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Vaccination Guide for Puppies

Vaccination Guide for Dogs

When it comes to safeguarding the health and happiness of your hound, vaccinations are a matter of great importance. Vaccination is a ‘strength in numbers’ thing. If most dogs are vaccinated within a given area, the risk of spreading potentially fatal diseases is reduced: simple. Widespread vaccinations can even protect pooches that haven’t been vaccinated (mind you, this isn’t a green card to opt out). Vaccinations, therefore, aren’t only vital to the overall wellbeing of your dog, but they help to keep the entire doggy population in the UK healthy. Thanks to many owners acknowledging this responsibility, current infection rates of nasty diseases are pretty low. But this can fluctuate. So it’s essential owners continue vaccinating their pets – it’s one of the most conscientious things you can do, seriously. If you’re a new puppy owner, and a little overwhelmed by the masses of information you need to process, here’s everything you need to know about vaccinating your furry-friend.

What is a vaccine and how do they work?

Vaccines contain small amounts of live or dead organisms, which trigger your dog’s immune system to produce antibodies against the disease. As a result, his body will release the correct disease-fighting antibodies when he comes into contact with a potentially life-threatening disease. Pretty nifty, eh?

Why should I vaccinate my puppy?

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for many of the deadly doggy diseases. Even so-called ‘treatments’ used to manage such conditions offer limited help. Vaccinations are the only recognised means of protecting your hounds from specific diseases. It’s a practical preventative measure that will lay a strong foundation for puppy to grow into a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed adult.

When does my puppy need vaccinations?

Once you’ve got the inevitable cooing and snuggling out the way, you need to think about vaccinating your pup. Technically, you can vaccinate dogs at any age, but it’s particularly essential for young puppies. As a pup grows into an adult, his immune system and physical strength will develop in tandem, meaning he’s got more chance at fighting off any transmissible conditions he encounters. Usually, vets will vaccinate puppies at eight and ten weeks, giving a second dose a couple of weeks later. After this, your puppy will need a booster vaccination at six or twelve months of age.

How long are vaccinations effective for?

While the duration of immunity can vary between individual dogs, research has shown that vaccine-induced immunity to canine distemper, canine parvovirus and infectious canine hepatitis typically lasts up to four years – some findings suggest it could even be longer. Don’t worry though – it’s not entirely down to you to keep tabs on your dog’s vaccination history; your vet should notify you when he needs a booster.

What core vaccinations does puppy need?

Regardless of circumstance, all pups need the entire ‘core’ vaccinations listed below. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that age, travel plans and regional location can also determine what ‘non-core’ vaccinations your dog may also need. Consult your local vet to discuss your pooch’s individual needs.


Distemper is an especially unforgiving doggy disease that takes no prisoners – in many cases it proves to be fatal. It triggers uncontrollable muscle contractions, fits, and muscular weakness. Often, it permanently damages a dog’s nervous system and senses: their eyesight, hearing and sense of smell are all negatively affected. The condition can also spark sickness and diarrhoea, as well as discharge from the nose and eyes. Other unpleasant symptoms include difficulty breathing, weight loss, lack of appetite, coughing, and increased body temperature.

Canine hepatitis virus – (Adenovirus)

Typically found in young, unvaccinated pups, this condition has life-threating implications.  In many cases, it causes coughing, appetite loss, discharge from the nose and eyes, serious kidney or liver disease, and a change in urination and drinking behaviour. Exposure to the urine of infected dogs can spread canine hepatitis.

Parvovirus (Parvo)

Though it can affect older dogs, this agonising condition usually targets puppies of up to six months old. The symptoms include blood stained diarrhoea, severe vomiting, fever, and death from heart failure. Generally, this disease is transmitted through direct contact with other contaminated dogs and their owners.


This bacterial disease unleashes a torrent of unpleasantness: nausea, loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes, and a high temperature. Leptospirosis can also lead to kidney damage, liver disease, increased urination and diarrhoea. The fate of contaminated dogs can go one of two ways: they either die quickly, or they die much later from kidney failure. Generally, vermin or contaminated water spread this infection.

Canine parainfluenza (a.k.a. “Kennel Cough”)

This viral infection has a range of hallmark symptoms including sneezing, a persistent dry cough, conjunctivitis, and a fever. Dogs can contract this disease in various ways: by means of airborne particles from sneezing and coughing, and through contact with affected dogs and their bedding, bowls and kennels. Canine parainfluenza isn’t always vaccinated against as standard, but your vet can administer it at your request.

Are vaccinations safe?

Vaccinations guidelines are an ever-growing field of meticulous research and scientific development. All vaccinations authorised in the UK have met the efficacy, safety, and quality standards as set by the independent veterinary regulator.

Do vaccinations carry harmful side effects?

As with humans, a small number of puppies may have a bad reaction to certain components in vaccines. But severe responses are exceptionally rare and shouldn’t be used as a reason not to get your pet vaccinated. More commonly, some dogs will develop a minor sensitivity or rash near the injection site, and many will be subdued and drowsy following the vaccination. Reassuringly, these reactions are normal and will usually resolve without the need for intervention. Again, this isn’t an excuse to avoid vaccines. Top tip: ensure puppy is in optimal health before getting him vaccinated to avoid any unwanted side effects.

Bottom line

Doggy diseases can be desperately painful, incurable and, in many unfortunate cases, prove fatal. Thankfully, we live in an age where advancements in veterinary medicine can prevent this. It is, however, up to you to be a responsible owner and put your pooch through a vaccination programme. Remember, the more dogs vaccinated in any given area, the more likely your furry friend will remain infection-free. By vaccinating your pup when he needs to, as well as keeping his booster shots up-to-date, you will be setting him up for long, fruitful and healthy life. It’s one of the best things you can do as an owner, paws-down.



  1. Vaccines for dogs & cats; advice for owners. Available online:

  2. Pets 4 Home. Puppy Vaccinations - How, When And Why. Available online:

  3. RSPCA. Puppy vaccinations – what you need to know. Available online:

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