If your dog is expecting pups, you may be wondering whether you can give shots to pregnant dogs. This is a good question, because many breeders may wish to vaccinate their dam while she is pregnant but feel a bit concerned about it. Since many breeders vaccinate their dogs themselves, it's very important to be informed on whether giving pregnant dogs shots is safe or not, so to prevent unnecessary risks to mother dog and her pups. Following is some information on whether you can give shots to pregnant dogs along with some helpful tips from veterinarians.
Can You Give Shots to Pregnant Dogs?
You should generally avoid vaccinating pregnant dogs (there are a few exceptions tough mentioned later in this article).
While vaccines won't typically harm a pregnant dog, the unborn puppies may suffer from negative effects. Many vaccines indeed have clear warnings on their labels "do not use in pregnant animals." Why is that though?
Vaccines work by stimulating the dog's immune system. Even though not very common, at times dogs may develop an over-reaction of their immune system which can be potentially harmful to the delicate developing pups.
Some dog owners may ask:"Wait, my dog was just vaccinated and I didn't know she was pregnant! Will the puppies be born ill or with abnormalities?" The answer is that it depends on several factors.
The Time Frame Factor
One important factor is at what point in pregnancy the vaccines were given to the pregnant dog. Generally, vaccines are most harmful when given during the first half of pregnancy, which is generally during the first 20 days, explains veterinarian Dr. Matt. It is during this time that the developing pups are in a much more vulnerable state.
However, vaccines given in the last half of pregnancy, which is within the last couple of weeks, should be less likely to cause problems. If your pregnant dog got vaccinated during this time, it's likely the developing pups would be less prone to suffering from any brain, or other organ damage from the shots, further add Dr. Matt. If you have any doubts, it's always best to consult with your vet.
The Vaccine Type Factor
Not all vaccines are created equal. There are some vaccines that are more harmful to developing puppies than others. Most vaccines are of the modified live type (MLV) and these are the most harmful to a batch of puppies developing inside mother dog's womb.
Modified live vaccines are vaccines that contain bacteria or viruses that have been modified (MLV). The term modified in this case refers to the fact that the bacteria or viruses' ability to cause disease has been attenuated so to prevent causing the actual disease itself when injected.
These vaccines however are still capable of causing a weakened form of the disease they are meant to prevent and this characteristic is why these vaccines should never be given to a pregnant dog. Puppies may potentially develop the disease, not to mention birth defects and abortions, explains certified veterinary technician Liza W. Rudolp. Examples of modified live vaccines include the distemper, parvo and bordetella shots.
The rabies vaccine on the other hand, is a killed vaccine. Killed vaccines are vaccines that contain bacteria or viruses that have been killed. This means that this vaccine is unlikely to cause disease from residual disease-causing characteristics.
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"The only vaccine that is ever recommended for use during pregnancy is Rabies, because it is a killed vaccine. Still, it's better to avoid any vaccines during pregnancy, but if Rabies vaccination has never been done for the dog, then it is considered acceptable. Other vaccines could result in fetal injury or death."~Dr. Drew, veterinarian.
The Right Time to Vaccinate
When can you give shots to pregnant dogs? The answer is you should avoid giving shots to pregnant dogs, unless your vet feels that the benefit of the shot far outweighs the risks for complications to the puppies. In most cases, the only exception to the never-vaccinate-pregnant-dogs protocol is the rabies vaccine for two reasons:, because it's mandated by law and because it's a killed vaccine.
This doesn't mean skipping the shots though if you plan on breeding your dog. Being a responsible breeder includes planning and doing everything possible to prevent infectious diseases to mother dog and pups. It's therefore important that mother dog is vaccinated before pregnancy so this immunity will then transfer to the puppies. This antibody protection will provide protection for about two weeks from the day the pups are born (maternal immunity).
When should the shots be given to potential mother dog? Ideally, shots should be given a few weeks before the dog is bred. This time frame allows enough time for the perspective mom's body to develop antibodies for the disease and pass them on to the pups.
A well-vaccinated mother dog will offer protection to her newborn pups through colostrum (mother dog's first milk). The newborn pups can absorb these antibodies in the milk through their intestinal tract but only for a few hours (generally the first 36 hours).
Unvaccinated Pregnant Dogs
If mother dog is left unvaccinated for the duration of her pregnancy, her pups may be at risk though for contracting diseases such as parvo or distemper. To lower the chances for infective diseases, it may help to keep mom and pups isolated during pregnancy and lactation. Then, you can get the pups vaccinated at 6 weeks so they may start building up their immune system. Mother dog can also be vaccinated during this time. Consult with your vet for guidelines.
Can you give shots to pregnant dogs if your dog is already pregnant but she is due for her shots and you are concerned about the health of the puppies? In this case, you may want to consider asking your vet about alternate options. According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, there may be a recombinant distemper vaccine which may be suitable for dogs in which modified live vaccines are not an option.
If on the other hand, your dog is pregnant but you are not sure about her vaccine status, consider seeing your vet and getting her Canine distemper and parvovirus titers measured. The titer test can tell you if her shots are still capable of providing her protection so you can have better peace of mind.
"To better protect the pups you can vaccinate, but make sure the vaccine contains only killed virus or subunits of the virus." Dr. Michael Salkin, veterinarian
- DVM360: How to manage the pregnant dog
- DVM360: Tips for safe vaccine administration and patient care
- American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: Vaccines and Vaccination Protocols
- www.dogshealthproblems.com: Can you give shots to pregnant dogs?
- www.bestpethomeremedies: Can you give shots to pregnant dogs or nursing dogs?