Puppy Vaccinations Schedule | Why do they matter?
Your puppy is your best four-legged friend in the world, and her health and well-being are primary concerns. You feed, walk, and care for your dog, and you want her to grow up and live the happiest life possible. The last thing you want for your pet is to see her fall ill and suffer. That’s why vaccinations are so vital to preventing deadly and unnecessary diseases. There is significant misinformation spread about pet vaccinations, and it’s easy to get confused and frustrated by mixed messages. Our guide will help you understand what vaccinations are and why they are so important to the health of your dog and your family.
Puppy vaccines & how they work
As with human vaccines, dog vaccinations are designed to prevent your dog from becoming sick. Vaccinations provide limited or permanent immunity from infectious and deadly diseases that can affect your dog’s quality of life, and your human family’s health as well.
Vaccines are effective because they contain infectious agents designed to mimic microorganisms that cause diseases. Once injected into the body, the agent stimulates the dog’s immune system. The puppy’s body sees the agent as a threat, attacks it, and then remembers it so it can fight the disease off in the future if exposed to it.
It can take around seven days for a puppy’s body to respond to a vaccine and develop immunity, and it is best to have your dog vaccinated when she is healthy. A sick puppy’s immune system is compromised and less effective in developing immunity to microorganisms. Vaccines are not cures for diseases, but a means to prevent them.
Once you have your puppy vaccinated, you will need to keep her vaccinations updated. That way, your puppy will remain healthy as she grows and develops into an adult. As such, you should take your puppy to a veterinarian for a yearly checkup and to begin and then retain a vaccination program. The types and number of vaccinations your dog will receive depends on the puppy’s age, habits, environment, medical background, and lifestyle.
Which vaccines does your puppy need?
Canine vaccines can be divided to two types: core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are critically important and every dog or cat must receive them, no matter their age, dog breed, medical history, or living environment. These mandatory vaccinations prevent your puppy from contracting infectious, life-threatening diseases. Here are the core vaccines your dog needs to stay healthy.
Puppy vaccination schedule in Australia
Canine distemper virus (CDV)
Canine distemper is a viral infection that is incurable and sometimes fatal, especially in cases affecting puppies and young dogs; nearly 50% of dogs with distemper will die from this virus. This devastating infection affects the central nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems, specifically impacting the brain, spinal cord, and respiratory tract.
CDV is an airborne virus transmitted easily through coughing or sneezing or the sharing of dishes and toys or other equipment. The virus is resistant to most cleaning products, so it can live in your home environment and potentially infect other pets in the future. When a dog becomes infected with Canine distemper, it sheds the virus for months. Puppies can acquire this disease passed on through the mother’s placenta.
These are the symptoms of the canine distemper virus:
- High fever
- Red eyes
- Watery discharge from eyes and nose
- Loss of appetite
- Progressive paralysis
- Brain damage
Vaccinating your puppy against CDV will prevent the virus for affecting your dog and spreading to other areas and animals. This condition is especially important for puppies living in rural areas where they may come in contact with infected wildlife.
Canine parvovirus (CPV-2)
The canine parvovirus is a tough microorganism that can survive for a year or more in its environment. Hospital grade disinfectants must be used to destroy the CPV-2 virus. This highly contagious virus is passed through contaminated soil or faeces. The virus can easily spread even without direct contact with a dog. Parvovirus is often spread in kennels, dog parks, and dog show events.
Although canine parvovirus can affect dogs of all ages, it is particularly dangerous for puppies. Almost half of all dogs who contract this virus are euthanized or die; with their developing immune systems, puppies are less likely to survive CPV-2.
The symptoms of canine parvovirus are as follows:
- High fever
- Excessive vomiting
- Severe abdominal and gastrointestinal pain
- Diarrhoea containing blood
Canine parvovirus carries a high mortality rate, and it is an agonising way for a dog to die. Vaccinations can prevent this tragedy from happening to your puppy.
Canine adenovirus (CAV)
Also known as infectious hepatitis, canine adenovirus is extremely contagious and is typically spread by direct contact with another dog through bodily fluids such as urine or nasal discharge, and faecal matter. Additionally, sharing items with an infected dog, such as toys, food and water bowls, crates, backyards, or being in contact with human clothes and boots can lead to the transmission of this virus.
Many adult dogs are able to recover from CAV, but they will still carry the virus for up to six months after being cured. CAV can be fatal in puppies, as, like other highly contagious viruses, the puppy’s immune system is not yet strong enough to fight it off.
These are the common symptoms associated with canine parvovirus:
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Excessive thirst
- Severe pain from an inflammation of the liver
- Abdominal pain and infection
Grown dogs who survive this illness do so through supportive veterinary care and the use of intravenous fluids. However, older dogs, dogs who are already struggling with medical issues, and puppies are more likely to die from this disease within 36 hours of contracting it. Vaccinations for CAV prevent your puppy from developing this terrible disease.
Non-core vaccines are vaccines required based on the manner and environment in which a dog lives. Geographic location and the dog’s lifestyle will also dictate which non-core vaccines are best for a puppy. Discuss your puppy’s living environment, neighbourhood surroundings, and any specific lifestyle habits with your veterinarian who can tell you which vaccines your dog needs. Here are the non-core vaccines most often given to puppies.
Parainfluenza virus (PI)
Highly contagious but non-life threatening, the parainfluenza virus is one of the two sources of a condition known as “kennel cough.” This respiratory virus is highly contagious and spreads easily between dogs who are in close proximity to each other, thus it’s common name of “kennel cough.” This virus can also impact unvaccinated dogs at shelters, dog parks, pet stores, canine day care facilities, and in breeders’ organisations.
While the parainfluenza virus is vaccine is not mandatory, life can be miserable for a puppy who hasn’t been vaccinated against this illness. Additionally, many facilities such as day care programs and boarding kennels will not accept a dog who has not been vaccinated against this virus.
Here are the symptoms associated with the parainfluenza virus:
- High fever
- Runny nose and watery eyes
- Dry, hacking cough
- Eye inflammation
- Loss of appetite
Because the Parainfluenza virus mutates, most veterinarians recommend that dogs be vaccinated with updated shots annually (boosters) to keep up with the changing virus strains.
Leptospira interrogans (LI)
Canine leptospirosis, or leptospira interrogans, is a bacteria that can be found in water and soil, often in warmer climates that are humid, rainy, and swampy; many veterinarians recommend this vaccination for dogs living in more tropical areas of Australia, such as North Queensland. Infection may occur when a dog drinks water contaminated with urine from infected animals such as mice, marsupials, and rats). Other common locations where dogs can become infected with this bacteria are through contact with infected dogs, farm animals, or wildlife; drinking from lakes, streams, or rivers; and roaming on rural properties where exposure to infected wildlife may occur.
To contract this bacteria, your puppy’s mucous membranes need to come in contact with infected urine. Additionally, dogs bitten by an infected animal, or dogs who eat from an infected animal carcass, may be exposed to leptospirosis. In rare circumstances, this bacteria can spread from a mother dog’s placenta to her puppies. Leptospirosis can be passed onto people, so avoid contact with dogs’ urine if possible.
The symptoms of leptospirosis are:
- Increased thirst
- Sudden fever
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle tenderness and sensitivity
- Change in amount and frequency of urination
- Yellowing, speckled gums
- Runny nose
Leptospirosis can be fatal, causing kidney failure and sometimes liver failure as well. Many unvaccinated dogs who contract this illness die within a few days.
Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb)
Bordetella bronchiseptica is better known as the other cause of “kennel cough.” Working in conjunction with parainfluenza virus, bordetella causes significant inflammation in a dog’s upper respiratory system. The result is a harsh cough that often ends with gagging and a dog’s exposure to other secondary infections. Exercise, excitement, or pulling on the leash tend to make this condition worse. Kennel cough itself is not fatal; however, it can lead to puppies developing bronchopneumonia, which may result in death.
Bordetella is highly contagious, and as a cause of kennel cough, it spreads quickly from dog to dog through air droplets, or contact with infected dogs or contaminated environments. This condition is very treatable, but for puppies with young immune systems, a more aggressive medical approach may be necessary to cure the condition.
Signs that your dog may have this infection include:
- Continuous hacking, honking coughs accompanied by gagging
- A reduced appetite
- Watery nasal discharge
Although most incidents of bordetella will resolve without treatment, vaccinating your puppy against bordetella means saving her the discomfort and pain of dealing with the symptoms of this illness.
The coronavirus is an extremely contagious virus that is the primary cause of diarrhoea in puppies. The virus invades the intestinal tract and is spread when it is shed in the faeces of infected dogs. The incubation period for the infection is anywhere from one to four days.
While adult dogs are often naturally immune from this virus, or when infected carry a mild form of it, puppies are a different story. Puppies younger than twelve weeks old with weakened immune systems can die from this disease. Most puppies recover after several days of diarrhoea and discomfort.
The symptoms of canine coronavirus are:
- Frequent diarrhoea
- Mild vomiting
Canine coronavirus can be prevented by vaccinations which protect your dog at any high-traffic facilities like kennels, grooming salons, and veterinary hospitals.
What are C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7
Often, veterinarians give vaccinations for certain viruses or diseases at the same time. It’s good for a puppy’s owner to know the abbreviations for those vaccinations and know why some are combined in assigned ways.
- C3 injections include all three core vaccines in one shot.
- C4 injections include all three C3 core vaccines plus the parainfluenza virus vaccine.
- C5 injections have the C3 core vaccines along with the parainfluenza virus and bordetella virus (“kennel cough”) vaccines.
- C6 vaccinations contain a C4 injection plus coronavirus and leptospirosis vaccines
- C7 vaccinations contain the C5 injection plus coronavirus and leptospirosis vaccines
Why vaccinate your puppy?
Vaccinations will protect your puppy from some of the most contagious, dangerous, and common diseases. While all dogs should follow a vaccination schedule, puppies require more frequent and timed vaccinations as their immune systems grow stronger.
Having your puppy vaccinated means that you’re preventing the spread of these viruses and diseases from your dog to someone else’s pet. Plus, puppy vaccinations are necessary for your dog to attend training classes, boarding kennels, and dog parks, places where puppies learn important skills involving socialisation.
Immunisation is not difficult at all. Your veterinarian can keep track of your puppy’s vaccinations for you and remind you when the next round is due.
When should you vaccinate your puppy?
Puppies should follow an immunisation schedule devised by a veterinarian and they should not receive vaccinations before they are six weeks old. Generally, puppies are placed on a vaccination schedule as follows:
- First vaccination is a C3 at 6 to 8 weeks
- Second vaccination is a C5 at 12 weeks
- Third vaccination is a C3 booster at 16 weeks
- First annual adult vaccination at 12 months
The adult vaccination cycle will pick up at this point. When your puppy grows up, she should have an annual Kennel Cough vaccination and a C3 vaccination every three years. Your veterinarian may recommend a C5 vaccination annually as well.
How much is it cost for Puppy Vaccinations
In Australia, vaccinations are reasonably priced, especially considering how much money they save you in veterinary bills incurred when your puppy contracts one of these diseases.
Puppy vaccinations for all three rounds of shots cost between $170 – $250. Adult dog vaccinations are approximately $90 annually
What are the side effects and adverse reactions to vaccines?
Some owners choose not to vaccinate their puppies because they believe the dog may suffer adverse reactions of dangerous side effects. While it is possible for puppies and dogs to react after a vaccination, it rarely results in damage or death. Most post-vaccination reactions are minor and typically occur within a few hours of the injection. Those reactions may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Breathing difficulties
- Sensitivity in the vaccinated area
Unusual reactions a puppy may have after a vaccination are haemolytic anemia and reproductive system issues. In rare cases, granulomas may form in the body. These kinds of reactions are unlikely to happen to your dog, and even if they do, these side effects are mild in comparison to potentially exposing your puppy to dangerous and deadly diseases.
Can you over-vaccinate your puppy?
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has determined through research that some pets may be getting vaccinated too frequently, and in many cases, the injections are not necessary. Today, more vaccines offer immunisation beyond twelve months which means they don’t have to be given annually. The AVA recommends that adult dogs be vaccinated every three years.
Some owners may worry that they are over-vaccinating their dog and impacting the effectiveness of vaccinations in dogs (which they’ve already received). In these cases, your vet may consider an antibody titre test, which determines if your dog’s immunisation is still active and sufficient. A small amount of your dog’s blood is drawn and then the antibodies in the blood are tested for canine hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus. The test results will show whether your dog needs to be re-vaccinated or if she is still protected.
Protect your puppy with vaccinations.
The best chance your puppy has to grow up with a healthy, functioning immune system is to choose to vaccinate her. Due to her developing immune system, your puppy is more susceptible to viruses and infectious diseases, but vaccinations and boosters can prevent her from suffering from these conditions, and may even save their life.
Puppies need socialisation with other dogs and people, but unvaccinated dogs are generally not allowed at dog parks, grooming facilities, training classes, or boarding kennels. Don’t limit your dog’s opportunities to mature, grow, and enjoy a happy life. Speak with your veterinarian about the best puppy vaccination timeline for your dog, and start protecting her today.