by Tracy Acosta
Reprinted with permission from “The Pet Doctor,” The Philadelphia Inquirer
One of the primary responsibilities of every new puppy and kitten owner is to ensure that the new pet is properly vaccinated against the viral diseases that are especially life-threatening to young animals. To confer the appropriate protection requires a series of vaccinations, not just one trip to the veterinarian.
The vaccination series should start at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Many people ask why start then, why not sooner or later? The reason is that up to 6 to 8 weeks old, the young animals are protected from the antibodies that they received through their mother’s colostrum and milk. After that, the protection begins to decline and the animals become susceptible to disease. Vaccinations begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Boosters are administered at three to four week intervals until the puppy or kitten has received a minimum of four sets of shots until it is at least 16 and preferably 18 weeks old. The series is required to reduce the chance of disease. This is because there can be a period when the protection from the mother, while declining, is still too high and interferes with the vaccination being effective. This period is referred to as the “window of susceptibility.” The exact time of this susceptibility varies from animal to animal. Therefore, by giving a series of vaccinations, we hope to lessen the chance of this occurring.
Besides the life-protecting vaccinations, your pet will receive at each visit a thorough physical examination. This is important so that the young animal is checked for any congenital or other physical abnormalities, such as cleft palates, umbilical or inguinal hernias. Immunization is the most generally applicable way of preventing viral diseases. In fact, the control of so many viral diseases of animals by immunization is probably the outstanding achievement of veterinary medicine in the 20th century.