Imagine you are a small animal veterinarian (aka…me). You love puppies, and you’re excited to see that you have a new puppy appointment scheduled this morning. You walk into the exam room to meet the newest member of your client’s family and are immediately greeted with excited wiggles and kisses. After a few moments of ooing and ahing, you start to discuss the recommended vaccines for your new patient. You know that these vaccines are critical to help this puppy be as healthy as possible and that they will prevent potentially-lethal diseases such as distemper and parvovirus.
Your client stops you. “Oh, the breeder already vaccinated them, so we don’t need that.”
“Oh, ok!” You say, “Do you know when they were vaccinated? Puppies need a series of vaccines given every 2-4 weeks to be fully protected.”
“Ummm…” your client begins. “Let me see, we picked them up last Thursday…or was it Wednesday? And I think the breeder said that they gave the vaccines a couple days before we picked them up, or maybe it was a week?”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had this EXACT conversation. As a breeder-friendly veterinarian, I WANT to give breeders the benefit of the doubt. I WANT to assume that they vaccinated this puppy correctly and responsibly. But I ask you – if you knew the life of the puppy (and your veterinary medical license/livelihood) were at risk, what would you do?
I re-vaccinate the puppy. I fully acknowledge that this vaccine might be doing nothing, but it also might be saving the puppy’s life. When facing a lack of information about what the breeder did or didn’t do, with no background about who the breeder is or if they have done what they needed to do for my patient (the puppy) to be protected, I have to assume that the breeder didn’t do things correctly. Legally and ethically, I have no other choice.
Some breeders choose to administer their own vaccines while others choose to have a veterinarian administer them. Personally, I completely understand why breeders would want to give the puppies their first vaccines – it can be an effective way to save money while still being a responsible breeder. However, there is some CRITICAL information I need to know about the vaccines to ensure that they are providing appropriate protection for my patient.
Which vaccine did the puppy receive? There are dozens of brands and combinations. Did it only provide protection against parvovirus? Parvo and distemper? Distemper, parvo, and leptospirosis?
Where did the breeder purchase the vaccines? There are reputable and non-reputable sources of vaccines.
Is the breeder familiar with safe vaccine-handling protocols? For example, vaccines must be kept refrigerated AT ALL TIMES to remain effective.
If you choose to vaccinate your puppies yourself, I recommend including the following information for your buyer to bring with them to their puppy’s vet visits:
* A health record with the label from the vaccine and the date the puppy received that vaccine
* A brief summary of your protocol with the vaccine – for example “These vaccines were purchased from Revival Animal Health and were shipped directly to my home. When they arrived, it was confirmed that the ice pack was still frozen and that the vaccines were cold. The vaccines were then transferred directly to a refrigerator for storage until it was used to vaccinate this pet.”
* Your contact information and a statement of willingness to clarify any information related to the health or care of the puppy.
* Give the new owner the original and keep a copy for your own records, NOT the other way around. As a veterinarian, I have no idea if a copy is legit or not. There ARE unscrupulous breeders out there who will send the same photocopy with every puppy, so I can’t trust copies.
If this seems like overkill, please consider that the puppy’s future veterinarian probably doesn’t know you and therefore has no reason to trust you. Yes, YOU are an excellent, responsible breeder, but there are A LOT of less-than-reputable “puppy producers” out there. If you want me to believe that you’re the former and not the latter, you have to give me some evidence. I want to be on your team and help you produce lots of healthy, responsibly-bred puppies 🙂
As a free resource, I’ve created a downloadable document that you can use to record an individual puppy’s health and treatments while under your care. You can modify or adjust this form as needed for your individual breeding program. Please share with any and all of your responsible breeder friends!