It’s important to note that your vet may recommend additional vaccines based on your geographic area. Some breeders may start the vaccine protocol earlier or later. Generally, the distemper is given in the form of 3 boosters spaced 4 weeks apart.
Your first vet visit
- Review your puppy/dog’s vaccine history and create a plan*. See sample vaccine schedule below.
- Bring stool sample to test for parasites. If you have a new puppy, the breeder should have given you a record showing that the puppies were wormed on a schedule but it’s best to be sure the puppy is parasite free.
- Get your puppy/dog microchipped if it was not already done and don’t forget to register the microchip. Many people forget to register the chip and it’s useless if it’s not registered to the chip company with your name and contact information. Simply having a chip does not make the dog traceable.
- Discuss Heartworm Preventatives: An oral tablet given monthly to prevent heartworm disease, a deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Although it is very common in the southern part of the U.S. more infections are being seen in the north so every dog should take heartworm preventatives.
- Discuss Flea/Tick Preventatives: Not all products are created equal so be sure to read the label. Some flea preventatives do not repel ticks and some only kill adult fleas but not the eggs. There are oral tablets OR topicals applied to the skin (some of these are not safe for cats who may come in contact with your dog). Some must be given monthly and some last longer. Some products work better in different regions of the country. Go over your options with your vet.
A note about puppy teeth: Retained puppy teeth is a common problem with toy breed puppies. All of the puppy teeth should fall out by the time the puppy reaches 6 months of age. Your vet should examine your puppy at 6 months to determine if all the teeth have fallen out. If not, they will need to be surgically removed to prevent serious problems with the adult teeth.
Sample Vaccine Schedule
- 8 weeks old: 5-way distemper vaccine* (canine distemper, canine hepatitis, adenovirus cough, parainfluenza, and parvovirus)
- 12 weeks old: 5-way distemper vaccine (canine distemper, canine hepatitis, adenovirus cough, parainfluenza, and parvovirus)
- 16 weeks old: 5-way distemper vaccine (canine distemper, canine hepatitis, adenovirus cough, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). If your 3rd distemper booster is timed for the 16th week or later, your dog will not require another booster for one year. If your breeder started vaccines earlier than 8 weeks, your dog may require a 4th booster.
- Anytime between 18 – 20 weeks old: Rabies vaccine
- 16 months old: 5-way distemper vaccine (This is the required 1-year booster)
- 17 months old: Rabies vaccine** (This is the required 1-year booster).
- Then, every three years, the 5-way distemper and Rabies** should be boostered. To avoid vaccine reaction, please give these shots separately, 2 to 4 weeks apart.
- Other recommended vaccines: I recommend giving Bordatella intranasal and Leptospirosis. Speak to your vet about the best time to begin giving these vaccines based on your environment and situation. Unlike the distemper and rabies vaccines which are good for 3 years after the initial series, Bordatella and Lepto need to be boostered annually for life.
Vaccine Reactions: What to Look For
It is normal for your dog to be sleepy for 12-24 hours after receiving a vaccination. However, diarrhea, vomiting or staggering are NOT normal and warrants an immediate visit to your emergency vet. Vaccine reactions can be lethal if not promptly treated. If the dog experiences facial swelling, give a small dose of benadryl before leaving. Call your vet for the appropriate dose for your dog’s weight. It’s always good to keep benadryl on hand and know the proper dose in case your dog experiences a bug bite which can lead to dangerous swelling (esp. if bite/sting is on the face/mouth).
*A note about puppies and multiple vaccines: Most vets automatically give the Distemper vaccine that includes Lepto (called the 6-way or 7-way) and clients must specifically request that the Distemper 5-way without Lepto be administered. You are increasing the likelihood of vaccine reactions in dogs, especially toy breed puppies, by giving multiple vaccines at one time. Vets should not charge a full exam fee for return visits to give vaccines separately unless the dog is returning with a health issue that requires an exam. If your vet refuses to space out your dog’s vaccines or charges you the full exam fee for simply administering an additional vaccine a few weeks later, FIND A NEW VET.
**Rabies laws are on the books everywhere: Check your local Rabies and licensing laws to make sure this schedule does not conflict with what your town, county or state might require. You may want to time the 1-year or 3-year Rabies boosters to coincide with licensing requirements. Some towns will not renew your dog license if the rabies vaccine expires before a certain date.