Vaccinations are one of the first things most pet parents need to think about after getting a new puppy.
Puppies are very susceptible to a number of dangerous diseases, and the only way to protect your pup and make sure she enjoys a long, healthy life is to ensure she gets all of the vaccinations your vet recommends.
But puppies need a lot of different shots during their first few months of life, and some owners find the whole issue overwhelming.
We’ll try to help you figure things out below as we discuss the shots your puppy needs, the recommended timing for those shots, and a few other things you need to know.
Key Takeaways: When Can Puppies Get Shots?
- Dogs are susceptible to a number of dangerous and debilitating diseases. Many of these are most dangerous to puppies, but some — such as rabies — can sicken dogs of any age.
- Fortunately, vaccines are available that can provide partial to complete protection from these ailments. Typically, these vaccines are first administered early in a dog’s life, but booster shots are often necessary as the dog ages.
- As an owner, you’re legally required to have your dog vaccinated against some diseases, such as rabies. However, there are also a variety of vaccines your vet may recommend, based on your dog’s likely exposure level.
Puppy Shots Schedule: What Is the Typical Vaccination Schedule?
Although puppies receive some antibodies from their mother, these wear off pretty quickly. Accordingly, vaccination is necessary to trigger a puppy’s body to produce antibodies that’ll provide protection from the most threatening diseases.
However, this isn’t always a straight-forward, simple process. Many vaccines must be administered on several different occasions to be maximally effective.
The typical vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
|6 to 8 weeks||Distemper, Parainfluenza|
|10 to 12 weeks||Distemper, Adenovirus-1, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus|
|12 to 24 weeks||Rabies|
|14 to 16 weeks||Distemper, Adenovirus-1, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus|
|12 to 16 months||Rabies, Distemper, Adenovirus-1, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus|
Note that vaccination schedules differ slightly from one vet to the next. This means that your vet may recommend altering your puppy shot schedule in a number of ways based on your dog’s medical history and her specific risk factors.
What Are the Side Effects of Puppy Vaccines?
Like any other medication, the vaccines given to puppies can occasionally cause side effects.
However, the vast majority of the side effects observed are relatively mild, and the protective value the vaccines provide drastically outweighs the side effects that are sometimes noted.
Some of the most commonly noted side effects of vaccines include:
- Irritation at the injection site
- Low-grade fever
- Reduced appetite
- Mild lethargy
Some dogs may also develop a small lump near the injection site. This is pretty common, and it will normally go away on its own within a week or two. If it doesn’t go away within three weeks of the injection, contact your vet and let him or her know about the issue.
Also, note that while most vaccinations are administered as an injection, a few can be administered in nasal spray form. These vaccines may cause dogs to suffer from a variety of nasal issues, including a runny nose or frequent sneezing. These types of symptoms usually go away after a few days, but contact your vet if they persist.
While most of these symptoms will go away on their own and shouldn’t be troubling, there are a few side effects you’ll want to watch for, as they indicate the possibility that your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction.
Vaccine allergies are very rare, so most pet parents needn’t worry.
However, you’ll want to contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits any of the following symptoms:
- Repeated vomiting or diarrhea
- Swelling of the face, muzzle, or throat
- Difficulty in breathing
- Itchy skin (typically sudden and severe)
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
Dangerous Diseases of Dogs: What Shots Does a Puppy Need?
Vaccinations are given to puppies to prevent them from contracting several different illnesses. Some of the most notable include:
Rabies is a horrific disease that is almost always fatal.
There is no treatment for the disease, and once symptoms appear, euthanasia is often necessary. It can also be transmitted to other dogs and cats (as well as people), so it is critically important to have your dog vaccinated against the disease.
In fact, rabies vaccinations are legally required in most places.
The rabies virus is usually transmitted via the bite of an infected animal. It can remain dormant for quite some time before it causes symptoms (up to 1 year in some cases), but most dogs will start displaying classic rabies signs a few weeks to a few months after infection.
Rabies often occurs in multiple phases. The first phase, called the prodromal phase, causes a dog’s temperament to change drastically. The dog will then pass through one of two secondary phases, either furious or dumb rabies.
Furious rabies causes a dog to exhibit the traits commonly associated with the disease, such as aggression and the ingestion of inedible items. Eventually, dogs with furious rabies become paralyzed and die while having a violent seizure. On the other hand, dumb rabies causes progressive paralysis and facial distortion, which ultimately cause the dog to slip into a coma and die.
Fortunately, an appropriate regimen of rabies vaccinations will prevent your dog from contracting the disease.
Canine Parvovirus (aka Parvo)
Canine parvovirus is a deadly virus that causes a number of debilitating symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, persistent vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and bloating. In many cases, it proves fatal two to three days following the onset of symptoms.
The disease (which is typically just referred to as parvo) can affect any dog, but those younger than four months of age are at the highest risk.
Some breeds appear to be more susceptible to it than others. My vet cautioned that it is particularly common in black-and-tan breeds, like my Rottie, and he strongly recommended keeping her away from other dogs until she’d received a full slate of parvo vaccines.
The big problem with parvo is that it is remarkably hardy and tends to linger in the environment for long periods of time — in fact, bleach is one of the only disinfectants that will completely kill the organism. It is primarily spread via the fecal-oral route, but the virus can cling to clothing, food bowls, tile floors, and many other things, where it’ll eventually come into contact with other dogs.
Parvo can usually be prevented through a series of vaccinations, but it is important to schedule these vaccinations at very specific times to give your dog the best chance of building up an immunity to the disease.
Canine distemper is caused by a virus that can infect a wide variety of animals, including foxes, skunks, and seals, as well as domestic dogs. The disease causes trouble in a variety of ways, and it often infects the nervous system, digestive tract and respiratory system of puppies and dogs.
The virus is pretty contagious, and it can not only be spread via close contact with an infected animal, but also from drinking contaminated water.
Moreover, it is airborne and can be spread by the cough of infected animals. Mothers can also transmit the virus to their puppies.
Canine distemper is a very serious illness, and it often proves fatal. Even dogs who eventually survive the disease will often suffer from permanent neurological problems.
There is no effective treatment for the disease aside from supportive care, so vaccination is imperative. This normally requires a series of several injections, spread out over a few weeks’ time.
Canine hepatitis is caused by a virus known as canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1). The virus is found in urine, feces, and saliva, and dogs contract it after inadvertently ingesting any of these things.
CAV-1 causes a range of symptoms that primarily affects the respiratory tract, liver, kidneys, and eyes. In mild cases, dogs only suffer from a bit of nasal congestion; in severe cases, it can cause a dangerous white blood cell deficiency, poor blood clotting, and marked depression.
Canine hepatitis is fatal in approximately 10% to 30% of cases according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
Diagnosing and treating canine hepatitis is often challenging, and some dogs suffer from a long-term, chronic form of the disease. Fortunately, there is a vaccine available that’ll prevent most dogs from contracting canine hepatitis.
Bordetella (aka Kennel Cough)
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that causes respiratory illness (including tracheobronchitis – better known as “kennel cough”) in canines. It is not the only pathogen that causes kennel cough, but it is the most common culprit.
Many healthy adult dogs will get over a case of kennel cough on their own (although dog antibiotics are sometimes prescribed), but young dogs can become very sick from the disease. It is most common among dogs who are frequently in contact with other dogs, particularly when they are clustered together in close quarters, such as boarding facilities and kennels.
Kennel cough causes dogs to exhibit a very strong, “honking” cough, as well as a runny nose, fever, and loss of appetite.
There is a vaccine that’ll protect your dog from Bordetella bacteria, but it isn’t always considered necessary. Just discuss the issue with your vet and consider your dog’s potential for exposure when making your decision.
Canine Adenovirus 2
Canine adenovirus 2 (CAV-2) is related to CAV-1, but it primarily affects the respiratory tract of dogs. It is another one of the pathogens that is often associated with kennel cough.
Unlike CAV-1, CAV-2 infections are rarely life-threatening. It normally causes dogs to suffer from a dry, hacking cough, although they’ll occasionally cough up a white-colored phlegm. It can also cause them to suffer from a fever and nasal discharge.
There is a vaccine that provides some protection against CAV-2, but it is not entirely effective. It doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility that your dog will become infected, but it usually helps ensure that the virus doesn’t cause serious illness.
Because the CAV-2 vaccine provides protection against the more serious CAV-1, it is typically considered part of the core vaccinations that are given to most puppies.
Canine parainfluenza is a virus that can cause respiratory illness (including kennel cough) in dogs. An airborne virus, it is rapidly transmitted through boarding facilities, pet shops, and other areas where dogs are kept in close proximity to each other.
Canine parainfluenza generally doesn’t cause severe illness in dogs, although very young or immunocompromised puppies may struggle with the virus more than most other dogs. Note that canine parainfluenza is a different virus than the viruses that cause canine influenza (dog flu).
Vets don’t always recommend vaccinating dogs against canine parainfluenza, and there is some debate regarding the vaccine’s efficacy. Just discuss the issue with your vet and make the best choice you can on your pet’s behalf.
Canine coronavirus is not Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Canine coronavirus is a virus that causes intestinal infections in dogs. It is highly contagious and typically spreads quickly when dogs are kept in crowded or unsanitary conditions. It is most commonly a problem for puppies, although adult dogs can suffer from the infection.
Most cases of coronavirus infection go away without treatment in a few days, but infected dogs typically feel pretty miserable for the duration of the disease.
The primary symptom is sudden diarrhea, which often has an orange tint to it. Many dogs also become lethargic and lose their appetite while battling the infection.
There aren’t any specific treatments for the disease, but puppies and dogs who become seriously ill from the virus may require IV fluids and supportive therapy.
There is a vaccine available for this coronavirus, but it isn’t appropriate for all dogs. This is another case in which you must discuss the issue with your vet and make the best possible choice for your dog.
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by any of several bacteria belonging to the genus Leptospira. The bacteria are often spread by rodents, but dogs can contract it in many different ways, including contact with an infected rodent, ingestion of contaminated water, and even through sexual contact with other dogs in rare cases.
The symptoms associated with leptospirosis are remarkably varied. Respiratory illness, painful eye inflammation, lethargy, muscle tremors, fever, kidney failure, and jaundice are only a few of the potential symptoms that dogs may experience while dealing with the condition.
With prompt treatment, many dogs will recover, but the disease is fatal in some cases.
Aside from the fact that it can be a serious disease in dogs, leptospirosis is also troubling because it can be transmitted to humans. There is a vaccine available for leptospirosis, but it is not appropriate for all pets, so discuss the issue with your vet.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia. The bacterium is transmitted by ticks, and it is most common in the northeastern U.S. as well as the “tick belt,” an area stretching from Texas to North Carolina. The disease primarily causes lethargy, fever, lameness, and similar symptoms in dogs.
However, Lyme disease does not always cause symptoms – many dogs remain completely healthy, despite testing positive for the bacteria. Additionally, some dogs never pass through areas harboring ticks. So, veterinarians don’t always recommend having your pup vaccinated against the disease. You’ll just need to discuss the issue with your vet and consider the likelihood that your dog will be bitten by ticks.
Whether you decide to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease or not, be sure that you use a good flea treatment that is also effective against ticks.
Which Vaccines Are Mandatory, and Which Ones Are Optional?
Dogs do not always require vaccines to protect them from all of the diseases mentioned above. You’ll simply need to discuss the issue with your vet and make the best decision for your pet.
Some shots, such as the rabies vaccine, are legally required, and others, such as the parvo vaccine, are so important that vets tend to administer them more-or-less automatically. But others, such as the Lyme disease vaccine, are a good idea for some dogs, but likely unnecessary for others.
Generally speaking, the “core vaccines” that are given to all puppies include the following:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine distemper
- Canine parainfluenza
- Canine adenovirus-1 (hepatitis)
- Canine adenovirus-2
On the other hand, vaccinations against the following conditions are usually given on a case-by-case basis:
- Canine coronavirus
- Lyme disease
Note that some vets use combination (multivalent) vaccines which simultaneously vaccinate your dog against more than one virus or bacteria. This means that while your dog may only need the core vaccines, she could end up getting a few other vaccines at the same time.
Not sure if your dog needs non-core vaccines? This graphic from PupBox explains a bit about how to decide if your pup needs non-core vaccines.
Do Adult Dogs Need Any Vaccinations?
Adult dogs have much more robust immune systems than young puppies do, so they don’t require as many vaccines.
However, there are still a few vaccinations dogs will require for their entire life. These include:
- All dogs should be vaccinated against rabies every 1 to 3 years
- Most adult dogs should receive core vaccine boosters every year or two
- Adults who are good candidates for optional vaccines (such as Lyme disease or leptospirosis) should usually receive these vaccinations every 1 to 2 years
Just be sure that you continue to visit your vet regularly once your dog graduates to adulthood and have your pet vaccinated against any diseases your vet considers a viable threat.
Pre-Vaccination Safety For Puppies
Most new dog owners are understandably excited about the latest addition to the family, and they are eager to take her to the dog park, pet store, and other places to show off their new canine.
Additionally, most dog owners who’ve done their homework realize that early socialization is very important for their pup’s development, so they want to get started right away.
But don’t go running to the dog park just yet.
Even if your puppy has already received one or two rounds of vaccines, she may still be susceptible to a number of dangerous diseases.
Instead, you’ll want to hold off on going to the dog park or introducing your pet to other dogs until your vet has given her the green light (usually around 12 weeks or so).
Additionally, you’ll want to be careful to avoid letting her sniff other dog’s poop. If possible, just limit your walks to the backyard or other areas that don’t experience a lot of dog traffic.
Dog Vaccination Cost: How Expensive Are Puppy Shots?
While your new puppy’s vaccinations certainly represent another cost you’ll have to bear, they aren’t that expensive – especially when compared to some of the other costs you’ll incur, such as having your puppy spayed or neutered.
The exact prices you’ll pay will vary based on your location, the vet you choose, and a few other factors. However, most owners will end up spending about $15 to $30 per round of shots. There are typically four rounds of shots given in the first year, so you are looking at $60 to $120.
You’ll likely need to spend about $50 to $60 per year on vaccines in the following years, although this figure will vary based on the exact combination of vaccines you and your vet decide are appropriate for your pet.
Puppy Vaccinations at Home: Can You Vaccinate Your Dog At Home?
Although you may consider the notion of vaccinating your new pet yourself, this is generally a very bad idea for several reasons.
For starters, you won’t be able to acquire all of the necessary vaccines.
There are a few online retailers that will sell you vaccines against some diseases, such as:
You may even be able to convince your vet to sell you these supplies if he or she feels you are competent enough to administer them.
But the problem is, it is illegal to sell the rabies vaccine to anyone other than a licensed physician or veterinarian.
Even if you somehow got your hands on a rabies vaccine, your state won’t consider your pup vaccinated against the disease unless a vet administers it. This is a big problem, as the rabies vaccine is a legal requirement.
So, you’re going to need to go to your vet for this vaccine anyway. And if you are doing this, you may as well get your vet to administer all of your puppy’s vaccines.
Don’t forget that while vaccines are statistically quite safe, a very small percentage of dogs will suffer from potentially life-threatening allergic reactions (to give you an idea, one vet reported just 3 allergic reactions in more than 200,000 doses administered).
While unlikely to happen at all, if an allergic reaction occurs in your vet’s office, the staff will likely be able to administer medications and supportive care to help your dog recover. But if it occurs in your home, you’ll have a problem on your hands and need to get to your vet’s office ASAP.
Finally, note that some dogs may struggle or become frightened while being vaccinated. Vets and vet techs are often trained to deal with these types of issues, but most dog owners won’t know how to control their dog in a safe and gentle manner while providing injections.
That’s why we generally don’t recommend vaccinating your dog yourself at home.
Nevertheless, for informational purposes, the video below from Drs. Foster and Smith show how home vaccinations usually work:
Helpful Strategies for Low-Income Owners Dealing With Vaccination Costs
While puppy shots aren’t the most expensive component of pet care, they may be difficult for some owners to afford. But there are a few ways you may be able to save a bit of money while getting your puppy vaccinated.
→ Just level with your vet and explain your financial situation. Most vets don’t go into the field of pet medicine to get rich – they do so because they sincerely love animals. Most understand that people occasionally have trouble affording all of the necessary vaccinations, and they may be willing to work out a payment plan.
→ Inquire with local shelters. Some shelters and other pet-oriented non-profits provide low-cost vaccinations to pet owners (many shelters offer help with dog food as well). In some cases, they may even offer them for free. Just start calling around to all of the shelters in your area and see what you can find.
→ Consider vaccinating your pet at home. As we explained above, it is usually not a good idea to vaccinate your pets at home, and we strongly recommend taking your dog to the vet to be vaccinated whenever possible. Home vaccinations are definitely not something to be taken lightly, and you’ll still have to take your pet in to be vaccinated against rabies.
However, for those who need to keep costs as low as possible, home vaccinations may be a viable way to save a small amount of money. Just be sure to purchase the vaccines carefully and be sure that you provide the proper dosage for your pet.
Don’t Forget About Worming Your New Puppy
Note that vaccines aren’t the only veterinary services your new pet will need to stay healthy.
Your new pooch will also need to be wormed – vaccines protect him against viruses (and a few bacteria), but worming medications will help ensure he is free of intestinal parasites, including worms and protozoans.
We bring this up for two reasons:
- If you plan on vaccinating your puppy at home, you’ll also need to purchase and administer the appropriate worming medications at the appropriate times. We’ve written about this in more detail, so be sure to check out our guide to the best puppy wormers if you plan on taking a DIY approach.
- Worming medications cost money, and you’ll want to plan accordingly. Worming is rarely expensive, but it may effectively double the price you’ll spend during your first few visits.
Dog vaccines can be a pain in the butt (for you and your dog – rimshot), but they are a necessary component of compassionate pet care.
If you love your pet and want to protect her from potentially deadly diseases, you just have to bite the bullet and get all of the vaccinations she needs.
Have you figured out a way to reduce the cost of vaccinating your dog? Have you ever given your dog vaccinations at home? We’d love to hear about your experiences – tell us all about them in the comments below!