There is a whole lot of confusion out there about raising puppies and dealing with the risks of communicable diseases such as canine cough and parvovirus. Understandably, people take very seriously the warnings provided by veterinary professionals about the risks to unvaccinated dogs of contracting deadly infections from animals they may meet before they have had their full course of immunisations.
However, people are also learning more and more about the importance of early socialisation. We are taking our pups to “puppy pre-school” classes run by the local vet clinic, bringing them along to visit friend’s dogs and even taking them on short outings to local coffee shops and so on. But is this safe? Is there a parvovirus epidemic waiting to happen as a result of all of this exposure of immature immune systems to highly contagious diseases?
I was at a veterinary conference recently and a large bunch of us were chatting over beers after the day’s sessions so I raised this topic. I asked the vets (Largely West Australian, but also included a number of Eastern States practitioners) how many times they had seen deaths in puppies from any of the main diseases we vaccinate against. They all had of course, but when I narrowed it down, like myself, they had only seen parvovirus deaths from low socio-economic areas in litters of puppies where none of the pups or their parents had had any vaccinations at all. Some of us had seen rare cases of parvovirus infection in immunised pups, but they had always recovered with treatment – even if they had only had their first temporary vaccination at 6-8 weeks.
But what happens if you keep your puppy completely isolated from any risk of infection until after the 3rd and final vaccination – at 16 weeks? Quite simply you will dramatically increase the risk of your dog developing anxiety and inter-dog aggression! Sure, you will also lower the risk of picking up communicable diseases, including everything from gastrointestinal worms to respiratory infections, but in this clinician’s opinion the risks associated with poor socialisation far outweigh the risks associated with communicable diseases.
- Hart et al. Canine and Feline Behaviour Therapy. 2006. 132-139
- Horwitz & Mills. BSAVA Manual of Canine & Feline Behavioural Medicine. 2012. 29-67
- Aloff. Aggression In Dogs. 2002. 37-39