Most people know they need to vaccinate their puppies and that their veterinarians require booster vaccines, but do you know what vaccines do and why your vet requires booster vaccines? Do you know why puppies have a series of multiple vaccinations and that vaccines can fail?
Why is Socializing so Important?
We believe that one of the most important steps to dog training is to properly socialize your puppy at a young age. Making sure your puppy has enough positive experiences in and around many different environments is one way to ensure that they will grow up to be well-adjusted adult dogs. While there are some risks that we want you to be aware of with early socialization, the bottom line is that there are many more cases of dogs being sent to shelters and euthanized due to consequences from lack of proper socialization than there are of puppies getting diseases due to proper socialization.
How do Vaccines Work?
A vaccine is a substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases. Most contain a little bit of a disease germ that is weak or dead, which will not make your dog sick. Having just a little of these germs inside his body allows his immune system to build antibodies to fight off these kinds of germs. These antibodies will then help kill the germs that he may be exposed to later in life, which can lead to disease.
Even though puppies begin the vaccination process very early, some vaccines fail. Poor timing, faulty vaccines, and improper administration are a few reasons, but the most common failure is due to maternal antibodies. When your puppy is born his immune system can’t produce antibodies. He must drink his mother’s colostrum, or first milk, which is high in maternal antibodies that protect him from infectious diseases until his own immune system is capable of fighting off diseases on its own.
How does Immunity Develop Properly?
There are many factors that contribute to the amount of antibodies that are absorbed by your puppy. Some mothers produce more antibodies in their milk than others. Depending on when the mother was last vaccinated can determine how rich her milk is with antibodies. Also, some puppies are faster to nurse from their mother for the first time than others. Depending on how fast your pup is to drink his mother’s milk determines how much of the mother’s antibodies are absorbed into his blood stream.
Finally, while every puppy’s ability to absorb his mother’s antibodies decreases as time passes, some puppies’ stomach lining allows absorption of the antibodies to occur longer than others. After 18 hours your pup’s intestines can no longer absorb these antibodies at all. Delaying his first drink of milk even just 12 hours or reducing the amount of milk he drinks in the first 18hours could significantly decrease the amount of antibodies absorbed into his system.
All of these factors affect the amount of time until your puppy’s own immune system will become active and produce its own antibodies, but there is no way to tell how soon or late his immune system will start to respond. That is why at 8 weeks old your veterinarian will give him his first vaccinations. If he has a high amount of maternal antibodies they will interfere and his immune system will have no need to respond. However, if he has a low amount of maternal antibodies his immune system will start to build its own antibodies against the vaccine, beginning to protect him from disease.
Why are There Risks?
With all your veterinarian’s best efforts at timing vaccinations there is always a window of susceptibility because the number of antibodies produced by one vaccine is not enough to be considered protective. Your puppy will need to be given a booster vaccination between 2 to 4 weeks after his first shot. Usually at 12 weeks your veterinarian will do this. If your puppy’s own immune system had responded to the first vaccination, this second vaccination will boost the antibody production level high enough to protect him against the disease. However, if he had a high level of maternal antibodies it will be the first time his own immune system has the need to produce its own antibodies to the vaccine, which will not be enough to protect him if he should come in contact with the real disease.
At 16 weeks your veterinarian will give your puppy its last booster. This will complete the series and will ensure that he will become fully protected from the diseases. In the next few weeks his antibody production level will boost high enough to protect him from the diseases that he might encounter during his life.
What Do You Recommend?
It is critical to start your puppy’s vaccination series in a timely manner in order to begin safely socializing and training your puppy as soon as possible. We do suggest you start socializing in safe areas long before you finish your vaccine series. This will ensure that they will become happy and healthy dogs and be protected from diseases as they explore their world.
More information on safe socialization can be found here.