deal with. Instead of walking your puppy, exercise your dog in your garden or go to places that are unlikely to have been visited by other dogs. Visit friends’ gardens, where your puppy can socialise with other dogs that have already been vaccinated.


Can my dog meet other dogs before vaccination?


Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, don’t let them come into contact with:

  • Unvaccinated dogs.
  • Dogs you don’t know — they may not be up to date with their vaccinations.
  • Areas near fresh water such as rivers and lakes.
  • Areas that are known to have rodents due to the increased risk of Leptospirosis.

But it’s still important to socialise your puppy during these first few weeks to help them feel comfortable in a range of settings. Take your puppy to different places in your arms or a carrier so that they can see new things and become familiar with new places. Let them travel in the car too, so they get used to the noises and motion. Visit friends’ houses and let them meet new people and dogs as long as their dog is fully vaccinated.


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