If you’ve been in Weimaraners for any length of time, or even as a newcomer to the breed, you’ve probably heard that Weimaraners can be predisposed to vaccine reactions. Depending on where you have heard this information, you may be in a panic as to what vaccination protocol to follow, and I really can’t blame you! Your vet tells you one thing, your breeder another, your dog park friends recommend yet something else.
Unfortunately there is no right answer, only what is right for you and your Weim. Being confident in your decision on a vaccine protocol is not always easy, but a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.
First, it’s important to understand how vaccines work. A puppy is automatically protected by maternal antibodies after he nurses from mom. These antibodies “wear off” some time between 6 and 16 weeks of age, with the average from 10-14 weeks of age. If you vaccinate a puppy that still has maternal antibodies for that virus, the maternal antibodies will “block” the vaccine by fighting it, thereby not giving the vaccine a chance to work. Because we don’t know at what age any individual puppy loses its maternal antibodies, we give puppy vaccines on a schedule, repeating the vaccine several times between 6 and 18 weeks of age. We are trying to “catch” the earliest moment the maternal antibodies wear off.
Because this is an imprecise science, there can be gaps in your puppy’s protection. This is the reason some puppies that have been vaccinated can still contract the very diseases you thought you protected him from. For example, if a puppy’s maternal antibodies wear off at 9 weeks, and the pup was given a shot at 8 weeks and 12 weeks, the puppy’s 8 week shot was ineffective, and he was potentially in danger from 8 to 12 weeks.
The number of times you vaccinate your puppy is not important. It is the timing that is important! Further, the pup’s last vaccine is the most critical because about 95% of puppies at 12 weeks old have lost their maternal antibodies. If socialization weren’t an issue (and it is a BIG issue) and a puppy were never exposed to any diseases, the most effective way to vaccinate our dogs would be to give one parvo and distemper vaccine at 16-18 weeks or later. Of course it’s completely impractical to wait this long, but academically, this could give your Weimaraner lifetime protection, since it’s been demonstrated that vaccines can protect our dogs for 3-7 years (if given at the correct time) and it’s also probable that the vaccines last a lifetime (Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy).
After giving your puppy a shot, there will be an immune response to the vaccine, and especially 2 weeks after administration. This is why it’s important to space out vaccines by 3 to 4 weeks. Never give vaccines in 2 week (or more frequent) intervals. An immune system that is busy “doing its thing” after administration will have a difficult time handling yet another pathogen to fight. Remember, a vaccine is actually introducing a watered down version of the disease itself into the system to stimulate the creation of antibodies and memory of the disease so that it can fight it off the next time your Weim is exposed.
So with all this in mind, what should you do? I cannot answer that question for you, but you might want to consider the following:
- Your breeder’s guidelines. Your breeder may have specific guidelines, and in some cases not abiding by these guidelines may void your health guarantee.
- Weimaraner Club of America Protocol
- Jean Dodd’s 2016 Canine Vaccination Protocol
- American Animal Health Association Protocol – PDF
- “Considerations In Designing Effective And Safe Vaccination Programs For Dogs” – PDF – In: Recent Advances in Canine Infectious Diseases, Carmichael L.E. (Ed.) by R.D. Schultz, University of Wisconsin
- Your veterinarian’s guidelines. Please understand that veterinarians are generalists and usually not specialists in any one breed, and you cannot expect them to know every nuance of every breed, including the fact that Weimaraners can be predisposed to vaccine reactions. (In other words, you may need to educate them.)
In case you are wondering what I do, I give Merck Nobivac Puppy DPV at 8 and 12 weeks. Due to the newer Parvo 2c strain, I now also give a single Parvo shot at 18 weeks old. Rabies vaccinations should be given per your local ordinances, and it should be given at least 3 weeks after any other vaccine.
I also recommend titer testing. Titer testing measures antibodies and will tell you if your puppy is protected. The cost for this test can vary tremendously from vet clinic to vet clinic, but Jean Dodd’s titer tests at Hemopet run around $60 and any vet can send in the blood sample for analysis.