Vaccinating your puppy is one of the most important things you’ll need to do in your first few weeks as a dog owner. Regular vaccinations will help your puppy grow into a dog that is free of potentially fatal diseases that can infect other pets or people.
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But what shots do puppies actually need? And at what age should puppies have all their shots by?
Here’s what you need to know about first-year puppy shots:
Use the chart below to keep track of your puppy vaccinations, or download the puppy shot checklist PDF to print and follow along at home.
Core vaccines should be given to all puppies. According to AAHA, core vaccines include: distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, and rabies.
Distemper is a contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems of dogs. Dogs usually become infected through airborne exposure (coughing or sneezing) from an infected dog or wild animal. The disease can also be transmitted by shared bowls, toys, and equipment.
Canine distemper is often fatal, and dogs that survive the disease are usually left with permanent damage to the nervous system. All dogs are at risk but puppies under four months of age as well as unvaccinated dogs are at especially high risk.
Canine hepatitis is an acute infectious disease caused by the canine adenovirus 1. The virus targets the liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, and eyes. Symptoms can include vomiting, fever, jaundice, swollen belly, loss of appetite, or in more severe cases seizures and death. Dogs that have the mild form of the disease enjoy a good quality of life and longevity, but the severe form can be fatal.
Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is a contagious respiratory virus and is one of the most common causes of kennel cough.
Canine parvovirus is a contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but puppies younger than four months old and unvaccinated dogs are the most at risk. The virus affects the gastrointestinal tract and is transmitted by direct contact, as well as contact with contaminated feces, people, or environments.
Some of the most common symptoms of parvo in puppies include loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. There’s no cure for parvo, but with proper treatment, the survival rate in dogs treated by a veterinarian is between 68-92%.
Many vets now administer these four puppy vaccinations combined as one shot known as the Distemper-Hepatitis-Parainfluenza-Parvo vaccine, administered incrementally over a puppy shot schedule as such:
Note: Newer recommendations are to vaccinate for DHPP out to 20 weeks due to lack of coverage close to the one-year mark for their booster, but ask your vet what they recommend for your puppy vaccination schedule.
Rabies is a viral infection caused by a virus secreted in the saliva. According to the Humane Society, because the infection affects the nervous system, most rabid animals behave abnormally. Infected dogs typically become fearful, anxious, agitated, and/or aggressive. As there’s no cure for rabies, keeping up with regular vaccinations is crucial.
Generally speaking, puppies should get their first rabies shot around 16 weeks of age and again between 1-3 years old. The rabies vaccine is mandatory throughout the US, but the timeline for a puppy schedule varies by state**. The vaccine must be administered by a licensed veterinarian (which means it can’t be found at a feed store).
Non-core vaccines are important, but they are considered optional for dogs with less risk of infection. Non-core vaccines are recommended based on lifestyle and where you live or travel.
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium associated with respiratory disease in dogs and is known to cause the most severe form of kennel cough. Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, congestion, etc.
Some veterinarians may recommend Bordetella as a core vaccine for puppies based on their living environment, especially for social dogs who spend time in areas where they might come into contact with the bacteria (like the dog park, boarding facilities, or doggy daycare). The vaccination can be given orally, intranasally, or by injection.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by infection of the genus Leptospira, which are found in water and soil. The zoonotic disease spreads easily from animals to humans and is more common in warm climate areas with high annual rainfall; the Leptospira vaccine may be considered core in these areas.
Signs of leptospirosis may include shivering, fever, muscle tenderness, increased thirst, dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, jaundice, kidney failure, liver failure, etc. When the disease is treated early and aggressively, the chances for recovery are quite good but there’s still a risk of permanent kidney/liver damage.
There is also a 5-way vaccine known as DHLPP, which is a combination vaccine of distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvo.
Lyme disease is caused by infection with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which is transmitted through the bite of infected ticks. The most common symptoms in dogs include loss of appetite, lameness, joint swelling, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. More serious cases can also develop kidney complications.
The Lyme disease vaccine is highly recommended for dogs that live in or frequently travel to areas known for Lyme disease, as well as those living in areas with a high risk of tick exposure.
Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a contagious viral infection affecting dogs. Two strains of canine influenza virus (CIV) have been identified in the US: H3N2 and H3N8.
The virus is spread through aerosols or droplets containing respiratory secretions from barking, sneezing, and coughing. Dogs in close contact with infected dogs in places like daycare facilities, groomers, and kennels are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. CIV causes an acute respiratory infection in dogs, with the most common clinical sign being a cough that persists for up to 21 days.
Vaccines are available for both H3N2 and H3N8 canine influenza. A bivalent vaccine offering protection against both strains is available as well.
Giardia is a parasite that lives in dogs’ intestines and most often infects puppies and older dogs. Dogs become infected when they swallow the parasite that may be present in water or other substances that have been soiled with feces leading to the disease Giardiasis. Giardia in dogs usually causes diarrhea, weight loss, or even death.
Giardia is an available vaccine for puppies 8 weeks of age and older for 6 months of immunity against giardiasis.
The canine coronavirus is not in any way similar to COVID-19 in people. Canine coronavirus usually affects a dog’s GI system, but it can also cause respiratory infections. Most common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
Young dogs are at a high risk of contracting the disease, so the vaccine is highly recommended for puppies under eight weeks. It’s usually not continued in puppies over eight weeks, but may be based on your vet’s recommendation.
A rattlesnake vaccine can help dogs build antibodies to rattlesnake venom from bites that are often deadly and severely painful to dogs. The antibodies work to neutralize the venom, thereby significantly extending the window of time you have to take your dog to the emergency room, increasing their odds of survival.
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In general, puppies should get their first shots as soon as they are weaned (when they no longer receive antibodies from mom’s milk), or around 6 to 8 weeks of age. After that, puppies should receive a series of vaccines every two to four weeks (until actual protein can be achieved) between the ages of 6 and 20 weeks old.
Your vet will determine a safe vaccine schedule for your puppy based on their weight, health, age, etc. Some pet parents prefer getting multiple puppy shots in one vet visit to minimize stress on their pet, whereas others prefer to spread the shots out to reduce possible side effects and soreness — talk to your vet to create a safe vaccine schedule that works for you and your puppy.
Rabies depends on local laws but is usually given by the time your dog reaches 3 to 6 months old.
Most vets prefer giving the final DHPP shot at 16 weeks or later; however, new recommendations suggest up to 20 weeks out.
Abstaining from booster shots can put your puppy at risk. However, not all vaccines require yearly boosters.
There are several types of puppy shots your pet might get in their first year. In addition to a deworming schedule, your vet will suggest a vaccination schedule for puppies based on their age, environment, and medical history.
Most vets recommend this general timeline for first-year puppy shots:
Between 6- and 8-weeks-old, puppies get their first shot of the DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus) vaccine. They might also receive their first round of vaccinations for Bordetella and Lyme disease.
Puppies get their next round of shots for DHPP, Bordatella, and Lyme disease about 4 weeks later, between 10- and 14-weeks-old. Leptospira (Lepto) is a common puppy vaccination administered around this time frame.
Around 4-months old, puppies will receive their final round of DHPP, Bordetella, and Lyme disease, after which point they may be considered immunized and safe to go into public spaces — but be sure to ask your vet beforehand. They'll also get their first rabies vaccine depending on state-mandated vaccine schedules for puppies, as well as a second shot of the Lepto vaccine (if applicable).
Puppies will need a booster shot for all vaccines at age 1. Dogs need booster vaccinations for Bordetella, Lepto, Lyme, and Giardia annually receiving their first immunization as an adult. The vaccination schedule for DHPP and rabies is every 3 years, but check your local laws and defer to your veterinarian's advice to ensure your pet stays free of disease.
Typically, the total cost to vaccinate a puppy ranges from $75 to $100 for core vaccinations administered in three separate doses. The rabies vaccine usually costs an additional $15 to $20. Non-essential vaccines your vet may recommend will also increase the price.
Note that puppy shots cost more or less depending on several different factors, including your location. For instance, vets in crowded urban areas tend to charge more than vets in smaller towns and rural areas.
Also keep in mind that you'll need to budget for booster shots in one- or three-year intervals to ensure your pet stays protected from disease. Fortunately, vaccines for dogs are less expensive than first-year puppy shots because boosters are administered in one dose every few years, as opposed to multiple doses every few weeks.
PRO TIP: Many pet wellness plans can help offset the cost of puppy vaccines with coverage for routine care.
No, but both vaccines for puppies are often combined in one shot. Distemper and parvovirus are two different illnesses that are potentially fatal if not treated quickly.
The canine 5-in-1 vaccine, or DHLPP, includes protection against the canine distemper virus, infectious hepatitis/adenovirus (H), leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.
It depends on their age; vets may recommend a shorter puppy vaccination schedule for dogs over 16 weeks old and not yet fully vaccinated.
Typically, it is not recommended to take your puppy for walks until they’re fully vaccinated.
A titer test is a blood test showing whether your puppy has antibodies for a particular illness. The test can be used to determine the effectiveness of a vaccine and help determine if or which booster vaccines your dog needs. Most doggy daycares and boarding facilities do not accept a titer test in lieu of a puppy vaccination record.
Because worms are very common in puppies, veterinarians recommend deworming them for the first time when they're two to three weeks old.
No. At this time, there’s no commercially available shot for the prevention of heartworm disease in puppies and dogs. Preventatives can either be administered as monthly medication or every six months by injection.
One way to save money on puppy vaccines is by visiting a low-cost vaccination clinic. These clinics typically offer packages that combine a bundle of vaccinations into a lower price point, but also offer individual options if your dog is due for a specific vaccine.
Another way to save money on puppy shots is by purchasing a pet wellness plan through a pet insurance provider. In addition to vaccines, wellness plans also cover routine and preventive care services such as annual wellness exams, spaying/neutering, routine dental care, microchipping, etc. Pawlicy Advisor can help you compare pet insurance policies and wellness plans from top US pet insurance providers to find the best coverage based on your puppy’s particular needs and concerns.
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Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.