Getting a puppy is an exciting time, however it can also be an anxious time full of important questions, from which diet is best for puppies to what vaccinations they require.

We asked holistic vet Dr Nick Thompson, MRCVS, to share his advice and recommendations. 

What vaccination does my puppy need in the UK?

There is a lot of information here, but it is important. New puppy owners should check the guidelines for vaccinations, which can be easily found on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) website. The WSAVA is an independent body and and in 2017, they produced a definitive set of new guidelines for new puppy owners.  

Which shots does my puppy need?

Under current WSAVA guidance, every animal should be vaccinated with the core vaccines for PHD:

  • Parvo 
  • Hepatitis 
  • Distemper

There are also non-core vaccines available for Leptospirosis (Lepto) and Kennel Cough, however these should only be given when necessary. For example, if your puppy is likely to be living a town-based life away from brackish water and paddling through ditches, then it is unlikely that your dog would require the Lepto vaccine.

When should I vaccinate my puppy?

Vaccination schedule - what age is best to vaccinate puppies?

The WSAVA recommend that a puppy receives their final injection in their primary course of vaccines when they are 16 weeks old. The vaccine is then much more likely to flourish in your puppy’s system, as the antibodies passed on by their mother have dissipated enough not to attack the vaccine.

A single vaccination given for PHD, at or beyond 16 weeks, can last a lifetime.

However, all dogs should receive a first booster for the core PHD vaccine 12-months after completion of their primary vaccination course. The 12-month booster will ensure immunity for dogs who may not have responded to their puppy vaccinations.  

The WSAVA state that the PHD vaccine should not be given any more frequently than every three years after your pup’s first 12-month booster injection. 

What if the breeder has vaccinated my pup beforehand?

Sometimes your breeder will have vaccinated your pup at 8 weeks of age. When you take the pup to your own vet, they may tell you that it is a different vaccine and that they will need to restart the course of vaccines. 

The WSAVA have confirmed that they think this practise is unjustified so make sure to discuss your options with your vet and, if in doubt, ask your vet to perform a titre test to discover the exact immunological status of your puppy.

Titre testing your puppy

A titre test is a blood test that your vet can perform to test antibody performance, however it is worth having a discussion with them as to whether they have an in-house titre testing kit or whether they would send away the blood for testing in an external lab. All vets can access a titre test kit from their usual suppliers.

In order to find out exactly when your dog might need a top up of the PHD vaccine, you can titre test every 1-3 years to see how strong their antibody reaction is to various diseases.

98% of core puppy vaccines given at 16 weeks of age will provide immunity against PHD for many years, possibly even for your dog’s entire life, but annual titre testing will give you confidence in their immunity.


Interested to learn more from Dr Nick?

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January 18, 2024 — Clementina Davies