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dog parent basics

the essentials

  • Expect to pay around $100 — Cost varies, but core vaccines average around $100 for everything. 
  • Mild side effects are to be expected — Not all dogs have reactions to vaccinations, but a low-grade fever is common.   
  • Your vet might recommend additional vaccinesThe bad news is that there are a lot of doggie diseases out there. The good news is veterinary science has created lots of preventative measures to keep your new puppy safe. 

Puppy vaccination schedules for years one and two

Vaccines can be broken down into core vaccines and non-core vaccines.

  • Core vaccines. The most vital set of vaccines your dog will receive. They protect against the most prevalent, dangerous and contagious diseases.  
  • Non-core vaccines. All the other vaccines your dog’s vet might want to administer.

Core vaccines include canine parvovirus, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Certain states (and even counties) have certain requirements. So it’s always important to verify local vaccination requirements. To work properly, some vaccinations require multiple shots or “boosters.”

In most cases in the United States, core vaccines include the DHPP vaccines as well as the rabies vaccine. DHPP stands for distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvo.  Your pup’s vet will give her the first DHPP vaccines at 6-8 weeks old, then again at 9-12 weeks, and then at 16 weeks. After the initial puppy doses, DHPP vaccines are given every 1-2 years.

It is important to make sure the pet receives a DHPP at 12 and 16 weeks. Prior to 12 weeks, maternal antibodies can interfere with the response to the vaccines, so ones are given at 12 and 16 weeks provide long-lasting immunity. I have seen 12-18 month-old dogs with Parvo that were given 3 sets of puppy vaccines — but they were not given at the right time.

Mason Romero, DVM

bettpet Advisor

Core vaccines (first-year vaccinations)

Distemper (part of DHPP vaccines) — Distemper is a virus that causes many unpleasant and potentially fatal symptoms in dogs. These symptoms include nasal and ocular discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, coughing and potential inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Distemper gets worse the longer the dog goes untreated. Dogs who contract distemper may also develop a secondary bacterial infection. Many dogs who survive distemper will suffer from issues with their teeth because the disease causes problems with their enamel. There is no cure for the distemper virus, and it’s highly contagious. 

Canine Hepatitis (part of DHPP vaccines) — Adenovirus CAV-1 is the virus responsible for canine hepatitis. According to PetMD, canine hepatitis can cause infection of the upper respiratory tract. It also causes liver, kidney, eye, and blood cell problems if untreated. Symptoms can be fatal. They range widely from fever to anorexia to enlarged liver to brain inflammation and ulceration of the corneas.

Canine Parainfluenza (part of DHPP vaccines) — This is one of the viruses that cause respiratory infection commonly known as “kennel cough.”  Dogs with kennel cough may hack, have runny noses, have eye discharge, and suffer from loss of appetite. Kennel cough is contagious, especially in spaces shared by many dogs.

Parvovirus (part of DHPP vaccines) — Parvo is a virus that attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. It is dangerous because it is incredibly contagious. It is also potentially fatal. Parvo can lead to a number of GI symptoms. The AKC notes that parvo can cause loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and “extreme dehydration.”  It’s particularly prevalent in puppies, and also the most dangerous in puppies. Because it is a virus, it has no cure, hence why it’s included in the core vaccinations.

Rabies — Rabies is the final part of the core vaccinations. Rabies is a virus that attacks a dog’s brain and spinal cord. A dog can contract rabies if another animal with the virus bites her. Dogs who have contracted rabies may foam at the mouth, suffer behavioral changes and paralysis of the throat and jaw. 

Dogs who contract rabies are almost always euthanized according to WebMD. This is because of the public health hazard associated with the disease. Your pup’s veterinarian will first vaccinate your pup at 12-24 weeks. Your dog will get a booster at 12-16 months and then every one to three years depending on local laws.

Non-Core vaccines

Bordetella bronchiseptica — Bordetella is a bacteria that can cause bronchitis in dogs. Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, ocular discharge, and pneumonia in severe cases. If your vet deems it appropriate, she will give your pup the Bordetella vaccination at 6-8 weeks. Your dog will get it again at 10-12 weeks, 12-16 months and every one to two years after that.

Coronavirus — In dogs, coronavirus presents itself as a gastrointestinal infection. If your veterinarian deems your pup at risk for contracting coronavirus, she will administer the vaccine at 10-12 weeks. Your dog will get a booster at 14-16 weeks, 12-16 months and then every one to two years.

Leptospirosis — Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection. Dogs can contract it after playing in contaminated dirt or water. Symptoms include fever, increased urination, lethargy, diarrhea, and severe liver and lung issues.  Your vet, if she sees fit, will vaccinate your dog against leptospirosis at 10-12 weeks. Your dog will get another dose at 14-16 weeks, 12-16 months and every one to two years after that.

Lyme disease — Lyme disease is also known as borreliosis. It is a bacterial infection that certain ticks spread. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, anorexia, and even neurological disorders.  Because Lyme disease is bacterial, antibiotics may be effective in treating it. If your vet vaccinates your dog against Lyme disease, your puppy will get dosed at 10-12 weeks. She will get a booster at 14-16 weeks, 12-16 months and then every one to two years after that.

puppy vaccine

📷 by Senior Airman Hailey R. Staker

What you can expect at your puppy’s first visit to the vet

A lot of what happens at your fuzzy new family member’s visit to the vet depends on a variety of factors. Your dog’s age plays a great role along with where you adopted her from. If you rescue a shelter pet, your dog will likely be current on her vaccinations. The shelter will share your puppy’s vaccination records with you or with the veterinarian directly. Then your vet will determine what vaccines your dog is due for next.

Your pup’s vet will also do a physical exam to make sure your pup is the happiest and healthiest she can be. Your first vet visit with your new BFF is a great opportunity for you to ask your veterinarian any questions you have.

Frequently asked questions

Why are some vaccinations required and others are optional?

It is the job of certain organizations, such as the AAHA Canine Task Force, to determine which vaccines are mandatory. They make their recommendations based on a variety of risk factors. Their conclusions serve as the guidelines used by veterinarians.

The law comes into play regarding rabies, as it is a public health concern. Not all states have mandatory rabies vaccinations, but most do, according to American Veterinarian. Optional or non-core vaccines are given at a veterinarian’s discretion based on her patient’s location and risk factors.

What are some of the side-effects of vaccinating my dog?

Not all dogs will have reactions to vaccines. If a dog does have a reaction, it is likely akin to an allergic reaction which can be serious, but usually is not. According to The Spruce Pets, a reaction to a vaccine will most likely occur in 48 hours after injection. Mild symptoms include — but are not limited to — lethargy, bleeding or a lump at the injection site, facial swelling, irritability, and ocular discharge. More serious side effects may include anaphylaxis and death with earlier signs of diarrhea, vomiting and other signs of illness.

Dogs that have worse reactions might suffer from undiagnosed auto-immune issues. This is why it’s always a good idea to monitor your pets after she’s received a vaccine. Most veterinarians agree that vaccines are safe and that people should not worry too much. Just be attentive to their pet after an inoculation. 

What is the difference between a booster and a titer?

Titers are blood tests that a vet performs to check how many antibodies to a certain disease your dog has. This information is useful to see if your pup requires a booster shot. Your dog’s vet will determine if and when she requires a titer test.

A booster shot is another dose of a vaccine that your pup has already received. Your vet will determine whether or not your dog requires a booster based on a number of factors including location and lifestyle.

Why do you have to do boosters for some vaccines but not others?

This comes down to how effective a vaccine is. Some vaccines require multiple doses to make the vaccine function most effectively. Other vaccines “wear off” and require supplemental doses to keep antibodies up and able to ward off diseases. 

How much will it cost for me to properly vaccinate my dog?

Of course, costs for any veterinary service varies based on location. Sometimes rescue pet adopters receive a discount for vaccines. The AKC estimates that the cost for core vaccines is about $75-100 with a rabies vaccine running you roughly $20. Note these costs might be in addition to the price of an office visit. But, remember, you can never put a price tag on keeping your pup safe, so always vaccinate.  

How does vaccination relate to my dog’s registration and license? 

Always check with your local government to determine what the requirements are for registering your new dog. Often, the city will require proof of rabies vaccination to qualify for a dog license. Some cities also require proof of rabies booster shots after you get your pup’s initial license.

My puppy is now a dog, what vaccines will she need in her adulthood?

This is a question best posed to your individual dog’s veterinarian. Your pooch’s doctor will recommend what is best for your furry four-legged friend based on lifestyle factors. Your vet may or may not recommend titer tests prior to booster shots. If you have any questions, never hesitate to ask your vet. They’re there to help you and your new pup live your best lives.

A quick history of animal vaccination

The history of veterinary vaccination dates back to 1879. This was when Louis Pasteur, a French chemist, created a vaccine for chicken cholera. According to The Smithsonian, Pasteur followed that up with a vaccine for sheep and cattle anthrax in 1881. In 1884, Pasteur tested his rabies vaccination on animals. It was used on humans, too, shortly thereafter. 

The first modern vaccine was created by English physician Edward Jenner in 1796. He figured out how to inoculate against smallpox by using fluid from cowpox pustules.

However, The History of Vaccines explains that humans have experimented with other forms of ‘vaccination’ since 250 BCE.