Vaccinating Tiny DogsLast updated: August 02, 2016
Raising a puppy that is less than two pounds takes a special skill and desire. Most do not want to have "teacup" dogs, but occasionally we get one in a litter.
Where to Start
Vaccines can be a big confusion. It is important not to "knock them down" with combination vaccines. Keep the number of viruses in the vaccine simple for success. Start with simplified vaccine antigens, then build gradually until they are old enough (and big enough) to handle the combination vaccines.
The ideal start weight to begin vaccination is over one pound but that can be seven to eight weeks and a little too late for Parvo. By six weeks of age, use a Parvo-only vaccination with an antihistamine and make sure they continue nursing. A tiny dog's common response to viruses is to quit eating – one of the reasons to limit the virus vaccine to Parvo only!
Be careful with combinations and 5-way vaccines when less than two pounds. A Distemper/Parvo combination (Nobivac Puppy-DPv) is well tolerated and needs to be given by 10 weeks. The 12 and 16-week-old puppy can use the DPv booster or 5-way vaccine if desired. Continue to make sure they stay on their food!
Half-Dosing Injectable Vaccines: Don't Do It
Never half dose injectable vaccines. No studies have shown that splitting the vaccine is reliable - it results in uneven levels of antigens in each syringe. Instead of half-dosing combination vaccines, it is possible to reduce the number of antigens being put into their small bodies with a simplified vaccine. This means fewer antigens but maximum protection, and the whole vaccine is needed to successfully stimulate immunity. After completing that, it is possible to build on that protection with combination vaccines.
When using intranasal vaccines, the most important thing to remember is to be gentle and keep the intranasal vaccine intranasal. Their tiny noses need to have a smaller volume of vaccine, so only use half of the liquid diluents to rehydrate the freeze-dried virus/bacteria. With less volume, you'll be less likely to push the vaccine into the trachea and cause the puppy to cough. One easy method is to simply place the drops on the nose and let the puppy pull it in himself. By dripping it over the nose, you don't force the vaccine at all. Intranasal vaccines are very safe and cause few issues if you keep this in mind.
Reactions to Vaccines
Reactions can happen with all vaccines. If they become listless and you suspect a reaction, don't wait to treat - give them an antihistamine right away. Liquid children's Benadryl is one option, giving 1 mg/lb for dogs - only a few drops. Some breeders will pre-medicate with Benadryl, giving it 30 minutes before vaccination to reduce the risk of reaction. This is a good habit - we don't want to lose them for reactions that we know how to prevent. They do not react to intranasal vaccines, so we only pre-medicate for injectable vaccines.
Antibiotics and VaccinesOne more thing to keep in mind: never give intranasal vaccines while on antibiotics. Antibiotics will kill the modified live Bordetella in the vaccine, and you won't get the immunity you need. Make sure your dogs are off any antibiotics for three days before and after the vaccine. A week after vaccination is best, but not always achievable.
The tiny dog demands special care and attention to thrive. But by simplifying their vaccines, you can consistently raise healthy dogs and make sure they'll provide someone with a new best friend!
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Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
Use the Revival Vaccine Finder to help choose the right vaccines for your tiny dog
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.