This article covers one of our most received questions surrounding puppy vaccinations, and that’s whether or not an unvaccinated or partially vaccinated pup can play with vaccinated adult dogs.
In short, as long as the other dog is vaccinated and healthy, then it is extremely unlikely that they will pass anything on to an unvaccinated puppy. So yes, they can be around them. However, If the other dog is unvaccinated themselves then an unvaccinated puppy should not be around them.
Puppies, vaccines & protection
As pups usually come from the breeder without having had their full vaccine course, it is our job to keep them protected until the course is complete and they have built a solid immunity.
Puppies that have been nursed by their mother dog will have some degree of protection as her antibodies will have been passed on in her milk.
However, as a pup stops nursing, these maternal antibody numbers quickly dwindle. At around 6 to 8 weeks of age when antibody levels dip, it is important we vaccinate our puppies.
The vaccine course takes several weeks to complete as it will consist of two or three vaccinations. After their final vaccine, it is usually advised that we wait one to two weeks before assuming our pups have developed their full immunity. During this time, we need to exercise caution when outdoors and around other dogs.
Related article: What vaccines do puppies need at what age: Full list
Can my puppy be around or play with vaccinated dogs?
When an adult dog is vaccinated and not showing any signs of disease, they are not likely to make your puppy unwell. In fact, it is a great idea to let them socialize together so that your new pet can learn “doggy manners” and canine body language. It is only in the first 16 weeks or so that puppies can learn how to socialize and, after this period, pups find it hard to learn.
Though we can help to socialize our dogs by playing with them and bringing them to new places, there is nothing quite like the interaction they get with another dog.
Try to make sure you introduce them to sensible and friendly dogs, who can teach them how to behave. Interactions with nervous or aggressive dogs will do more harm than good. Organizing play dates with some well-behaved pets in a local park is a great idea.
While a dog may be fully vaccinated, it’s best to stay away if they show signs of being unwell. Even vaccinated dogs have a small risk of developing an infectious disease such as Leptospirosis. It is also possible that they have a parasitic infestation or a bacterial infection that we do not vaccinate against, such as Salmonellosis.
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Can vaccinated dogs give Parvo (or other diseases) to unvaccinated or partially vaccinated puppies?
It is only natural to worry about what disease our pups may get from other dogs, whether they are vaccinated or not. We tend to worry most about Parvovirus as it is so prevalent and can have a high mortality rate in puppies. Up to 30% of those who develop Parvo will pass away, even with veterinary treatment.
Parvovirus is spread via the fecal-oral route, which means it is shed in the stool and then ingested. So, an infected dog may pass stool that contains the virus. If another dog sniffs around their butt or eats the grass near where they passed stool, they can become unwell. The risk to vaccinated dogs is minuscule and it tends to be young, unvaccinated dogs that become unwell.
An adult dog who has been fully vaccinated is very unlikely to develop Parvovirus. Thus, they should not be passing it on to any puppies. If a dog has been recently unwell, it is best not to expose your puppy to them.
Remember to double-check that a vaccinated dog’s immunizations are up to date. The Parvovirus vaccine is usually given when a dog is one and then every three years. However, Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that dogs should receive a vaccination against every year. Some owners are not aware of this and may tell you that their dog is up to date with their vaccines even though they have not had any for several years.
Related article: Where Do Puppies Get Parvo? Full FAQ guide
Importance of socialization
Proper socialization can ensure your puppy develops into a well-adjusted and confident dog and not a socially anxious, fearful adult who is prone to aggression. In fact, providing a good socialization period is arguably one of the best things we can do for our young dog. Tragically, poor socialization often leads to difficult dogs who are re-homed or who even end up being euthanized.
Puppy socialization begins at birth. This is one of the reasons it is so important to source your little bundle of fluff from a reputable and experienced breeder or shelter rather than a puppy mill: where pups may be locked away from people and are not part of normal family life.
Try to pick up on how your little one feels when they’re in a new place, meeting new people, or being introduced to other animals. If they seem anxious, do not force the issue, just calmly move on to something else. Make sure you don’t show that you are nervous or upset as puppies can quickly pick up on this. If you are positive and encouraging, this will help build confidence. Reward calm and settled behavior with plenty of positive praise and some yummy treats. We want our puppies to associate being around others with positive feelings.
Some owners are cautious and will not allow their pup outside at all until two weeks after the vaccine course has finished. For some, this may not be until about 14 weeks of age. The harm here is that these puppies may find the world overwhelming when finally let out. A safe and gradual introduction to the outside world is best. Ideally, let your pup explore safe spaces such as your enclosed backyard or a puppy socialization class, even before their vaccination schedule is complete.
When can my puppy go outside?
As infectious diseases such as Parvovirus, Distemper, and Leptospirosis are so widespread, we do need to be very careful with our puppies before they are fully vaccinated.
Prematurely taking our pups outside could be very risky, especially if they come into contact with dogs that may not have been vaccinated. In addition to unvaccinated dogs, bodies of water are also breeding grounds for bacteria, parasites, and viruses, so it’s equally important our pups stay well away.
Vets generally agree that puppies develop full immunity to the diseases against which we vaccinate one to two weeks after the final vaccine in the course. However, to wait that long before your pup can go outside makes it a very long wait. While opinions can differ, many experts will suggest that we allow pups out about one to two weeks after their first vaccine. At this stage, they have got some immunity. However, we still need to keep them away from unvaccinated dogs, unwell dogs, and bodies of water such as puddles and lakes that rats may have urinated in.
Remember, it is quite safe to carry your puppy around so they can experience the sights, smells, and sounds outside the home. Getting them used to traffic, other people, and other animals is absolutely critical. This does not necessarily mean they have to get ‘up close and personal’ as even viewing things from a distance can be of benefit. Some owners may even use a sling or doggy pram, especially for larger breeds.
It is not an easy decision: deciding when and how to socialize our puppies. This critical phase of their life needs to go smoothly if they are to develop into sensible and self-assured adults. Taking an overly cautious stance and not allowing our puppies to socialize at all in the first few months of their life could lead to a nervous dog prone to behavioral issues down the line. So, it is sensible to allow some exposure to other dogs and the outdoors, as long as we have some control over the environment and the pets they meet.
It is safe to bring your pup to places like your backyard, as long as no unvaccinated dogs have been there. Similarly, bring them along when you run errands or visit friends and family when you can. Many vets will offer puppy socialization classes which can be a safe spot for partially vaccinated pets to mingle.
While it may seem like the safest option to keep your precious pooch locked away until they have built immunity, this can be mentally damaging and can create more issues in the long term. Rather, take a sensible approach and allow for some low-risk expeditions and encounters.