One of the saddest things in private practice is witnessing the joy and delight of a new puppy turn to sorrow when, a few days after its purchase; it succumbs to a horrible disease like parvo virus or distemper. What makes it especially sad is that these diseases are preventable with correct vaccination.

A growing trend appears to be for breeders to vaccinate their puppies before selling them – presumably to save on veterinary fees. This “saving” may be very short-sighted. Breeders are not adequately trained in the proper handling and administration of vaccines, nor are they trained to diagnose disease in its early stages. Vaccinating a puppy that is not completely healthy renders the vaccine ineffective and may actually exacerbate illness. There is also the dilemma that the veterinarian faces with the rest of the vaccination programme for the puppy viz. to ignore the first vaccine done by the breeder and start again, or to trust and hope that the first vaccine was done properly. Over vaccinating can also be harmful.

Furthermore any person performing a veterinary act for financial gain (e.g. vaccinating puppies and charging for it) and who is not registered with the South African Veterinary Council is in contravention of the Veterinary and Para-veterinary Act No 19 of 1982 and as such is liable for prosecution.

A puppy that has been vaccinated by a veterinarian will have a legitimate vaccine book or certificate showing proof of vaccination. This book or certificate will be a printed document with the veterinary practice details on the front cover and the veterinarian’s signature and practice stamp in the appropriate place inside. It will NOT be a photocopied or type written document on cheap paper or card.

Puppies from pet stores are especially prone to developing disease a few days after being purchased. These puppies have often been sourced from all over the country and transported under great stress to the pet store. Here they are grouped together increasing their exposure to infectious diseases. Legitimate pet stores will offer to cover the costs of any illness which may develop within the first two weeks of purchase.

In summary the following points may be helpful when purchasing a new puppy:

  1. If the first vaccinations have already been done, ensure that they were done by a veterinarian. Make sure there is a legitimate vaccine book with the veterinary practice details on it. Do not fall for any excuses like the vaccine books are still coming. The books are issued immediately with the first vaccine.
  2. If you are paying for a pedigreed puppy make sure you receive the papers with the puppy. Do not fall for any excuses like the papers are still coming. Also ask to see the pedigree papers of the parents.
  3. Legitimate breeders work closely with their veterinarian – ask for the veterinarian’s details in case your puppy has problems and your veterinarian needs to contact the breeder’s vet.