If I vaccinate your puppy or kitten today, he isn’t necessarily protected against disease today. Let’s look at the several factors involved.
In the youngest kittens and puppies we are battling nature in the form of maternal antibodies. “Maternal,” means from the mother and “antibodies,” are proteins made by the immune system which help to protect the baby from disease. Youngsters are unable to make their own protection, so the mother’s immunity is protection neonates receive as they share circulation with Mom.
That’s good if your newly-arrived four-legged baby is exposed to a disease, but it works against us when we are trying to stimulate immunity in a pup or kitten. Maternal antibodies can’t tell the difference between our vaccines and natural disease organisms. So, as long as the antibodies are present, they continue to zap our vaccines.
That is why we administer vaccines on a three-week interval through 16 to 20 weeks of age. Immune system proteins don’t last forever. There is a natural decline over time. Without expensive testing, we don’t know exactly when maternal antibodies are gone in every individual. Therefore, it is more cost effective to vaccinate repeatedly than to test repeatedly.
In addition, puppies and kittens are maturing at an incredible rate. By the time a puppy is three months old he has already experienced as much development as a two-year-old child. Just as human babies are subject to maturation abnormalities, so are kittens and puppies. Therefore, repeated visits allow repeated examinations to ensure that we know right away if all of the parts are not developing as they should.
Always remember, “The physical examination is the most important part of a pet’s visit.”
That said, it is crucial that you stay on schedule with the baby’s vaccinations. Failure to do so leaves him susceptible to infectious disease such as distemper, parvovirus and others. Whether your pet’s doctor has your new family member on a 2-week, 3-week or 4-week interval for vaccinations, stay on schedule.
You should not allow your new puppy or kitten to interact with other animals until three weeks after the vaccination series is finished. That three weeks allows the immune system time to fully respond to the last vaccine in the series and develop good protection.
Thereafter the next vaccinations will usually occur six or twelve months later.