What you need to know about vaccinations and preventative healthcare for Puppies

6th March 2022

Bringing a puppy into your life is incredibly exciting and fun, but it can also be confusing for new pet parents when it comes to navigating your pup’s health needs. One of the most important things you need to do as a new pet parent is to make sure your puppy is protected from potentially life-threatening diseases and to ensure he grows up to be happy and healthy.  

If you have just picked up your first pup, or it’s been a long time since your last pup, you may be wondering about puppy vaccination schedules, what they need to be protected against, and how much it will cost. This guide will give you all the information you need to know about the preventative steps you can take to protect your puppy’s health.

Puppy vaccination schedule 

Before collecting your new puppy from the breeder or rescue, make sure you find out if any vaccinations have already been given. Many breeders and rescues will get the puppy’s first vaccinations done, as well as a health check and microchip before they come home with you. But this is not always the case so it’s best to check! 

Puppies are vaccinated between 6 and 12 weeks of age. The puppy vaccination schedule is made up of two injections given 2-4 weeks apart. You must remember that until your puppy has had both injections, he is not yet fully protected. If your puppy has already had one injection with the breeder or rescue, they will pass on the details to you so you can schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. You must complete the course within the correct time frame, otherwise you may need to start the course again to ensure your puppy is fully protected.  

As well as these initial puppy vaccinations, your dog will need a booster at 12 months of age, and then boosters every year throughout his life. Some vaccinations last for three years, whilst others only last one year. But don’t worry, your vet will go through this with you and tell you exactly what you need and when! 

Which vaccinations does a puppy need? 

Your puppy’s vaccinations are designed to protect them against some nasty infections, all of which are highly contagious and can cause severe life-threatening illnesses. 

When puppies are very young, they are still protected by their mother’s immunity, as it is passed on to them in milk. But once a puppy reaches about 6 weeks of age, this protection starts to wear off, so this is when vaccination is essential. Vaccination is key to not only protecting your precious pup but also preventing the further spread of disease to others.  

Puppy vaccinations protect against the following:  

Parvovirus  

Unfortunately, it is still relatively common to hear of parvo outbreaks in the UK. It is spread by direct contact with the faeces or saliva of an infected dog, or even on toys, bowls, shoes, and clothing. It causes severe bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and dehydration. Puppies affected by parvo need to be hospitalised at the veterinary clinic so they can be put on a drip, and given antibiotics and other drugs to make them more comfortable.  

Distemper  

Although rare in the UK, distemper is still about. It attacks both the respiratory and nervous systems causing sneezing, coughing, discharge from the nose and eyes, and then develops into a fever, weight loss, depression, vomiting, and diarrhoea. The pads on a dog’s feet often thicken, giving the infection its other name – ‘hard pad’. It is spread through contact with an infected animal, saliva, faeces, or urine, and also spreads on bowls and toys. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for distemper, and dogs who survive are often left with neurological symptoms such as epilepsy, limb paralysis, and muscle spasms.  

Canine Infectious Hepatitis  

Hepatitis affects the kidneys, liver, and lungs, and although symptoms are sometimes mild, it can also cause sudden death. It is spread just like the other viruses – through contact with an infected animal, its urine, faeces, or saliva. Symptoms can include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea. 

Leptospirosis  

Lepto is spread through direct contact with infected urine, or with contaminated water. It is actually mostly spread by rats, and there are several different strains of the bacteria. It causes severe liver and kidney damage, often leading to organ failure. Symptoms often include fever, lethargy, jaundice (yellow gums and whites of the eyes), inappetence, and diarrhoea. Treatment for lepto is usually supportive. Lepto is particularly dangerous as it is a ‘zoonotic’ disease, meaning it can spread to humans too through direct contact with infected urine. Care must be taken to wear disposable PPE (personal protective equipement) including disposable gloves and aprons, as well as ensuring thorough hand washing and disinfection of shoes when handling infected patients. 

Kennel Cough  

This vaccine is not part of the essential puppy vaccination package, but many pet parents will still choose to get it. Kennel Cough is a respiratory infection that can be caused by several different viruses and bacteria. It is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with infected dogs, and can even spread on toys and food bowls. Most dogs will have a mild cough and lethargy, but dogs with weak immune systems, puppies, and elderly dogs can be vulnerable to more severe illness. Your veterinarian will discuss  the pros and cons of this vaccine for your puppy with you. 

How much do puppy vaccinations cost?  

Puppy vaccination prices can vary between different clinics. But generally, the average cost of the full course of puppy vaccinations (two doses) is around £50 to £80. One dose of vaccine (if the breeder has paid for the first) is usually around £30 to £50.  

Socialising your puppy before and after vaccination 

Socialising is an incredibly important part of your puppy’s development, and that first walk is a big event for everyone involved! You’ll be keen to get your pup out and about as soon as you can, but lots of new pet parents ask how long after the second puppy vaccination can they go out? 

Your puppy needs to be fully covered by his vaccinations before they can go outside with other dogs. They have full protection 7 days after the second part of the vaccination, so this is when your pup is free to start socialising with others, going out for walks, and making friends! 

In between the first and second puppy vaccinations, your pup is not fully protected, and could still catch one of the infections the vaccines protect against. During this time, it is best to keep your puppy away from anywhere that other dogs walk or go to the toilet, such as grass areas or shared open spaces. Even if you only have a small outside space at home such as a balcony, it is safest to restrict your pup to this area until he is fully vaccinated.  

Other preventative health for puppies 

It’s not just viruses and bacteria that can make puppies poorly – there are a few creepy crawlies that can cause problems too! Regular, routine prevention of fleas and worms is essential throughout your dog’s life, as well as when they are growing up.

Puppies should receive a worming treatment fortnightly between the ages of 2 and 8 weeks, with one treatment being given just before you take your puppy home. Veterinarians will usually recommend a further worming treatment at around 10-12 weeks of age, which is often prescribed at the same time as their second vaccination.  

Fleas can jump onto your puppy at any age, and although not directly harmful, they can be rather itchy and uncomfortable! So you should also make sure that your puppy receives a suitable flea treatment, which you can purchase from the veterinary clinic. Most flea products require puppies to be a certain age or bodyweight before they are safe to use, so always check with your vet before treating your pup.

Conclusion 

There are lots of things to remember when it comes to taking care of your precious new puppy’s health and ensure your pup grows up to be as happy and healthy as they can possibly be! Always check with your breeder or rescue centre before bringing your new pup home, and make sure you are familiar with the vaccinations your pup needs. And remember that if you are feeling confused or overwhelmed by all the information, your veterinarian is always available. They can answer your questions and provide you with any information and support you need, and are there to help guide you through this exciting stage!