Your Comprehensive Guide to Puppy Vaccinations

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Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting event, but it can be a little overwhelming too. There are so many things to shop and plan for — toys, food, beds, potty training, and more. It's also essential to provide preventive care by ensuring your new puppy gets the vaccines they need. Vaccines help protect puppies from life-threatening infectious diseases such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus.

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To keep your new dog healthy and happy, follow their schedule of vaccinations as recommended by your veterinarian.

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Which vaccinations does my puppy need?

Annual vaccines are divided into: core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are administered by a veterinarian to every dog. Non-core vaccines are on a case-by-case basis. Whether a dog receives them or not will depend on factors relating to dog's age, health, and where you live, among other factors.

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Core vs Non-Core Vaccinations

Core vaccines:

  • DHP/DAP‌: A combination vaccine that protects against canine distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), and parvovirus. DHP/DAP is sometimes used interchangeably with DHPP/DAPP, with the second P denoting that a parainfluenza vaccine is included.
  • Rabies‌: Commonly required by law in many states, the rabies vaccine protects against the rabies virus. This virus attacks the central nervous system and neurons — and is often fatal to non-vaccinated animals.

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Non-core vaccines:

  • Parainfluenza (CPIV)‌: Canine parainfluenza virus is one of several respiratory viruses which cause kennel cough. The parainfluenza vaccine may be included in a DHPP vaccine or given separately.
  • Bordetella‌: This vaccine protects against bordetella bronchiseptica, a highly infectious bacterium that is the primary cause of kennel cough.
  • Leptospirosis‌: A leptospirosis vaccine may be recommended depending on where you live. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects the liver and kidneys.
  • Canine influenza‌: This vaccine protects against canine influenza (different from parainfluenza), a highly contagious respiratory virus. Canine influenza is transmitted through droplets containing respiratory secretions from coughing, barking, and sneezing.
  • Lyme disease (borrelia)‌: This vaccine may be recommended depending on where you live. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can affect the joints, kidneys, and central nervous system. It is caused by a bite from a tick infected with the disease.

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Typical puppy vaccination schedule

These core and non-core vaccines are commonly recommended for puppies. However, your dog's vaccination schedule will be specific to them. Which vaccines a dog needs will depend on their age, health, and where they live, among other factors. Discuss vaccinations with your veterinarian so you can be sure your puppy is getting everything they need at the right times.

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This puppy vaccination schedule is a general overview of which vaccines are needed at a particular age. However, it may vary depending on your veterinarian's recommendation.

6-8 weeks of age:

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  • Core vaccines: distemper, parvovirus
  • Non-core vaccines: Bordetella

9-12 weeks of age:

  • Core vaccines: DHPP
  • Non-core vaccines: Canine influenza, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease (as recommended by the veterinarian, and dependent upon the location and/or lifestyle)

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16-18 weeks of age:

  • Core vaccines: DHPP, rabies
  • Non-core vaccines: Canine influenza, leptospirosis, bordetella (as recommended by the veterinarian, and dependent upon the location and/or lifestyle)

12-16 months of age:

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  • Core vaccines: DHPP, rabies
  • Non-core vaccines: Coronavirus, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease
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When should puppies have all their shots by?

It's essential to follow the vaccination schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Which vaccines a puppy needs, and when, can vary between individuals. This can depend on a number of factors, some of which you may not know if you adopted a shelter puppy. This can include:

  • the size of the litter
  • whether the puppy's mother was vaccinated
  • if the puppy's mother was able to nurse
  • if your puppy has immune deficiencies

Many other factors can affect a puppy's vaccination needs. We can't know a puppy's starting immunity with 100% certainty, but vaccinations provide the best level of protection to the greatest number of puppies in the greatest number of situations.

Your puppy will receive a series of initial shots along with booster shots over the first several months of their life. This gives their maternal immunity (antibodies received from nursing) time to naturally fade while their own immune system is developing.

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Generally speaking, puppies should receive their first vaccinations between 6 and 8 weeks of age. Your new puppy can likely be finished with their puppy shots between 16 and 18 weeks of age (unless recommended otherwise by your veterinarian).

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Puppy vaccinations don't last for life, though! Your adult dog will still need booster vaccines throughout their life as part of their regular veterinary care. Some vaccinations, like rabies, are required by state law every 1 to 3 years. You'll need other dog vaccinations if you plan to send your puppy to daycare, take them to the dog park, or sign them up for pet insurance.

How much do puppy vaccinations cost?

Puppy vaccination costs can vary depending on where you live and what kind of veterinary care is available to you. The average cost for core vaccines (administered in a series of three at 6, 9, and 12 weeks) typically ranges from about $75 to $150. For both core and non-core vaccines, the cost may be up to around $300 in total.

Vaccination costs will be higher in a dog's first year of life since they have a schedule to stick to. Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, expect to keep up on booster shots throughout their life. Most shelters vaccinate puppies according to their vaccination schedule. Therefore an adopted puppy will likely already have at least one vaccine before you bring them home.

Low-cost or free vaccines may be available through your local animal shelter. Some cities even have mobile veterinarian clinics offering vaccination events at reduced costs.

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The bottom line

Bringing home a new puppy is equal parts joy and responsibility. The best pet care you can provide for your puppy includes getting them vaccinated as recommended by your veterinarian. Many factors can influence which vaccines your puppy should get and when so it's important to discuss with your veterinarian before getting started. Vaccinations help protect your puppy against life-threatening diseases and ensure their wellness as they grow up.

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