What Shots Does My Dog Need?

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting experience for any family. This tiny dog is depending on you for food, shelter, entertainment, health, and safety. While the responsibility to provide your pup with everything they need may feel overwhelming, with the right information and planning, it can certainly be done. Part of keeping your puppy healthy and safe includes vaccinations throughout the first year of his life. You may be wondering, “What shots does my dog need?” Keep reading to gain a better understanding of what shots dogs need to live a long, healthy life.

Understanding Dogs Vaccines

In 2017, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released updated canine vaccination guidelines. The veterinary organization used risk factors for dogs as well as age and lifestyle to determine which vaccinations and boosters shots are appropriate for your pet. In addition, the AAHA reviewed the frequency and dosage of canine shots and their effectiveness in protecting against contagious diseases in dogs.

Canine vaccinations help a dog’s immune system fight off disease-causing organisms. Puppy shots contain antigens of specific diseases that gently stimulate the immune system. This stimulation may cause mild symptoms including soreness and allergic reactions in dogs at the injection site. If your dog is exposed to the disease after immunization, his body will recognize the organism and fight it off.

Laws regarding canine vaccinations and booster shots vary for each state. The rabies vaccination for dogs is mandatory in all states. Some states require yearly rabies shots for dogs, while others only require the vaccine once every three years.

Figuring out which shots your dog needs is an essential component to keeping your pet healthy and safe. Because each dog is unique, not all pets will need a vaccine for every disease. Your veterinarian will be able to outline the necessary shots your puppy needs.

Core & Non-core Shots for Dogs

Each canine vaccination will fall under one of two categories: core or no-core. Core vaccinations are considered to be essential for all pups. Core shots will prevent your dog from acquiring serious diseases as well as the potential transmission to humans. Non-core shots for dogs are recommended based on your pet’s age, geographical location, and lifestyle.

Core canine vaccinations for dogs include shots for:

  • Rabies
  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Canine hepatitis

Non-core vaccinations for dogs include shots for:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough)
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease)
  • Leptospira
  • Coronavirus

Determining factors for non-core canine shots will include breed, age, health history, lifestyle, and exposure to other animals. More than likely, your vet will recommend that your dog gets the core canine vaccines as well as some non-core shots.

What Vaccinations Do Puppies Need in the First Year?

Taking your new puppy for frequent visits to the vet can be time-consuming and may feel inconvenient. However, protecting your pup from various canine diseases is an integral part of being a dog parent. Proper vaccination will safeguard your pet from serious and potentially lethal illnesses.


Rabies is a viral disease transmitted among mammals. The devastating virus invades the central nervous system and causes canine anxiety, hallucinations, fear of water, dog paralysis, and death. Rabies is most commonly passed to dogs when they are bitten by another animal. If an infected pup is not treated within hours of transmission, death is a likely outcome.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a severe infectious disease in dogs. The condition is caused by a virus that attacks a pup’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Distemper is an airborne disease that infects raccoons, skunks, and other wild animals in addition to canines. It can also be transmitted through food, water, and infected surfaces. Canine distemper leads to nasal discharge, fever, canine coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and sometimes death. While some supportive care is available to treat symptoms, there is no known cure for distemper.


Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that affects all dogs. Unvaccinated puppies under four months old have the greatest risk of contracting the illness. Parvovirus attacks a pup’s gastrointestinal system which leads to appetite loss, vomiting, fever, and severe diarrhea. These symptoms put a dog at risk for extreme dehydration which can be lethal within just a few days. Currently, there is no cure for parvovirus. It’s vital to keep your pup hydrated until the immune system can fight off the sickness.

Canine Hepatitis

Canine hepatitis is an incredibly infectious virus that damages a dog’s kidneys, liver, spleen, lungs, and eyes. Unrelated to the type of hepatitis seen in humans, canine hepatitis symptoms include low fever, congestion, jaundice, vomiting, canine bloat, and pain around a dog’s liver. Some pets can heal from mild forms of hepatitis, but more severe cases can be lethal.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a highly contagious bacteria passed among dogs. The disease is known for inducing kennel cough which causes severe coughing, wheezing, vomiting, and in some rare cases, death. The Bordetella vaccine for dogs comes in the form of an injectable shot or nasal spray.

Borrelia Burgdorferi

Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacteria that causes Lyme disease in dogs. Contracted through tick bites, the bacterial infection leads to inflammation, chronic lameness, appetite loss, and depression. In some cases, Lyme disease can damage a dog’s kidneys, heart, or nervous system.


Leptospirosis is a canine bacterial disease. The bacterium is found in water and soil and can be spread from animals to humans. Some dogs infected with leptospirosis may not show any symptoms. However, in severe cases, the disease can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, appetite loss, diarrhea, weakness, lethargy, joint stiffness, muscle pain, jaundice, infertility, and kidney failure. Antibiotics can be effective in treating leptospirosis in dogs if they are administered promptly.


Coronavirus will typically affect a canine’s gastrointestinal system, but the disease can also lead to respiratory infections. Symptoms include appetite loss, vomiting, and diarrhea. While there is currently no cure for coronavirus, supportive care may consist of keeping your pup hydrated, comfortable, and warm.

How Often Do Dogs Need Shots?

Most vets will recommend that your puppy receives a series of shots beginning around six weeks of age. Typically, a veterinarian will administer at least three vaccines every four weeks.  Final doses are usually given to a dog at around 16 weeks. Some adult dogs will get vaccinated with booster shots each year, while other vaccinations will be administered every three years.

The frequency of vaccinations will depend on the type of shot as well as your dog’s age, health history, lifestyle, and environment. Work with your vet to create a vaccination schedule that best fits for your pet.

How Much Does It Cost to Get My Dog Vaccinated?

Now that you know what shots your dog needs, you may be wondering how much these vaccinations cost. The cost of puppy shots depends on a variety of factors including your location and the age of your dog. If you live in an urban area, vaccinations may be more expensive than in smaller towns. Initial puppy vaccinations will cost more than the booster shots required for adult dogs.  

The cost of vaccinating a puppy ranges from $75 to $100. This will include core shots in your dog’s first year of life that are administered from six to twelve weeks of age. The initial vaccination bundle may or may not include the rabies vaccine which costs around $15 to $20. Some animal shelters offer puppy vaccinations at a lower cost than a vet clinic—or sometimes for free. If you adopt from an animal shelter, your dog will most likely be up-to-date with vaccinations, but you will be responsible for continuing shots.

What Booster Shots Does My Dog Need?

Once you’ve gotten your puppy vaccinated with all the necessary shots, you may be wondering, “What shots does my dog need yearly?” About a year after completing puppy vaccinations, you may get a reminder from your vet clinic to make an appointment for booster shots. If you’re unsure whether to move forward with your dog’s booster shots, you’re not alone. Some people think that giving a dog booster shots each year is too often and poses health risks. However, others believe that annual booster shots for dogs prevent dangerous diseases and are necessary for canine health. Similar to vaccinating children, there is a cultural debate surrounding revaccination of canines. Some dogs may experience allergic reactions to booster shots which may lead to swelling, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as other side effects.

Before committing to yearly vaccinations, some pet owners opt for titer (lab) tests that measure the ratio of antibodies to disease in a dog’s blood. Titer tests are a good indication of canine immunity levels which can help determine if any booster shots are needed. It’s important to note that titer tests cannot be used to forego the rabies vaccine which is required by law for all dogs in the United States.

Are Canine Vaccinations Worth It?

The long list of canine diseases and vaccines can be confusing to new pet owners. Consult your vet for a clear vaccination plan and professional opinion about what your pup needs. Skipping booster shots without getting all the necessary information will put your dog at risk for preventable diseases including rabies, parvovirus, and canine distemper.

Core and non-core shots prevent many health conditions in dogs. Vaccinating your pet is one of the easiest ways to help them live a happy, healthy life.

The first year of a dog’s life is an exciting time that’s also pivotal for their lifespan and overall canine wellness. Providing your puppy with adequate veterinary care and the necessary vaccinations will contribute to their ongoing health and vitality. In return, your pup will provide you with unconditional love and loyalty.

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