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Puppy Vaccines Explained: The Biology Behind the Complicated Schedule with Dr Jessica Hekman

  • Wednesday, March 23, 2016
  • 8:00 PM
  • Thursday, March 23, 2023
  • 9:00 PM
  • Recorded Webinar


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  • Public registration

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Why do puppies need to have such a long series of vaccines? Owners have difficulty understanding the ins and outs of the puppy (and kitten) vaccine series, and may ask you to explain exactly WHY they can't consider their new pet fully immunized after the first set of shots. Does this have to do with the number of shots or with the timing of the shots? What is so special about 16-18 weeks of age that animals can now start going out in public more?

In this webinar, Dr. Jessica Hekman will explain the biology behind the developing immune system and the reason for the complex timing of puppy vaccines. Beginning with the basics of how the mammalian immune system works and how vaccines provide protection from infectious disease, she will explain how the immature immune system differs biologically from the adult immune system. She will describe the reasoning behind giving puppies a series of shots, so that you can better explain the process to owners. She will conclude with a few practical suggestions for balancing the need to socialize young animals with the need to protect them from infectious disease.

Learning Objectives

  • summarize how vaccines provide protection from infectious disease
  • explain how the immature (puppy/kitten) immune system differs biologically from the adult immune system
  • explain why puppy shots are not effective long term when given before 16-18 weeks of age
  • explain why we give puppies repeated vaccinations between the ages of 6-18 weeks even though we do not expect these vaccinations to be effective long term
  • describe a practical approach to balancing the conflicting needs of socialization and reduced exposure to infectious disease during ages 6-18 weeks

About The Presenter

Dr. Jessica Hekman

Jessica is a veterinarian currently pursuing a PhD in genetics. After eleven years working as a computer programmer, she decided to go back to school to research the causes of behavior problems in dogs. She received her veterinary degree from the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts, where she also received a Master's degree for her work on stress behaviors in hospitalized dogs. After graduation, she completed a year-long internship specializing in shelter medicine at the University of Florida Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program. She is now enrolled in a PhD program in genetics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her lab studies a group of foxes (often known as the "Siberian silver foxes") which have been bred over many generations to be friendly to humans. Her ultimate goal is to find genetic causes of fearfulness in dogs, to work with behaviorally challenged shelter dogs, and to help people better understand the science behind dog behavior.

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