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Distemper and Parvo Vaccines Start at 6 WEEKS of Age, Rabies at 12 weeks.

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Production of smallpox vaccine in 1872. Image from

Vaccines are cheap and easy

Here at Leo’s Pet Care, we think vaccines are SO cheap and easy, that after a one-time fee, you’ll never pay for vaccines again. We call it Vaccines for Life.

So please, for the love of Pete, let us give your puppy or kitten all their vaccines.

Forget all that nonsense about buying vaccines from the feed store, or letting your breeder administer their own vaccines, or whatever. Just FORGET all that, and let us do it for cheap.

I totally get that vaccines aren’t difficult to administer. And I realize nurses give the majority of human vaccines. But in human medicine, vaccines are given to human babies based on a schedule created by the Centers for Disease Control. And excepting the flu shot that grownup humans get at the drug store, every other vaccine given to babies, while administered by a nurse, is done on a doctor’s orders, following a nationally accepted schedule.

No such national vaccine schedule exists for dogs and cats. Breeders, therefore, administer whatever they feel like, whenever they feel like it. Without a doctor’s supervision, without guaranteeing the proper care and storage of the vaccines, sometimes without even knowing what’s in the vaccine, who makes it, where and when it was made, or why one vaccine might be better than another.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a piece of scratch paper pretending to be a vaccine record, letters and dates scrawled illegibly beside expired vaccine stickers. Or vaccines given at the WRONG time, in the WRONG sequence, leaving the poor dog or cat completely exposed to easily preventable contagious diseases.

Improperly timed vaccines infuriate me.

It’s heartbreaking to see a dog die of parvo because a well-meaning breeder screwed up. Heartbreaking, and senseless.

Puppy vaccines start at 6 weeks of age

The first vaccine in a pet’s series must be given when your puppy or kitten is between 6-8 weeks of age.

The series then must continue every 2-4 weeks (at your veterinarian’s discretion) until they are between 12 and 16 weeks old. (exact schedule depends on vaccine manufacturer, local laws, veterinarian’s preference).

If you wait until after 8 weeks to start vaccines, your pet will be unprotected and may die of a preventable disease.

If you wait more than four weeks between vaccines, your pet will be unprotected and may die of a preventable disease.

Why do veterinarians give vaccines when we do?

Feel free to click on the image below to enlarge it. Sorry about my penmanship!

Indianapolis Veterinary Dog Rescue Vaccines Protocol

When a puppy or kitten is born, he or she receives protection against whatever mom is immune to, via antibodies passed through the first day’s milk, also known as colostrum.

ON THE CHART: Antibodies from mom are illustrated by the green line, while antibodies stimulated within the puppy or kitten’s body from vaccines are black.

Depending on how much colostrum was delivered during those first 48 hours, a puppy or kitten can remain “immune” against whatever diseases mom was immune against, for up to 3-4 months after birth.

If a kitten or puppy NEVER receives vaccines, they will be completely unprotected against disease by the time they’re four months old; this is why most dogs who die of parvo do so at about 16 weeks of age.

Vaccines teach a puppy or kitten’s body how to protect itself. But it takes time.

Kittens and puppies at birth are not good at mounting their own immune response against disease. Their systems need to be “taught” how to fight infection. So, beginning at 6 weeks of age, we start the immune system’s education. Like, an “immune system kindergarten”.

6 WEEKS OLD: At 6 weeks of age, a puppy or kitten’s immune system is ready to start learning how to fight infection. An initial vaccine at this time stimulates a teeny-weeny, itsy bitsy, little baby-sized immune response.

If NO OTHER VACCINES ARE EVER GIVEN AGAIN AFTER THE INITIAL SET OF SHOTS, those initial vaccine antibodies disappear after about 4-5 weeks, and the puppy or kitten is once again COMPLETELY UNPROTECTED FROM DISEASE (illustrated not-very-subtly by the first “Die of Parvo” symbol). The point here is clear: vaccines must start young, and get boostered regularly.

9 WEEKS OLD: At 9 weeks of age, a puppy or kitten’s immune system, having ALREADY BEEN PRIMED BY AN INITIAL VACCINE, is ready to mount a REAL immune response. That kindergartener is ready to ride a bike! Immunity soars – not quite to 100%, mind you! If this vaccine is not boostered one more time, however, immunity falls again into the “Die of Parvo” area. Oh no!

12-15 WEEKS OLD: By the time you get to a third and fourth set of boosters, the puppy or kitten has a much more well-developed immune system, capable of maintaining immunity for up to a year. Hooray!

SPECIAL NOTE: Rabies vaccine is required in all dogs and cats over 3 months old (NOT 6 MONTHS!!)

Rabies vaccine

Bats are the most common carrier of rabies in Indiana.

Board of Animal Health, Indiana Rabies Laws and Regulations, Rule 5. Rabies Immunization 345 IAC 1-5-1 Rabies vaccination Authority: IC 15-17-3-21 Affected: IC 15-17-3-13; IC 15-17-6; 345 IAC 1-5-2 Required rabies vaccination of dogs, cats, and ferrets Section 2 states:

“All dogs, cats, and ferrets three (3) months of age and older must be vaccinated against rabies.”

Did that say 6 months? No it did not. It said 3 months.

Many breeders (and even well intentioned rescues) are under the mistaken impression that rabies vaccine isn’t to be done until the pet is six months old.

Never assume a breeder knows the rules and regulations (let alone the medical requirements) of vaccination, always ask a veterinarian.


  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper/Parvo vaccine, fecal stool testing (do it right!), deworming, heartworm prevention, flea prevention.
  • 9-11 weeks: Distemper/Parvo vaccine, deworming, heartworm prevention, flea prevention.
  • 12-14 weeks: Distemper/Parvo/Leptospirosis vaccine, fecal stool testing, Bordetella/Kennel Cough vaccine, deworming, heartworm prevention, flea prevention.
  • 15-16 weeks: Distemper/Parvo/Leptospirosis vaccine booster, Rabies vaccine, deworming, heartworm prevention, flea prevention.


  • 6-8 weeks: Feline Distemper vaccine, Feline Leukemia / FIV blood testing, fecal stool testing (do it right!), deworming, Revolution.
  • 9-11 weeks: Feline Distemper vaccine, deworming, Revolution.
  • 12-14 weeks: Feline Distemper vaccine, Feline Leukemia vaccine, fecal stool testing, Revolution.
  • 15-16 weeks: Feline Distemper vaccine, Feline Leukemia vaccine booster, Rabies vaccine, Revolution.

A final word on vaccines

Vaccine protocols aren’t secret, this stuff is all common sense. With Vaccines for Life at Leo’s Pet Care so readily available, there’s really no reason any puppy or kitten should die of a vaccine-preventable contagious disease.

Ignorance kills. Please let a doctor administer your precious pet’s vaccines.

Call Leo’s Pet Care at (317) 721-7387.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Dr. Magnusson, thank you for taking the time to create this blog. I live in Austin, TX, (though I’m originally from Indianapolis) and have a great relationship with a wonderful vet here; but as his practice has grown over the years, the discussions with him have grown ever more brief. I understand. I have a business too. I know that he cares deeply about my dogs and that’s what matters. What a treat, however, to discover your blog and hear some of these topics discussed in detail! If we ever return to Indy, you’ll be the first vet I call. Thank you.

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