Has Your Holiday Puppy Had His Shots?

If you received a puppy for Christmas, don't forget that you have to give him his present now – a full series of vaccinations. Puppies that are 4 to 5 months old need their vaccinations to protect them against many infectious diseases. (It's better to adopt puppies that are 8 to 10 weeks old, because they should have had these shots and are generally better socialized by then.)

All puppies need shots. There are several infectious diseases that your unvaccinated puppy can get, the most common being "Parvovirus." This is a very contagious disease that causes life-threatening vomiting and diarrhea. Vaccination can prevent this deadly disease.

Even if you're adopting a dog and think he's probably had his shots, play it safe and have him vaccinated again. It's better to give an extra vaccine than none at all. Booster shots should be given every 3 to 4 weeks until puppies are 4 to 5 months old. Vaccinations of adult dogs should be discussed with your veterinarian during their annual physical exams. Here is a guide to the diseases to vaccinate your pup against:


Distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous system of dogs. Distemper does not cause "bad temper." It is a serious illness that is almost always fatal.


Hepatitis is an infectious disease that affects the liver and eyes and may cause reproductive problems. Canine hepatitis is not contagious to people.


This is an infectious disease that causes severe liver and kidney damage. It may also affect humans.


This is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can spread quickly from dog to dog.


One of the most serious contagious diseases for puppies, this virus causes severe vomiting and diarrhea while suppressing the immune system. It can be fatal even if treated. After the initial vaccination series, a blood test can be done to ensure adequate protection. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and pit bulls seem to be more susceptible than other breeds.


Rabies is a serious public health concern because the virus is carried by mammals including raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs and cats and can be transmitted to humans. The virus is spread through wounds, via the saliva of a rabid animal, and causes symptoms such as: overly vicious or timid behavior, lack of coordination and difficulty swallowing. Once these symptoms appear, the disease is fatal. While there is an effective post-exposure treatment for humans, there is none for animals.

An unvaccinated dog that is exposed to rabies must be destroyed or quarantined for 6 months under strict guidelines. A vaccinated dog is well protected from contracting rabies but should be quarantined for a period of time if exposed to rabies. Most states require rabies immunization in dogs and cats.