Quarantine: Why and for How Long?

In many cities, your veterinarian will tell you not to take your pup outside until he has had all his shots. This has been the common practice for years, because one shot or even two may not give your pup adequate protection from some serious common diseases.

This is because when your puppy suckled from his mother, he received protection from disease in her milk (maternal antibodies). The strength of that protection differs. Sometimes the maternal antibodies fade early (by eight or nine weeks), but more often they hold longer (for twelve weeks or more). While the mother’s protection is in your pup’s body, his immune system does not respond, and it won’t respond until the mother’s protection fades away. Once hers is gone, the pup’s defenses will kick in.

The problem is that because no one can tell how long the maternal antibodies will last, there may well be a gap between when they fade and the next vaccination. For example, say your pup gets vaccinated at eight weeks, but the mother’s protection is still present. Then the maternal antibodies fade between weeks nine and ten. Your pup’s next vaccine isn’t due until eleven weeks of age, so now your pup has no protection from these diseases.

This is why vets want pups to be quarantined, to protect them during this vulnerable period. How long your veterinarian advises you to quarantine varies from city to city and veterinarian to veterinarian.

Now, this advice is not without controversy.

Trainers and behaviorists point out that the age of quarantine is a critical one for socialization and that a dog is more likely to be killed for a behavior problem than to die of parvo or distemper.

People are now pressing the veterinary community to offer safe alternatives that allow for earlier socialization of dogs. Be sure to discuss safe options with your veterinarian, as she will be aware of any outbreaks of “hot zones” in your area.