The purpose of puppy vaccinations is to protect puppies against several severe infectious diseases that can be contracted in your area. Worrying about vaccinating your puppy is natural and normal, but there are good reasons for doing so.
Table of Contents
What will happen if I choose not to vaccinate?
If you do not vaccinate your puppy, he may catch one or more severe diseases, such as
- Canine distemper
- Canine hepatitis
and he may be permanently harmed or lose his life in the process.
You will also be unable to leave him in any reputable boarding kennels and may be excluded from many training classes if you cannot provide evidence of vaccination.
Are vaccinations harmful?
No vaccination is entirely ‘risk-free.’ There will always be rare instances when a puppy reacts badly to a vaccination. The point to consider is whether the risk of vaccination (which is very small indeed) is worth taking to avoid the risk of catching (and dying from) some very horrible diseases. Only you can make that choice, but at the time of writing, the risks involved in ‘not vaccinating’ would appear more significant than the risks of vaccinating.
Is there an alternative?
Once your dog has completed an initial course of vaccinations, it is possible to measure his immunity to certain diseases to avoid revaccinating yearly. This is done using an annual blood test or titer. Using titers can prevent over-vaccinating, though it will unlikely save you any money. Ask your vet for further information if you are interested in this option.
Some people are tempted to use homeopathic nosodes as an alternative to vaccines. Unfortunately, in a controlled clinical study by Larson and colleagues, homeopathic nosodes ultimately failed to protect any of the puppies in the study from parvovirus. You might, therefore, want to avoid this option.
To date, there is no valid evidence that homeopathic nosodes will protect your pet against any disease.
When should first vaccinations be given?
Puppies are given some immunity from their mothers via their mother’s milk, and until it wears off, this acquired immunity may actually interfere with the vaccine. Therefore, puppies should not be vaccinated too early. Seven to eight weeks is about the right age, but your vet will be able to guide you on this.
If you found this article helpful, you may enjoy ‘puppy exercise: how much is too much?‘ and the other puppy care articles on this website.