First of all: Puppies should definitely receive a basic immunization. After that, there are various vaccinations for the dog that can also be useful - and which you can usually do without. If in doubt, ask your veterinarian for his opinion.
Distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus: These vaccinations are useful for dogs
At the age of 8 to 10 weeks, puppies should be primed. Vaccinations against:
These vaccinations for dogs are usually administered as a combination preparation and are noted with the abbreviation "SHP" in the vaccination card. This means that your four-legged friend has been vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus for several years after the end of the basic immunization. In order for this to work, the SHP vaccination needs to be refreshed three more times.
The first refreshment takes place around the 12th week of life, the second refresher in the 16th week of life. In total, your young dog will receive three injections every three to four weeks in the first few weeks of life, then he will be protected against the diseases for the time being. The basic vaccination is only properly completed with the third refresher at the age of 15 months.
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Why vaccinations are important in puppy age
In the first weeks of life, puppies are usually protected against diseases from the antibodies that they received from their mother. However, it cannot be clearly determined how good innate immune protection is. Some puppies get a lot of antibodies and have a robust immune system by nature, others are more susceptible to diseases. Between the 8th and the 16th week of life, the so-called maternal antibodies lose their effect, so an additional vaccination to protect against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus makes sense.
The problem with this: The SHP vaccinations consist of harmless live vaccines. The maternal antibodies do not know this and fight the vaccines like real pathogens. The more maternal antibodies a puppy has, the worse it is to build up its own vaccination protection before the 16th week of life.
Only when the mother's antibodies lose their effectiveness can the vaccine stimulate the body's immune system to produce its own antibodies. So that puppies are completely protected against the pathogen, they have to be vaccinated three times for safety. It is of secondary importance whether it is the maternal antibodies or the vaccine-related antibodies that ward off the distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus pathogens.
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How often do dog vaccinations need to be refreshed?
After the basic vaccination, it may make sense to refresh the SHP vaccinations for the dog. How often the refreshment has to be done is controversial among experts. Some veterinarians believe that vaccination needs to be renewed every year to ensure safe protection. However, this is now considered outdated.
This recommendation dates from a time when vaccines against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus were used. Vaccination protection actually wears off after around a year. Nowadays it is enough to have your dog vaccinated again about every three years. Some veterinarians even believe that basic immunization is sufficient. If this is too risky for you, it is better to keep the three-year interval.
Does your dog need a rabies vaccination?
Vaccination against rabies is a special case. In Germany, the bad disease has been eradicated since 2008. However, if you are planning a vacation with your dog, for example, you should find out about the laws in your country of travel. Because some states require a valid rabies vaccination protection for entry.
A low residual risk for dogs to become infected with rabies in Germany is that of dogs imported from abroad where the disease has not yet been eradicated. This applies, for example, to many countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and parts of South America. If you choose to have a rabies vaccination, make sure that the vaccine remains effective for three years.
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Vaccinations for dogs against kennel cough: does it work?
There are other vaccinations for the dog that are controversial, and ideally you'd better clarify with your veterinarian whether your four-legged friend would benefit. This includes immunization against kennel cough. The disease is similar to a cold and can be triggered by many different pathogens. Therefore, it is currently not possible to safely protect against kennel cough by vaccination. In addition, kennel cough can be treated and cured well.
However, in special cases it can make sense to vaccinate your dog against it. For example, if he is generally weakened by a chronic illness or old age and an infection with kennel cough would be dangerous for him. Then vaccination can at least reduce the risk of infection.
Discuss leptospirosis vaccination for dogs with the veterinarian
The substance of the leptospirosis vaccination is made from whole bacteria. Therefore, the risk of side effects with this vaccination is considered to be quite high. Caution is advisable, especially for small dog breeds. In addition, there are many different types of bacteria called leptospiras and modern substances only protect against about four of them.
Nevertheless, leptospirosis vaccination cannot be categorically discouraged. If your dog plays a lot outdoors in stagnant water or can come into contact with the urine of mice and rats in the garden, he is at risk of infection. You can at least increase the protection against leptospirosis with a vaccination, although not completely prevent your dog from becoming infected.