Many people are purchasing and adopting new pets during the Covid crisis. So let’s review why puppies and kittens need vaccinations and deworming.
When young pets are born their immune system is not fully developed making them vulnerable to diseases (like parvovirus and distemper) that may be life-threatening for the newborn. Fortunately, mother nature has a way to protect the newborn through the mother’s milk. Usually, the mature mother has lots of protective antibodies called “maternal antibodies” in her milk that when consumed by the newborn provide protective antibodies against those deadly external viruses. This milk is called colostrum.
Not all colostrum is created equal. Some mother’s colostrum has lots of protective antibodies and some do not. You cannot tell the level of maternal antibodies by looking or tasting the colostrum, and it is unknown how long the maternal antibodies last in the newborn’s blood system. Scientists do know that by 8-20 weeks of age the maternal antibodies are gone in the newborn’s system. This is where vaccines come in.
Vaccines are laboratory-manufactured disease particles that trick the body into thinking it has the disease without actually giving it the disease. When exposed to the vaccine the young animal’s body manufactures its own protective antibodies to the specific vaccine. So if you give a young dog the parvo and distemper vaccine, then the puppy’s body will start to manufacture its own protective antibodies to parvo and distemper.
The vaccines will not work until the mother’s antibodies in the newborn are at a low level. Instead of sampling the young pet’s blood for antibody levels each week or waiting for the 20 week mark when we know there are no maternal antibodies, we start vaccinating at about 7-8 weeks of age. Veterinarians then vaccinate every 3-4 weeks until the pet is 16-20 weeks of age. We call it “boosters” because we are boosting the immune system from the previous vaccination. At the end of these first vaccination series we booster again a year from the last vaccine.
It is a very good idea to deworm the young pet at the same time they are going through their vaccination series. Two different broad-spectrum dewormers, 3-4 weeks apart, is best. If your young pet still has diarrhea or soft stool after deworming, provide a sample of the poop to your veterinarian for analysis.
Remember do not vaccinate your young pet yourself. There is too much room for error. Take your puppy or kitten to your veterinarian for the proper vaccination series, using the highest quality vaccines.