A guide to puppy vaccinations in New Zealand

Welcoming a new puppy to your whānau is an exciting time with lots of things to think about to give them the best possible start in life. One of the most important steps as a dog mum/dad is to help protect them from nasty diseases. We’re pretty lucky here in Aotearoa that we have relatively few dangerous parasites or diseases, but there’s still some lethal infections that are easy to prevent with puppy vaccinations.

A vaccine is a preparation that is used to ‘prime’ your puppy’s immune system against a specific infectious agent, like a virus or bacteria. When the immune system is already primed, it means that when your puppy comes in contact with the disease in the environment, their body is prepared to fight it so they’re far less likely to get sick or pass from the infection.

Diseases to put on your radar

Here there are five specific diseases we can protect against by vaccination:  

  • Canine Parvovirus (“Parvo”)
  • Canine Distemper Virus (“Distemper” or “Hard Pad”)
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis
  • Leptospirosis (“Lepto”)
  • Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (“Canine Cough”)

The vaccines available today cover all these important diseases. Some are considered ‘core’ vaccines and all dogs should receive them as a preventative measure. These are usually combined into a single injection. Others are ‘non-core’, meaning not all dogs need them depending on where or how they live. You can chat to your veterinarian about any risks that may be relevant to your current situation.

Why are repeat vaccinations so important?

Just like humans need to get regular yearly vaccinations, puppies will need repeat vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart, usually starting around 6-8 weeks of age and finishing at 14-16 weeks of age.

Puppies gain some natural short-term immunity from their mother’s milk in the first 24 hours after whelping. These maternal antibodies don’t last very long and can’t be topped up by just giving more milk. Once they run out there is no long-term effect or ‘memory’ from them in your puppy’s immune system. This is why vaccines are really important for your fur baby so they can create their own lasting immunity.

The problem is, we can’t tell when these maternally derived antibodies run out. In some cases, they’ll run out by 6 weeks of age, but most puppies will no longer have any left by 12 weeks of age. If the maternal antibodies are still in the body when a vaccine is given, they’ll interfere with the vaccine and stop your puppy’s immune system from responding to it properly. If they’ve run out already, then your puppy is at risk from contracting disease. This is why multiple vaccines are recommended to make sure your puppy does end up fully protected so they will be able to do the things they love like going to the park to see their fur mates.

After these puppy vaccinations, they’ll need a ‘booster’ of the core vaccines within their first year of life, usually around the 9-12 months mark. These usually then get repeated at 3 yearly intervals to maintain immunity.

Vaccination is the easiest way to protect your puppy and their whole canine community against these preventable infections for a happy and healthy life. For the diseases and accidents you can’t prevent, why not consider SPCA Pet Insurance and say Yes to lifetime cover for eligible injuries and illnesses.