How Often Do Dogs Need the Parvo Vaccine?

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Canine parvovirus, or parvo, is a highly contagious disease that impacts the intestinal tract and stomach of dogs. Parvo virus generally infects the small intestine where it hampers absorption of nutrients, impedes the barriers of the intestine, and destroys cells. In puppies, parvo can cause severe damage to the immune system and heart and can result in death.

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Canine parvovirus is spread both directly by contact with another dog who is infected as well as by indirect contact with objects that have been contaminated with the virus such as shared water bowls, unwashed hands of humans, or toys.

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When do dogs get parvo shots?

So when do puppies get parvo shots? The exact timing of vaccination shots for parvo are best determined by your puppy's veterinarian as many vets have their own guidelines for the timing. However, the general rule of thumb is that a puppy should receive their first vaccination at just about 8 weeks.

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After that, your puppy will receive a booster vaccine every 3 to 4 weeks until they've reached either 3 or 4 total shots as determined by your vet. After age 1, your veterinarian will give your dog the parvo vaccine once every 3 years for the rest of their life. Adult dogs getting parvo virus is very rare because the vaccines they received as a puppy and young adult work very well to prevent this serious disease. It's important to note that while a stand-alone vaccine for parvo vaccine for dogs does exist, and may be your vet's choice, it's most often given in a combination vaccine that protects against other canine diseases as well.

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Why do puppies need a parvo vaccine series?

The reason puppies need a parvo vaccine series has to do with their immune system. Like most mammals, puppies are born with a certain amount of immunity to disease that's passed on by their mothers. These antibodies are also present in their mother's milk when they nurse. But as a puppy grows and is weaned, it begins developing an immune system of its own and these antibodies begin to disappear. While the maternal antibodies exist, they prevent the parvo vaccine from eliciting the immune response that is necessary to provide protection from parvovirus. However, when these antibodies disappear is a bit of a mystery and can differ substantially from puppy to puppy. Therefore, shots for parvo are given in a series with the aim that at least one will be given after the antibodies have disappeared but before there is an exposure to the virus.

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How is the vaccine for parvo given?

The parvo vaccine for dogs, like many vaccines, is given subcutaneously. That means underneath the puppy's skin. Your vet will gently pull your puppy's loose skin slightly away from the body and administer the shot there. There are also some parvo shots that are administered directly into a muscle. Most dogs don't seem to feel much more than an uncomfortable pinch that disappears quickly.

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What are the common side effects for the vaccine for parvo?

Most puppies won't experience much discomfort at all after their vaccination. However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 2 hours after vaccination, your puppy might experience some swelling at the injection site, mild fever, or a decrease in appetite.

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Some other common side effects could include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or hives. If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or are severe, contact your veterinarian immediately.

In summary

Your puppy will need to receive at least 3-4 doses of the parvo vaccine for the vaccine to be effective. This series of parvo vaccine for dogs will generally begin around 8 weeks of age and conclude around 4 months of age. After the initial parvo vaccine series, your vet will likely suggest a booster shot at 1 year of age and then every 3 years the rest of their life.

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