Puppy Vaccination: Do you know the facts?

Have you ever wondered why dogs need to be vaccinated on an annual basis? Human vaccinations (most of them, anyway) are administered once in a lifetime, yet our dogs are given the so called “core” vaccinations year after year, after year! Mmm...makes me wonder?

Core vaccines (those that protect against canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV) and the variants of canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2).) ideally should not be given any more frequently than every three years after the 6 or 12 month booster injection following the puppy series.

Dog vaccination is an act of veterinary medicine that should be considered as individualised medicine, tailored for the needs of the individual pet, and delivered as part of a preventive medicine programme during an annual health check visit.

Puppies come to this world protected by the mother’s immunity make-up, scientifically referred to as “maternally derived antibodies”. These interfere with the efficacy of most current core vaccines administered to pups in early life. For this reason it is recommended (for puppies bred in a developed country with good breeding standards) that the final dose of multiple core vaccines is delivered at 16 weeks or older followed by a booster at 6 or 12 months of age.

Obviously if the anticipated lifestyle of that puppy indicates a higher than average risk of exposure because of the geographical location, local environment etc., then vaccination for some specific infections (e.g.Leptospirosis (Lepto), kennel cough, rabies etc.) should be additionally considered.

Vaccination vs. Socialisation

You might be asking yourself what happens in the meantime with the so much needed process of socialisation? The first 3 to around 12 weeks of age in our puppy’s life are crucial for an appropriate socialisation. But what if our puppy’s vaccination goes beyond that period? Does that mean that we should keep our puppy away from the world at large to prevent disease from happening?

Certainly not! Early socialization of puppies while diminishing the risk of infectious diseases is a MUST! Socialization is essential to the behavioural development of dogs. Allowing restricted exposure of your puppy to controlled areas and only to other puppies and adults that appear healthy and are fully vaccinated, is key for an appropriate socialisation (Stepita and others 2013).

Exercise caution while socializing your puppy/dog

I am NOT saying you should do with your yet unvaccinated puppy as you would do with a fully vaccinated dog, what I am saying is that you should provide lots of different experiences for your puppy BEFORE the vaccination course is finished. Focus on experiences that are LOWER RISK, for example:

  • Bring your puppy in your car. But be careful, don’t use the car only to go to the vet, or else your puppy will make a “bad” association with car journeys.
  • Carry your puppy OUT & ABOUT in your arms. This way she/he will be exposed to busy streets, traffic noise, lots of different people, including kids, etc., while avoiding direct contact with potential risk agents.
  • Visit friends and family with pets, provided they are fully vaccinated, well socialised and well behaved (I mean the pets! :)
  • Invite over friends and family with their pets.
  • Attend “Puppy Parties” classes at your vet, where your puppy can interact with other puppies not yet fully vaccinated in a safe and fun environment (make sure floors are cleaned and disinfected and that classes are held in an area not frequented by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status).


The intention of these recommendations are simply to ensure that as many puppies as possible are vaccinated at a time when they are capable of making a primary immune response. That is, when it MAKES SENSE! And also that socialisation is extremely important to get done during the first weeks of life of your puppy, even though she/he may not be fully vaccinated. But obviously do socialise your puppy, exercising plenty of caution and common sense!

Recommended further reading:

AVSAB Position Statement on Puppy Socialisation


Guidelines for the Vaccination of Dogs & Cats by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).


FRIEDRICH, K. & TRUYEN, U. (2000) Untersuchung der wirksamkeit von parvovirusimpfstoffen und der effektivaitat zweier impfschemata. Praktischer Tierarzt 81, 988-994

Small Animal Vaccination: A practical guide for vets in the UK by Michael J. Day. In Practice March 2017 | Volume 39 | 110-118


STEPITA, M. E., BAIN, M. J. & KASS, P. H. (2013) Frequency of CPV infection in vaccinated puppies that attended puppy socialization classes. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 49, 95-100


Korbelik et al. 2011, AVSAB 2008