Jul 1, 2011 1:55 PM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP Animal Care Clinic, San Luis Obispo
Q: I have a 13 week puppy and was wondering if she is able to play at the dog park??? She has had some series of shots and we were told to wait until after she has her rabies shots? Is that true?
A: You absolutely should wait. The rabies vaccine is not the crucial thing for her protection (she is not very likely to run into a rabid wild animal at the dog park).
The big concern is parvovirus and distemper virus. At Animal Care Clinic we recommend waiting until 4-5 months of age when we are done with the DA2PP or DHLPP vaccines. Parvovirus is quite common in this area and it can kill dogs - it is also very expensive to treat in many cases. Poorly vaccinated dogs who are not sick can shed the virus, and it can live in the soil for long periods of time. If your puppy were to contact the virus in the park, he may become very ill.
Vaccines work best when they are given as a series of boosters. Think of the first one like your first day at school. You might hear a lot of new stuff, but you probably won't remember it well. The second and third shots are like refresher courses. Now you get to hear information repeated and you are far more likely to remember it. Your puppy's immune system needs the same refresher information. When your puppy is very young, she has antibodies against these diseases that she got from her mom. These antibodies protect her from getting sick, but they also make the vaccines ineffective (a lot like not going to class!). So, we need to make sure that she gets 2-3 vaccines after all of those maternal antibodies are gone - then she will have an effective immune system. If you vaccinate her every 3 weeks, you can feel safe that her immune system is well educated by 4.5-5 months of age.
Until then, exercise her in the yards of people who have no dogs or whose dogs are healthy and fully vaccinated.
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