I just got a puppy and I cannot for the life of
me remember how often they need shots. He is
a Saint Bernard and is eight weeks old. He had his
First shot May 24, 2007. When do I give the next
shot, and how often after that?
As I have mentioned in previous articles, vaccination is a controversial topic in veterinary medicine. It’s almost impossible to get a group of vets to agree on just how often adult pets need shots. However, almost all of us agree that it is critical for puppies and kittens to get a series of at least three shots before they are 16 weeks old.
The most important vaccine for your dog’s health is a combination injection that protects against canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and usually several other diseases. It goes by a number of names, including DHPP, DA2PP, and “five way”. Puppies should get this vaccine every three to four weeks, starting at 6 – 8 weeks of age, and ending at 12 – 16 weeks of age. In your case, I’d recommend having your pet vaccinated immediately (or at least within the next week), and then following up with two more injections at monthly intervals.
The parvovirus and distemper virus components of the vaccine are the most important. Both of these diseases are present worldwide, are potentially fatal, and strike unvaccinated dogs frequently. The vaccine is extremely effective at preventing both diseases.
Kittens need vaccinations on roughly the same schedule as puppies.
The question of how often adult cats and dogs need vaccines is not possible to answer. The truth is, nobody knows. Among veterinarians, there is no consensus on the matter. Some vets recommend giving shots annually. Others, myself included, approach the matter on a case-by-case basis, tailoring vaccine protocols to each patient based on lifestyle, age, and health. Most of my adult patients end up getting shots every three years.
In addition to the DHPP/DA2PP/five way vaccine, your dog will need a rabies vaccine at an age (usually 16 weeks) that is determined by the laws in your area. Several other optional vaccines are available. They may or may not be appropriate for your dog. You should discuss them with your vet.