We love our furry pets and want them to be as healthy as possible. To ensure this, you need to have a puppy vaccine schedule.

Vaccines are the number one way to prevent your pup from getting sick due to bacteria and viruses.

If you want to learn more about vaccines, keep reading to find out:

The Disease Shield Called Vaccines

There’s been a massive debate around vaccines recently, but have you ever stopped to think about what they actually are?

What Are Pet Vaccinations? 

I like to think of them as “training juice.” The injection kicks up a response from the immune system to recognize the germ (virus or disease).

Once the body has the germ information, if you come into contact with it in the future, your immune system already knows which antibodies to send out to deal with the problem. 

Since the vaccine uses minor germ parts, you don’t get the full-blown illness. But it provides just enough of the germ to activate an immune response.

Why Are Puppy Vaccines Important?

The number one reason vaccines are crucial is that they prevent the recipient from having a massive response if they get ill from a virus or bacteria.

For example, rabies is a viral disease that kills pretty much any person or animal that contracts it. But once you administer the rabies vaccine for dogs and an infected animal bites the host, the immune system knows what to do immediately, increasing the survival chance.

In short, vaccines are the only way to prevent severe illness and death from viruses and bacteria that can kill your beloved pet. 

Admittedly, there are debates about effectiveness or side effects. But if we look at how many animals and humans died in the past from such ailments, vaccines have saved billions of lives. So, in our book, they’re just as essential as potty training your puppy

What Shots Do Puppies Need?

For starters, puppies need their core vaccinations, but to ensure their best health, consider the non-core ones, too.

Core Vaccinations 

Core vaccinations are vital for all dogs. Otherwise, your furry pal can get incredibly ill or pass diseases onto other pups that are possibly too young for their vaccines. 

Canine Parvovirus

This virus is super contagious and can affect any dog. But puppies less than four months old or unvaccinated animals are most at risk.

The virus causes extreme gastrointestinal upset (vomiting and diarrhea), leading to dehydration. If it’s bad enough, that can kill a dog in 2–3 days

Unfortunately, there’s no cure, but the vet can treat the symptoms. Parvo shots for puppies are among the first your doggo will get at 6–8 weeks, with a few boosters along the way.


By far, this is the scariest disease on our list today, and you’re about to find out why. 

We’ve all seen movies with humans frothing at the mouth and going insane, and that’s one time Hollywood hasn’t exaggerated. 

Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. Animals and humans are at risk after a bite from an already infected animal. Fortunately, puppies’ first shots include this one.

The scary part is that rabies causes a strange body reaction. Those infected, whether human or animal, get seriously aggressive. The virus takes over the brain and causes symptoms like:

  • Drooling
  • Headache
  • Fear of water
  • Hallucination
  • Paralysis 

The rabies vaccine is the only safe way to prevent infection. Otherwise, once bitten, the survival chance is zero

You can take your pup for its first vaccine at the 12–16 week mark. The booster is suitable again at 16–18 weeks. 


Plus, US law requires boosters every 1–3 years, but you’ll see this in the shot schedule for puppies below. So, this vaccine is vital.

We know that pups get in each other’s space and can do some cooky things, like eating another dog’s feces. While strange to us, it’s pretty standard for them. But this makes them more susceptible to infections.

For instance, the Adenovirus causes hepatitis, but there’s a vaccine that protects your pup from it. Hepatitis affects the kidneys, eyes, lungs, spleen, and liver. It attacks the organs, making them inflamed and enlarged.

Symptoms of mild infection include:

  • Congestion
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Pain

They can come quickly. This dog vaccination is essential because while vets can treat these symptoms, there’s currently no cure for the infection that can kill your dog.

Canine Distemper

It’s a highly contagious viral disease. Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Mucus secretion
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Fever
  • Seizures

Strangely, the virus can also lead foot pads to become thicker, hence its previous name, “hard pad.”

Canine distemper is airborne, meaning it spreads through coughing and sneezing. But you should also be wary of sharing food and water bowls.

Vets can only treat the symptoms. Unfortunately, a pup is contagious months after infection, so trips to the local dog park are out. 

You can take your pup for its initial distemper vaccine at 6–8 weeks, followed by a few boosters, but we’ll get to the schedule shortly.


While similar to Canine influenza, this infection requires a different vaccine. Symptoms include:

  • Dry or wet cough
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose

But identifying lethargy in puppies can be difficult because they sleep up to 18 hours a day. So if you’re unsure, it’s best to call the vet. 

When do puppies get shots for parainfluenza? Dogs most at risk are those that hang around other pooches. We highly recommend this vaccine if you’re taking your pup to the park, traveling, to the groomers, or putting your dog in boarding. 

It’s not just about keeping your dog safe. You should also protect others that may not be able to get the vaccine. For instance, some can be too young to start their puppy vaccine schedule or have underlying conditions.

Vet feeding medicine with a syringe to chihuahua puppy

Non-Core Vaccinations

Law doesn’t regulate these vaccines, but vets recommend them to keep your pup as healthy as possible. Ultimately, it’s up to you. But please read this section to understand better what your doggo is up against if you choose not to vaccinate.


It’s a super contagious bacteria and the primary cause of kennel cough. The infection comes with vomiting, coughing, and wheezing. Pups are most at risk when they socialize with each other, like in a boarding facility or dog park

Puppy mills sell over 2.6 million puppies in the US each year. Sadly, bacteria are common in such places, so be very aware of where you’re getting your new dog.

Wondering how many rounds of shots do puppies need? The schedule below will help. It all comes down to what you and the vet decide is best.

The vaccine comes in a nasal spray or injection. It’s recommended between 6–8 weeks if your dog is going near others. 

Pups usually survive kennel cough. But young puppies and dogs with underlying conditions can get very unwell and die, so we recommend the vaccine.


Caused by a pretty common bacteria, this disease affects all kinds of animals. It’s prevalent in the environment as rats carry it. 

Some pups show no symptoms, but they can spread the bacteria among animals without a puppy shots schedule. 

Dogs younger than six months are at high risk of developing symptoms, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice. 

These symptoms appear about 4–12 days after contact with the bacteria. Once present, you should take your dog to the vet ASAP.

The vaccine will protect your puppy from getting very sick and is available from 10–12 weeks of age. 

Canine Influenza

Like us, dogs can get flu. But the good news is that there’s no record of human to canine transmission because pups get a different strain.

If you’ve ever had real flu, you know how awful it can be, and it’s no different for pooches. Besides, if you don’t stick to the puppy vaccine schedule, symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Lethargy

Although most dogs recover within 2–3 weeks, they shouldn’t go through that. Also, they’re much more susceptible to a secondary infection while sick with the flu, which could be deadly. 

The vaccine is recommended between 10–12 weeks of age. 


You may know about Lyme disease in humans, where we’ll get a super distinctive bulls-eye rash from the tick bite. Pups don’t get this, making it more difficult to spot. And since dogs are much closer to the ground, their risk of exposure is far greater than ours. 

So, how many shots do puppies need before going outside? Generally, they should be covered with just one. But if infected, your pup may start limping, get a fever, and have swollen lymph nodes. Also, if left untreated, it can affect the heart and kidneys.

If you catch it quickly enough, antibiotics will help, but prompt vet care is vital. Also, keep up with your dog’s flea and tick treatments

When to Take the Shot 

Now that you know what your pup needs, you should find out when to do it. 

Shot Schedule For Puppies 

The table below should help you keep track of your pet’s vaccines. Some are combined for easier management:

CoreNon-Core Vaccinations
6–8 weeksDHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza)Bordetella (Kennel cough)
10–12 weeksDHPPLyme, Influenza, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis
14–16 weeksRabies & DHPPLyme, Influenza, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis
12–16 monthsRabies & DHPPLyme, Coronavirus, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis
AnnualDHPPLyme, Coronavirus, Influenza, Bordetella, and Leptospirosis
Three YearsRabies

It might seem like a lot, but trust us, it’s way better to get your furry friend vaccinated than deal with illnesses. 

Your dog’s size doesn’t affect the vaccine schedule. That said, it affects the diet choices you make for your pet. If you have a big furry pal, check out some dog food suitable for large breed puppies.

What Shots Do Dogs Need Yearly? — Vaccines’ Longevity

Like everything in life, vaccines have a lifespan, and you need to know what to expect for each shot. 

How Long Is a Shot Effective For? 

Each vaccine has its own lifespan. Let’s have a closer look:

Six Months:

  • Bordetella

One Year:

  • Canine Influenza 
  • Leptospirosis 
  • Lyme Disease

Three Years:

  • Rabies
  • DHPP

Many kennels and daycares highly recommend the Bordetella vaccine before entrance to avoid infections in large groups of dogs.

Potential Side Effects of Pet Vaccinations

All medical interventions come with pros and cons. But vets believe the vaccines’ positives far outweigh the negatives. Plus, side effects are super rare. 

Vaccine reactions may include:

  • Fever
  • Inactivity or slow movement
  • Swollen face or paws
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Seizure 
  • Injection place appears swollen & painful on touch

If your pup experiences an adverse reaction, it’ll most likely calm down within a few hours or days. Long-term side effects are highly unlikely.

When to Call Your Vet

If you’re worried at any time after a dog vaccination, it’s best to call the vet for peace of mind. But sometimes, asking for professional advice is a must.

If you think your dog’s having an allergic reaction to the vaccine, get it to the vet straight away, particularly if your pet struggles to breathe

Mild side effects should dissipate shortly and don’t require a panic drive to the vet. 

How Much Do Puppy Shots Cost?

The vaccine price ranges based on location. Also, the vet will be more expensive, but you can get a lower price at your local shelter.

The average cost for the first year of vaccines is between $70–$165. The total depends on which core and non-core vaccines you choose for your dog. 

After that, you’ll pay anywhere between $15–$100 a year

Final Thoughts on When Do Puppies Get Shots

Vaccines are crucial for your dog’s health as they can prevent some life-threatening diseases. Plus, by vaccinating your pup, you protect others that might be able to afford that. 

While they may seem expensive, the cost is minimal compared to the vet bills you’ll get if your puppy gets sick. So, if you are a responsible owner, get your puppy vaccine schedule up and running as soon as possible.

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