Puppy energy is infectious! Unfortunately, so are many diseases that they come in contact with during their daily activities. Protect your puppy by vaccinating them against the most common and dangerous viral and bacterial diseases. Since a puppy’s health can change quickly, we give them a series of three exams and vaccines over their most vulnerable months to ensure they grow up strong and healthy.
What happens during a puppy exam?
During the first part of your visit, one of our veterinary technicians will talk with you about your puppy: their eating and drinking, energy level, bowel and bladder habits, behaviour, and if you have noticed anything new or that you are concerned about. We use these questions to check for common symptoms or early warning signs that could indicate a health concern, as well as to help you think about any changes or questions you may have forgotten to mention. The veterinarian will then perform a gentle but thorough physical examination, using Fear Free techniques and treats to reduce your puppy’s stress and help them develop positive associations with vet visits. They will examine your puppy’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth and teeth, belly, skin and coat, limbs, and lymph nodes, and listen to their heart and lungs, checking for any subtle signs that could indicate a concern.
There is a lot to learn when you get a new puppy, so over the course of their three monthly puppy exam and vaccine appointments, we will also discuss topics like house and crate training; play biting; desensitizing them to having their mouth, paws and ears handled; deworming; heartworm and tick-borne disease protection; toxins and household risks; nutrition; puppy training and obedience classes; dog parks and safety; and pet insurance. At their last puppy exam and vaccine visit we will also start preparing for their spay or neuter surgery and discuss microchipping. Bring your questions!
Why does my puppy need so many vaccines?
Vaccines train your puppy's immune system to recognize dangerous viral and bacterial diseases, so that if they are exposed to one of these diseases their body already has antibodies to fight it. Puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk that protect them from diseases during their first few months. While they are present, these maternal antibodies can prevent a vaccine from being totally effective, but they also decrease over time, leaving puppies at risk for disease. Giving your puppy a series of vaccines as their maternal antibodies decline ensures that they are protected throughout this critical period and have full immunity once the series is complete.
What vaccines does my puppy need, and when?
- DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza): At 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks old
- Leptospirosis: At 12 weeks and 16 weeks old (optional but strongly recommended due to the high risk in our neighbourhood)
- Rabies: At 16 weeks old
Additional vaccines that are optional based on your puppy’s lifestyle include:
- Bordetella (kennel cough): At 12 weeks old if your puppy will be going to doggy daycare or boarding
- Lyme Disease: At 12 weeks and 16 weeks old if your puppy will spend a lot of time outdoors in tick-infested areas
All of these vaccines need to be “boosted” one year later (at 16 months old) to lock in your puppy's initial immunity. After that they can transition to an adult dog vaccination schedule, where some of these vaccines only need to be given every 3 years.
It’s important that your puppy gets each of their vaccines on time, since delays could increase their risk of disease, and some of these vaccines require a ‘booster’ within a specific time period to train your puppy's immune system to recognize the disease. If your puppy's vaccines are delayed, they may need another dose to ensure they are fully protected. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, keep them away from unvaccinated or sick dogs, and don’t go to the dog park or other areas with lots of dogs.
Are vaccines safe for my puppy?
While every pet is different and reactions or allergies to a vaccine can occur, these are rare and are usually mild, such as soreness at the injection site, lethargy, or loss of appetite for a day. The veterinarian will always discuss potential vaccine risks with you and instruct you on what to watch for. Overall, the diseases that vaccines protect your puppy against are much more dangerous:
- The DA2PP vaccine protects your puppy from a group of diseases that are common and highly contagious. Parvovirus and distemper in particular cause severe illness and are often fatal, even with intensive and expensive treatment.
- The rabies vaccine protects your dog against deadly rabies, which has been found in or near Toronto recently in bats, raccoons and skunks. The rabies vaccine is required by law, so keeping your dog up-to-date also protects them from strict public health quarantine laws if they have contact with a rabid bat or other animal.
- Leptospirosis is a deadly disease spread through wildlife urine that dogs can catch in their own backyard. It is optional but we strongly recommend it due to the high risk in our neighbourhood. The Leptospirosis vaccine is included in our Puppy Exam and Vaccine appointments at no extra charge.
Why does my puppy need an exam with each of their vaccines?
Vaccines train your puppy's immune system to recognize dangerous diseases, but if your puppy is unwell then getting vaccines at the same time could put too much of a burden on their immune system. Additionally, if your puppy's immune system is already fighting something, it may not be strong enough to create antibodies in response to the vaccine, which means the vaccine will not work. This is why veterinarians are only allowed to give vaccines after performing a physical exam to ensure your puppy is healthy on the day of vaccination.