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