Puppy vaccination prevents potential fatal diseases

Having your puppy vaccinated can prevent him from contracting a potentially fatal illness. During the first few weeks of life, puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk. While this is a great start for their growing immune system, the immunity only lasts for a short time. By having your puppy vaccinated, you can prevent life-threatening viral and bacterial diseases. These include parvovirus, distemper and rabies.

Vaccines and immunity

“A vaccination works by training the animal’s immune system to recognise and fight certain diseases, by exposing them to the disease-causing organism, without actually giving them the disease,” explains Dr Jenna Nyce, a veterinarian at Ladybrand Animal Clinic. “The organism used in a vaccine is either live, but altered not to cause disease, or inactivated. Or parts of the organism, which the animal’s immune system can recognise, are used to create the vaccine. Once a vaccine enters the body, the animal’s immune system reacts as if it has detected a disease and it starts to produce antibodies. Antibodies are cells that recognise disease-causing organisms and signal other cells to fight the organisms. These antibodies are then stored in the body, so that, if the animal is exposed to the actual disease in the future, the antibodies can recognise and kill the organism before it can cause any harm.”

Immunity takes time to develop and your puppy requires several vaccines, over time, to provide protection. Dr Nyce says that the first vaccine dose produces antibodies that decrease quickly, and a memory of the disease is not retained for long. After a second dose, high levels of long-lasting antibodies are produced, providing protection for a longer period. Simply put, the first dose primes the immune system for immunity, and the second dose provides immunity.

Odd as it may sound, the maternal antibodies the puppy received in his mom’s milk are another reason why second and subsequent vaccines are necessary. “These antibodies prevent the puppy from sufficiently producing his own antibodies, making vaccines ineffective whilst pups have high levels of maternal antibodies,” explained Dr Nyce. “Unfortunately, the maternal antibody levels decrease at varying rates for individual puppies – anywhere from six to 16 weeks old. This means that, to ensure that all puppies are protected when the maternal antibodies begin to drop, they must be vaccinated multiple times between these ages.”

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