How to balance puppy vaccination schedule with socialization

Reconciling the need to protect puppies from pathogens until they are fully vaccinated with the importance of early and proper socialization can be difficult, writes veterinarian Jeff Kahler. Owners should avoiding taking puppies to parks and other public areas where disease potential is unknown, but they can introduce their pet to others that are also following appropriate vaccination in a controlled environment, Dr. Kahler recommends. The Miami Herald/McClatchy Newspapers (free registration) (8/8)

Limit exposure to disease until immune system matures

By JEFF KAHLER, D.V.M.      McClatchy Newspapers
Sounds like fun times ahead for Carly and Thane with the arrival of Bolo. The 9-week-old French bulldog has easily taken over his caretakers’ hearts.

Carly has been doing her due diligence, researching what to feed and how to house train her “little boy” and also what to do about disease prevention through isolation and vaccination versus socialization. She has found conflicting opinions, especially concerning isolation versus socialization, and is not sure what to do.


Some references have advised keeping Bolo isolated from other dogs until he is fully vaccinated, while others stress the importance of proper puppy socialization starting at an early age.

In the past, veterinarians would usually recommend isolating puppies from contact with other dogs during the vulnerable period of the vaccination protocol. This is primarily because a puppy’s immune system is not fully competent until about 16 weeks of age. Even as vaccines are being used to boost the immune response and protect these youngsters, they are vulnerable to the very diseases we are vaccinating to protect against. That is until they can mount a full immune response. Parvo viral infection was one major reason for this precaution. However, this did not allow for socialization until the puppies were 16 weeks old, which, with some dogs, can result in inappropriate behaviors.

Avoiding exposure to disease-causing organisms by contact with infected animals or fecal waste that might contain infecting organisms is a good idea. That said, how do we address the absolute need for proper puppy socialization? It involves puppy socialization in a controlled environment.

It is still my recommendation that puppies be kept from areas where they can be inadvertently exposed to disease. I would avoid public parks and other such areas with unknown potential for disease transmission until the vaccination protocol has been completed. This is especially important for avoidance of parvo virus, as I mentioned above. This virus is hardy and can last in the environment for many months. The disease associated with infection with this virus is debilitating and can be fatal, hence these precautions.

Proper puppy socialization then should occur in areas where the environment is free of such potential disease and with all participants on a vaccination schedule. With this type of situation, chances for disease exposure are greatly reduced while at the same time, allowing for the critical need for puppies to be properly socialized.

As always, prevention of disease is much better than having to treat. Through proper vaccination and proper avoidance, Bobo can be properly protected while he learns the in and outs of associating with other dogs and, as well, other people. This ultimately results in a well-rounded pet secure in his home environment and the bigger world.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.

Read more here:

Leave a Reply