Vaccines and Immunity
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Almost half the puppies have been picked-up or delivered to their families and I find myself sitting here and getting increasingly worried. I have to drive tomorrow for the last four deliveries and I need to get some sleep but, I know it's not going to happen unless I sit down and make a quick post about what's on my mind.
While some of the new and proud owners of these pups may be savvy and knowledgeable about the subject of vaccinations and immunity, others are not, so please bear with me and allow me to give you a quick overview of this highly controversial subject. Hopefully, I'll be able to provide some of you a better understanding of it. This knowledge could prevent your pup from getting infected and it might protect him from the problems associated with over vaccination in the future.
Your pup has already had two rounds of vaccines before he went home with you. However, this does not mean that he is now immune from all diseases and that he is out of danger. Unfortunately, vaccines don't work that way. If they did, then ask yourself why would your vet recommend further vaccinations?
I'll try to make this short for the ones that don't have much time or patience to dedicate to extensive reading on this matter. If you want to get more details, we strongly encourage you to do more research and you can start here: Puppy Vaccines: Why Your Puppy Needs So Many Shots.
Your puppy receives his first defenses against disease through the colostrum (the substance that he gets from mom in the first few days after birth before her milk starts). The protection of the colostrum will last anywhere from 3 – 12 weeks. How well and how long will your puppy be protected depends on several factors:
1. The mother's genetic make-up. Eastern European bloodlines of German Shepherds are known to be hardy and usually have an overall stronger genetic make-up. They have been developed for hard work on the other side of the Iron Curtain in conditions that were often less than ideal. Natural selection has harshly shaped this line from which only the strongest of the strongest survived. As a result, despite all the horrible things that Communism has delivered to the world, it has produced a very strong dog with nerves of steel. This is what I hoped Dagny would bring to the table when I matched her with Hank.
2. The mother's immunity against diseases. We renewed Dagny's vaccinations a few weeks before she went into heat. Therefore, she had definitely developed herself the immunity needed for a strong colostrum. 3. The puppies' access to colostrum. For the first month of the pups' life I slept in their room every night and for the first two weeks I supervised every single feeding. I know, I am a maniac. Don't judge me but, if I worry, I can't sleep and oh, how I worried!
The first week was extremely rough and I was a walking zombie because I lost so much sleep. The puppies needed to be fed every two hours and I was there every time, making sure they all had enough colostrum and that none got left out.
I am writing this to let you know that your pups had the absolute best start possible but this does not mean that they are out of danger. Having mom's immunity may be a great thing however, we don't know when it will fade from their system. Until it does, none of the puppies can develop their own antibodies.
If Dagny's antibodies were still in your pup's system when we administered the two rounds of shots then, the immunity provided by her destroyed the disease antigen in the vaccine rendering it useless to the pup. Your vet will recommend repeated series of vaccinations not because he is trying to boost one shot with another but because he is looking for the moment when mom's antibodies will fade and your pup's antibodies will be ready to fight the antigen and prep themselves against that disease in the future.
It's like shooting in the dark knowing that between 3 and 12 weeks of age one of those shots will hit the target. This means that there might be a short window of time when your pup will not be protected. This will take place from when Dagny's antibodies wear off and your next scheduled shot.
High stress is known to strongly affect the immune system and leaving the litter is probably the most stressful situation your pup will experience. I know that you want to take your puppy everywhere and introduce him to all your friends and their pets but, be wise about it. Socialization at this age is extremely important however, you should do it with care.
Avoid places with a lot of dog traffic like dog parks (or any kind of park where people walk their dogs), pet stores or the grassy patches at gas stations. If you must stop your car to let your puppy potty, do it in a spot where no other dog owner would. Take your dog out in your own yard or take him to visit friends who have healthy, vaccinated pets.
Your shoes are probably the greatest carriers of pathogens so be mindful about where they've been and, if needed, leave them outside or throw them in the washer.
The vet is the most dangerous place where you will take your dog. Carry your dog from the car to the exam table and do not let him touch, smell or lick anything. Leave your shoes out when you get home and throw them in the washer the first chance you get. Too paranoid? Maybe but, prevention is better than the cure.
Keep in mind that it takes the immune system 1-2 weeks to build up antibodies after an effective vaccine. Be mindful, be careful and hold off on some activities that will require you to expose your pup too much. Before too long you'll be able to do all the fun things you have planned with him.
For now, introduce him only to places you consider to be safe. He has not seen the world at all and he'll be mind blown by every new thing you show him no matter how mundane it is to you. Stay safe and have fun.