Wyatt will be 4 months old on Sunday, January 8th. The breeder gave him his first set of shots at 8 weeks (he nursed a bit longer until 7 weeks, so she wanted to wait until the mother's milk antibodies were out of his system). I signed up for a puppy package with my vet, and they still insisted on administering three booster shots despite having received one already. So technically, he's received three sets of shots already. The breeder suggested that it is fine to take him out to after his second set of shots have kicked in. I've erred on the side of caution and kept him inside for the most part.

To socialize him I've invited tons of people over and when I have gone out with him, I've carried him. He's taken trips to my office to play with my boss's puppy and my mother's house to play with her dog. He has also been exposed to the vacuum, hairdryer, nail dremmel, bathtub, brush, tv, radio, phone, train behind our apartment complex, and garbage trucks. He received his second shot (technically third), at the vet's on December 26th, and will be getting his final shot on the 14th--which will include his rabies shot. The vet advised me to keep him inside, however, socializing him is extremely important to me. I suspect the vet is being overly cautious, and that Wyatt is pretty well protected at this point. Today, I took him to a local park and let him watch young children play and pet him. He saw geese, new faces, other dogs, and we worked on leash training a bit. He had such a blast, as did I. I would love to go again tomorrow, but I'm still conflicted about doing so before he's had all series of shots.

I would like some second opinions from fellow members on how you balanced socialization with the risks of outdoor diseases such as Parvo and Distemper. I'm also concerned that my vet may be over-vaccinating my pup. Thoughts?

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The vet is right in making sure they give 3 shots. The shot your breeder gave did nothing. It takes AT LEAST 2 weeks, but most vets recommend 3-4 weeks for antibodies to clear the system. If your breeder quit nursing at 7 weeks, giving a shot at 8 weeks did not give the immune system enough time to rid the antibodies from the mother's milk, so essentially the first shot was worthless. So in reality, while technically he has received 3 shots, his immune system has only received 2. I would be very careful about taking him out at this point because he only has the protection of 2 shots right now. If you are in an area where there is little to no parvo, then yeah maybe you can take him out and it will be ok, keep him on pavement and in areas where there aren't a lot of dogs, take him to puppy classes to socialize him with other vaccinated puppies, but I would probably not take him to dog parks or heavily visited areas or areas where there is a known parvo risk until the vet has given his 3 booster shot

I have to disagree a bit.   Immunity does not come from normal mother's milk.  It comes first from the placenta, and second from the colostrum--- the rich milk that the mom produces in the first day or so after the pups are whelped.  Normal milk from continued nursing is NOT a big source of antibodies.    They can nurse til they are six months old and not continue to receive antibodies:



 Dogs and cats, like many other mammals, pass the majority of the mother's antibodies to the newborn via colostrum. Defined as the first 36-48 hours of milk flow following birth, colostrum is a highly concentrated mixture of large protein antibody molecules, vitamins, electrolytes, and nutrients.

The puppy or kitten absorbs the colostral antibodies into its blood system through the intestine. The ability to absorb such large protein molecules unchanged across the intestinal wall is one of the peculiarities of newborns. As animals mature, they cannot absorb these large molecules and their digestive systems break down these large protein molecules into smaller pieces. Newborn puppies and kittens, through some process that we do not quite understand, are able to absorb the large antibodies unchanged. This is important because if the antibodies are broken down into small pieces, they lose their ability to destroy bacteria or viruses. Usually, before the puppy or kitten is one week of age, it loses this ability of absorption, and all large proteins are broken down. Therefore, even if the mother continued to produce colostral antibodies, they would be destroyed and not provide any protection to the newborn.

It is important that we now clarify one often-misunderstood point. As stated, colostrum with its antibody protection is only present in the first 36-48 hours of milk flow. Puppies and kittens can only gain immunity from colostrum if they nurse during that time frame, and they are less than two days old. After that, it makes no difference how much or how little they nurse, they will not receive any more antibodies


That said, there is no way of knowing for sure when the window of susceptibility is, as it's different for each pup and each litter.


The antibodies from the mother generally circulate in the newborn's blood for a number of weeks. There is a period of time from several days to several weeks in which the maternal antibodies are too low to provide protection against the disease, but too high to allow a vaccine to work. This period is called the window of susceptibility. This is the time when despite being vaccinated, a puppy or kitten can still contract the disease.

The length and timing of the window of susceptibility is different in every litter, and even between individuals in a litter. A study of a cross section of different puppies showed that the age at which they were able to respond to a vaccine and develop protection (become immunized) covered a wide period of time. At six weeks of age, 25% of the puppies could be immunized. At 9 weeks, 40% of the puppies were able to respond to the vaccine and were protected. The number increased to 60% by 16 weeks, and by 18 weeks, 95% of the puppies could be immunized."

I think there is not one correct answer to your question.   The socialization window corresponds with the vaccination period, meaning that you are always weighing one risk against another.   Our vet, our breeder, and another breeder with whom I consulted (after becoming confused by what I saw online) all recommended that it would be ok to start going out and about a week or so after the second set of shots.   Others are more cautious.  It depends in part on how prevalent parvo (in particular) is in your area, and what your other circumstances are.  Keep in mind you can carry parvo inside on your shoes, a bird or squirrel or feral cat can carry it on their feet into your own backyard, and so on. 

We took Jack to potty in our back yard and then we would put him in the car and take him places where other dogs might go, but were not quite so busy: a quiet part of a regular park, my mom's house, etc.   Jack had two sets of shots before we got him (I think it was at 6 and 9 weeks, but I'm not 100% sure).    At 10 weeks he was not really old enough to walk far, but we DID have him down on the grass in places where other dogs might have been.  Since we live near the woods and a busy park, and my yard is a highway for wild animals, there is really no way for me to avoid risk without using puppy pads instead of outside pottying, which I did not want to do.  

He had his final set at 14 weeks, then a 1 year booster.  I have since seen other protocols that say pups should have a final booster at 16 weeks.   I can't really say for sure since I have seen conflicting advice from reputable sources.

So I guess it depends on your comfort with risk and the frequency of Parvo outbreaks in your area.  In a high-risk area, I'd be more cautious. In a lower-risk area, I'd be more worried about incomplete socialization.  There is a big, big difference between looking down at strange dogs/surfaces/kids from above and actually going out in the world and meeting them from your own short little eye-level. 

I wanted to add that I just did some searching for news items on Parvo in my area, and the larger hospitals around here said they either had one or two cases a year, or 1 or 2 cases every 3 or 4 months.  

Regionally (but not locally) there was an outbreak of six dogs in one mobile home park.  

So I think I'm in a very low-risk area (at this time) and that's probably partly where the recommendations I received are coming from.

I think you are in California, and I think the risk is much higher there.

interesting about the mother's milk. I guess we never really talk about that when learning about vaccines and immunity because weaning age means close to nothing in regards to immunity. I did just look and see you are from Sacramento (me too!!) and must say DO NOT TAKE YOUR PUPPY OUT BEFORE IT IS FULLY VACCINATED!!! Parvo is incredibly rampant around here. I have worked at an emergency clinic in the Carmichel area and we had 1-2 cases of parvo A DAY. We had (and lost) several puppies to parvo who had two sets of vaccines. I have spoke to several vets in the area as well and they are recommending not 3 but 4 rounds of puppy vaccines. I had never heard of 4 rounds of vaccines before, but it seems to be quite common around Sacramento and I'm pretty sure its due to the fact that parvo is rampant. If it was my puppy I absolutely wouldn't risk it. Remember though, you can always do puppy kindergarten classes for socialization. 

Thank you Melissa and Beth for your thorough and helpful advice. Considering the severity of Parvo, I'll just keep him inside or carry him while out until he receives his final round of shots. Fortunately, when we were out today I didn't let him walk on the soil (pavement only), and I carried him the majority of the time. When I have taken him out, it's been in safe, clean indoor environments and he's only been around dogs who are up to date on vaccinations. I intend on taking him to puppy kindergarden either this month or next. 

If it's that bad there, then I wouldn't risk it either.   Just to be clear, it's not the number of shots per se, but whether or not a shot was given when maternal antibodies had weakened enough to allow it to take hold.   Pups just need ONE shot plus one year booster, but there is no way of knowing when the shot takes which is why they do the series.

Dr. Ian Dunbar says that with the newer vaccines, between 2% and 8% of puppies are not immune til after their 14 to 16 week shots.   He is in California too and does not recommend taking puppies out til after that last shot.  


Again, the advice varies widely by where you are;  if your pup has a 95% chance of being sufficiently protected and you are in an area where vets only see a few cases a year, the risk is low.  If your pup has 95% chance of being protected and chances are you'll be in places where dogs with Parvo have been, the risk is much higher.    All say that well-run puppy classes are safe.

This site has some good tips on how to socialize


If I lived in a high-risk area, I honestly would probably get an older puppy who was fully vaccinated because otherwise I could not safely go in even my own backyard.  Stray cats, foxes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and squirrels all make regular trips through my yard and across the street to a park heavily used by dogs.

The number of boosters really depends on the vaccine. For example, rabies vaccine requires no booster to reach adequate immunity while parvo requires 2-3. Also a live vs killed vaccine will alter how many booster shots needed. If you give a dog bordetella as a killed vaccine it must come in for an additional booster, where if you give it as a live vaccine a booster is not necessary. The way the immune system works a puppy is better protected with at least 2-3 shots with most vaccines, one to essentially "prime" the immune system (forming memory cells and antibodies), and the second to actually produce the protective antibodies. With the initial vaccine, the immune system’s b-cells are presented with an antigen it is unfamiliar with. Inactivated b-cells become active when presented with this antigen and produce memory cells and plasma cells. The plasma cells begin producing antibodies to help render the disease agent harmless. The plasma cells begin by producing immunoglobulin M (IgM)  which is a fairly non-specific antibody. These antibodies stay in the blood stream and are shorter-lived than the other antibodies. After a certain period of time (depends on the disease), the cells go through a “b-cell switch” and begin producing more specific antibodies such as IgG, IgA, and IgE. IgG is the most common antibody in the body and is longer lived. This whole processes takes about 2-3 weeks, at which point the antibody concentration in the blood begins to decrease.  At this point we booster the initial vaccine and the immune system has a secondary response. Since the memory b-cells have already seen the antigen in the vaccine the immune response is much quicker and the amount of antibodies made this time around are much higher. The amount of antibodies produced and how long these antibodies last in the system are very disease specific. Bordetella generally barely lasts 6 months while recent research is finding that distemper antibodies can last 7+ years.

From AVMA (https://ebusiness.avma.org/EBusiness50/files/productdownloads/vacci...):

Very youngpuppiesandkittensare highly susceptible to infectious diseases
because their immune systems are not fully mature. While nursing, their
mother’s milk contains antibodies (special proteins) that provide some
immunity to diseases; however, these maternal antibodies do not last long,and
there maybegaps in protection as the milk antibodies decrease and the
puppies’ or kittens’ immune system isn’t yet capable of fighting off
infection. In many instances, the first dose of a vaccine serves to prime the
pet’s immune system against the viru or bacteria while subsequent doses help
to further stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies needed to
protect a pet from specific diseases. To keep these gaps in protection as small
as possible and to provide optimal protection against disease in the first
few monthsof life,a series of vaccinations are scheduled, usually3-4
weeks apart.For most puppies and kittens, the final vaccination in the
series is administered at about 4 months of age; however, in some situations,a veterinarian may alter this schedule based on an individual animal’s risk factors. Remember that an
incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, making
puppies and kittens vulnerable to infection.

I think the doctors around here give 4 rounds of vaccines to make sure that the immune system has produced enough antibodies to protect against the disease. Mother's antibodies probably play a large role in whether or not 2-4 shots will accomplish this. I think in Sacramento since parvo is so prevalent the vets opt to give one more booster, whereas in San Francisco where I used to live vets generally give only 3. They have also produced a new parvo/distemper vaccine that supposedly you only need one vaccine and the pet is protected. I have not seen any (well only one) vets use this vaccine as they do not feel it provides adequate immunity.

I also have to note that this doesn't just go for puppies, adult dog's with unknown vaccine history are given AT LEAST 2 distemper/parvo shots. Generally 2 is considered enough as the vet can safely assume the pet has no residual antibodies in its system to diminish the immune response. 

Here in the shelter we test for blood titers. Until those show up we carry the pups. But this is an easily contaminated environment. Parvo can be a disease of opportunity (like polio), just waiting for a weakened immune system, or a too-young pup, or other compromised animal. In our situation, we really don't know a lot about our pups, so assuming immunity from nursing is not wise.

Have you considered having his blood tested for titers? If only to put your mind at rest?

I have considered a titer test for future vaccinations. I've been told by various reputable sources that having that test done can rule out unnecessary shots, thus preventing over-vaccination. 

Very true:)


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