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My puppy is 5 months old now and has just come home from the vet after being treated for parvo virus. It was really expensive. I can’t believe he got parvo. I got him at 8 weeks and the person said his vaccines were up to date and he seemed healthy. I never got any other vaccines for him. What is the normal puppy shot schedule that keeps them from getting sick?

I’m so glad your puppy recovered from parvo. It is a terrible virus that attacks the GI tract. Typically, puppies become septic from bacteria that are the normal inhabitants of their gut. This happens because the virus sloughs away the protective lining inside their intestines and the bacteria can then be absorbed directly into their blood stream causing disease. Death can and does happen around 50% of the time. You are right. Vaccine protocols are available for all puppies to prevent diseases like parvo from ever occurring. I’ll share with you the usual timeline in case you ever get another puppy and want to try to avoid parvo from occurring again.

Often a breeder will take their litter of puppies to their veterinarian at 6 weeks old for their first exam. They should be examined, wormed and given their first parvo/distemper combination vaccine. The process is repeated at 8 weeks again. Sometime in the following four weeks all of those puppies will find loving homes and new owners. The next part is up to the new owners and the breeder often will make a recommendation when the next set of vaccines should be given.

New owners need to have their puppies vaccinated at 12 weeks with their own veterinarian. At that first visit, the “Newbie Visit,” the puppy will have a fecal done to be sure all intestinal parasites have been taken care of by the breeder. They will be vaccinated and examined and weighed. Flea and tick medications will be started as well as heartworm preventative. These are continued each month for life and dispensed at each visit based on their ever-changing body weight. This is the best time for veterinarians to lay the foundation about feeding, training and routine puppy husbandry. I love those visits. We play a lot too.

Next visit is at 16 weeks. They get another distemper/parvo combination vaccine and review puppyhood. It is here that owners have changed. They are tired. They are cleaning up messes at an alarming rate in the house. They are finding half eaten shoes, furniture, walls, etc. Their blood shot eyes and chewed up arms say more than any words that come from their mouths. It is nice here to remind owners that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the more work they do now the better behaved their dog will be in the future. I call this the “Pep Talk Visit.”

Last visit is at 20 weeks. This is the “Graduation Visit.” They are 5 months old now and usually getting close to being their full size depending on the breed. At this visit they get their rabies vaccine, as required by law, and start any other vaccines they could need later in life like kennel cough, canine influenza and Lyme/lepto vaccines.

They are done visiting the vet for a while until they become old enough to be spayed or castrated. Now if they started a new vaccine they will need to booster that one in a month but if no vaccines were started, they are off for several months. This is a fun visit because owners are usually proud and triumphant because: 1. Their puppy is in pretty good shape as far as training goes and they have developed a nice schedule for everyone. 2. They are finally done seeing their veterinarian. I take no offense to this! I’ll get them back when their puppy gets into the garbage and eats an entire rotisserie chicken carcass in a few months. It’s inevitable.

So to review, that is a total of four distemper/parvo vaccines and one rabies vaccine by the time they are 5 months old. Then, if more vaccines are requested they can be finished by 6 months old. That should do it as far protecting a puppy from viruses like parvo and rabies. Now that your puppy has recovered, I would talk to your veterinarian about starting a schedule for moving forward to keep your puppy healthy and to prevent any other diseases from occurring. Good luck!