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Complete Guide To Puppy Vaccinations

chihuahua puppy getting ready for vaccination

Hardly anything can beat the excitement and joy of having a new little puppy in your home. However, these tiny creatures tend to be rather fragile and taking proper care of them from day one should be the owner’s priority.

What measures does every pet parent need to take to protect their lovely little tail-wagger?

There is no doubt that vaccination is the first step towards your pup’s wellbeing. The role of vaccines in preventing common diseases is indispensable. Our guide to puppy vaccination is what every responsible pet parent should get familiar with, as soon as a new pet pup joins the family.

Visits to your vet will be frequent during the first weeks of your furry pal’s life. There you will get all the necessary information on your puppy’s immunization plan and boosters schedule and keep their medical record up-to-date.

So, let us give you some basic details you need to know when puppy vaccination is in question.

Why Are Dog Vaccinations Important?

If you decide to get a puppy, you have to be aware of the importance of puppy and dog vaccination [1]. Some vaccines are mandatory by law, whereas others can be extremely beneficial, even though they are optional.

Your puppy’s vaccination protocol will depend on several factors, including their origin, the presence of other pets, travel habits, age, etc. The role of these shots is to activate a puppy’s immune system, “teaching” it how to react and defend the body in case of contact with a real disease.

By injecting various disease antigens into your pet’s body, they will develop resistance to these diseases, without actually getting sick. Even if a certain illness develops at some point in your furry friend’s life, it is more likely to take a much milder form.

Factors To Consider in Puppy Vaccinations

In addition to mandatory shots, each pup’s vaccination plan should be tailored to their individual needs and is conditioned by several factors.


Different dog breeds vary in size and weight to a great extent. However, the same amount of vaccines are given to pooches regardless of which breed they belong to.

Some owners may find this worrying, as certain studies suggest that smaller dogs are at a greater risk of developing adverse effects of vaccination. Consultation with a vet is the best way to discuss all the issues that concern you regarding your puppy.

Puppy's Condition

Vaccination is a necessity and the most efficient preventative measure against dangerous diseases.

However, the overall condition of your puppy may call for the rescheduling of vaccines. One of the conditions that need to be met before giving your dog a shot is for your little pal to be completely healthy.

Litter Health

Puppies from both large and small litters need to be checked up for the first time when they are six weeks old.

Large and giant breeds tend to have a larger number of babies, whereas smaller ones typically give birth to fewer puppies. First vaccines usually overlap with the first medical check-up, i.e., six weeks after the birth.

Country of Origin

Vaccination protocols are not uniformed worldwide due to factors such as economic circumstances and the level of development of a particular country. These may have a significant impact on how frequently a dog gets their shots.

However, what all countries have in common is the distinction between core and non-core vaccines. The former group is obligatory for all pups, no matter where they come from.

Vet's Recommendation and Assessment

In some circumstances, your vet will assess whether it is necessary to change your pup’s immunization plan. Certain conditions such as acute or chronic illnesses, pregnancy, stress, and several others, may require rescheduling of vaccination.

A qualified vet will be able to provide you with relevant advice and guidance on how to behave in such situations.

Allergic Reactions

Although not so frequent, allergic reactions can follow a vaccination session – either immediately or within 48 hours. This means that a dog’s body has overreacted to one or more components of a particular vaccine.

Even if it happens, an allergy of this kind is not likely to result in permanent and severe consequences. However, for the sake of your puppy’s safety and health, future shots should be planned and administered under the careful supervision of your vet.

List Of Required Vaccines That Your Puppies Need



Vaccination against rabies [2] is obligatory in the majority of states. If bitten by a rabid animal, the carrier of a virus, your pet dog will develop this serious condition that attacks their nervous system.

It is marked by several recognizable symptoms. These include hallucinations, fear of water, anxiety, paralysis, uncontrolled drooling, and death. Once a pet gets infected, it is essential to react quickly. Otherwise, the outcome is usually fatal.



If your furry friend loses appetite, starts vomiting, has a fever and diarrhea, they may have been infected with the parvovirus. Although this gastrointestinal virus poses a threat to all dogs, young puppies and unimmunized canines are at the greatest risk.

Parvo usually results in severe dehydration. Unless your pet receives a prompt, adequate medical treatment, the condition can be deadly. There is no cure for parvovirus, and it takes a strong immune system to defend it successfully.



In addition to several other animals including skunks and raccoons, dogs are prone to developing a condition known as canine distemper [3]. It is triggered by a virus and affects the nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal system of an infected animal.

It is transmitted through air, in direct contact with a sick animal – through coughing, sneezing as well as sharing of food and water. The list of symptoms includes fever and vomiting, discharge from eyes and nose, coughing, diarrhea, twitching, and seizures. The outcome of canine distemper is often fatal.



Present worldwide, this bacterial infection often shows no symptoms at all. What is more, it is a type of infection than can be transmitted from animals to people.

When it starts showing symptoms, these are typically the loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomachache, weakness and kidney failure. It is treatable with antibiotics, whose effectiveness depends on how quickly the treatment started.



If your best buddy gets infected by hepatitis, it will primarily reflect on their liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. The virus is highly contagious, yet unrelated to the form that affects people.

Vets can treat the symptoms of this condition, whose milder form can be fought more easily. However, hepatitis infection can often be deadly. Watch out for symptoms such as swollen stomach, vomiting and fever, painful liver area.



This disease is very common, although its symptoms may only appear long after the infection. It is transmitted by a mosquito, there is no vaccine against it, though it may be prevented by taking the adequate medication regularly.

As suggested by its name, the worms present in the infected animal’s body gather inside the right part of their heart and pulmonary arteries. By traveling through blood, they can reach other vital organs and cause damage.

Difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, weakness, lethargy, and cough are usually present in heartworm infections

veterinarian preparing vaccination for puppy


Bordetella Bronchiseptica

It is a very aggressive bacteria that typically lead to severe infections of the respiratory system in the first place. Intense coughing, whooping, vomiting, and seizures may be signs that your dog has been infected with Bordetella Bronchiseptica [3].

In the majority of cases, it is responsible for the disease known as kennel cough. You can vaccinate your pet dog against it, either by a regular shot or the special nasal spray.



There is no medication aimed directly at fighting the coronavirus. It usually affects two body systems – gastrointestinal and respiratory.

Dogs suffering the symptoms of this condition usually cough, vomit and have no desire to eat. They can also have intense diarrhea. It is vital to keep a pup hydrated and comfortable until the overall condition improves.


Kennel Cough

There are several causes of kennel cough, some of them being of either bacterial or viral origin. Also known as tracheobronchitis, it usually affects the upper airways which get inflamed, resulting in frequent, dry coughing.

If it persists, it can progress to harsh retching. Antibiotics are helpful in more severe cases. It spreads easily among animals that are kept close together, hence the name kennel cough.

pug puppy having vaccination



This is another virus from the group of possible causes of kennel cough. It is a respiratory virus known for being easily spread, especially among animals living together.

If a dog coughs, sneezes, has a runny nose, fever, and behaves in a generally lethargic way, they may be suffering from canine parainfluenza. Though it can prevent fatal outcomes of this disease, the vaccination against it is optional.


Lyme Disease

Ticks infected with the spirochete, a type of bacteria, transmit this disease also known as borreliosis [4]. Infected canines develop a fever, lose their appetite, start limping, and their lymph nodes swell.

If given adequate antibiotics timely, it is possible to deal with the condition successfully. Nevertheless, relapses can sometimes happen much later.

Complete Puppy Vaccination Schedule

There is a general guideline when it comes to puppy vaccination. Still, not all puppies get all shots, nor are these administered at the same time. Your vet will have a final say on what your little pal’s immunization protocol should look like, having taken into consideration all the relevant factors.

6-8 Weeks


First vaccines are given to puppies when they are between 6 to 8 weeks old. There are two recommended shots, which include immunization against parainfluenza and canine distemper.


At the same time, if they opt for it, owners can vaccinate their little pups against Bordetella, too, even though it is not mandatory.

10-12 Weeks


Once they are 10 weeks old, the following two weeks are the ideal time for two groups of vaccines. The first, i.e., the recommended one, is the so-called DHPP. It shields your furry friend against distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus), parvovirus, and parainfluenza.


A more extended list also encompasses protection against Lyme disease, Bordetella, Leptospirosis, and Coronavirus.

12-24 Weeks


At the time your baby pet reaches 12 weeks, you should consider vaccinating it against rabies. This should be completed before they are 24 weeks old. It is demanded in the vast majority of states, and usually a condition to be met for your pet to be able to travel.


There are no optional shots owners are advised to consider during this period.

14-16 Weeks


In this period, your little puppy should pay a visit to their vet to get another round of DHPP vaccine, which will shield them against several common diseases ( distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus).


At the same time, if they opt for it, owners can vaccinate their little pups against Bordetella, too, even though it is not mandatory.

10-12 Weeks


First vaccines are given to puppies when they are between 6 to 8 weeks old. There are two recommended shots, which include immunization against parainfluenza and canine distemper.


At the same time, if they opt for it, owners can vaccinate their little pups against Bordetella, too, even though it is not mandatory.

12-16 Months


The period when your little pet is between three to four months old should be the time when they get two types of shots. These include immunization against rabies, as well as the combination meant to protect them against four viruses – the DHPP.


Optional protection in this period encompasses shots against Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Coronavirus.

Every 1-2 Years


The length of time during which your canine stays protected against illnesses is different for various types of shots. It is therefore vital to repeat these treatments according to the existing guidelines. DHPP is the type of vaccine which should be given to canines every 1 or 2 years.


The same should be done when Lyme disease, Coronavirus, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis are in question.

Every 1-3 Years


The law of many states obliges dog owners to renew their pet’s vaccine against rabies after one year following the initial shot. After that, the procedure is typically repeated every three years. However, some states call for annual boosters when rabies is in question.


There are no optional shots owners are advised to consider during this period.

How Much Do Canine Shots Cost?

Canine shots are not free of charge, but the sum of money you have to invest in the vaccination is dependent on several factors. Vets working in smaller communities and rural areas tend to charge less for the core vaccines. At the same time, you will have to pay more if you take your little friend to a city vet.

Generally speaking, the costs of core shots will range between $75-$100. For rabies, you will sometimes be charged an additional $15-$20.

A certain way to cut the costs when vaccination is concerned is to adopt a dog from one of many existing shelters. Immunization costs in these facilities are typically far more favorable. Or even better – immunization protocol had already been completed before you take your new best friend home!

Boosters and Titers Needed After Puppyhood

Not all veterinary experts are of the same opinion when the vaccination of grown-up dogs is concerned. Some believe that too many vaccines given to a dog every single year can hamper their overall wellbeing. Others, however, support the idea that annual shots are vital for maintaining a canine’s health.

These divided opinions often make owners puzzled about what they should do themselves. As a result, many of them choose the so-called titer tests. Their task is to show how immune a dog is to a particular disease.

Depending on the titer test results, a decision is made on whether a booster should be given or not. Titer test [5], however, do not apply to rabies, which needs to be boosted anyway.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 5 in 1 shot for dogs?

Some diseases in the canine world are highly contagious and can often have fatal consequences. Vaccination against such diseases is usually mandatory and is administered as a single shot, i.e., a combination of several different components.

A 5-in-1 dog shot [6], as the name suggests, incorporates five components, which make it the “multivalent” vaccine. It will guard your pet pup against the following five diseases: canine distemper virus, two types of adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. 

Best known by its acronym DHPP, it is the most reliable way of keeping the aforementioned infections away, as there is no direct cure for any of them.

What are the core and non-core dog vaccinations?

If an infection spreads rapidly, it is difficult or impossible to cure and poses a threat to people as well, immunization against it is seen as the most effective way of preventing it or at least minimizing its consequences. 

According to the Canine Task Force of the American Animal Hospital Association, a distinction is to be made between core and non-core vaccines. The former include protection against Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Distemper, and Rabies. The latter group protects your puppy against Bordetella, Canine influenza, Lyme disease, and Leptospirosis. 

While core ones are recommended or required by law in most states, non-core ones are optional but extremely useful at the same time.

What are dog shots that are optional?

It is important to remember that not all puppies undergo the same immunization protocols. In other words – not every pup gets the same number and type of vaccines. Several shots are only given to puppies if a particular need arises. 

Moreover, some of these are closely related to a group of factors such as origin, litter, age, general condition, and lifestyle. Your vet will design an optimal program tailored to your little buddy, taking all these aspects into account.


We all adore our fuzzy little rascals and would do anything to help them live a happy and content life. Taking care of their health from the first weeks of their lives is an absolute necessity. Timely vaccination paves the way to spending many years with a strong, lively, disease-free pet dog by your side.

Yes – paying all those calls to a vet’s office to have a puppy vaccinated can be stressful for both you and your sensitive little pal. Yet, by doing so, you can be sure you are taking a responsible approach to parenting a dog. And it is definitely going to be worth the effort!


• [1] Why are vaccinations important for your pet? – www.pdsa.org.uk

• [2] Rabies vaccinations: titers, exemptions, and protocols – www.aaha.org

• [3] Canine Distemper – www.merck-animal-health-usa.com

• [4] Examination and Lyme Disease Vaccine for Dogs – www.vetstreet.com

• [5] Antibody Titer Test – www.healthline.com

• [6] What Is a 5-in-1 Vaccine for Dogs? – www.petmd.com