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Table of Content
Guide to dog vaccinations

The Ultimate Guide to Dog Vaccinations

The Ultimate Guide to Dog Vaccinations

As a responsible pet owner, one of your top priorities is ensuring the health and well-being of your furry friend. And when it comes to keeping your puppy or dog healthy, vaccinations are a crucial aspect that shouldn't be overlooked. In this definitive guide to puppy and dog vaccinations, we will walk you through everything you need to know to provide the best protection for your beloved pet at every stage of their life as we discuss the following:

  • Importance of Puppy and Dog Vaccinations
  • Types of Vaccinations for Puppies and Dogs
  • Vaccination Schedule for Puppies and Adult Dogs
  • Dog Diseases Preventable by Core Vaccines
  • Risks and Side Effects of Vaccinations
  • How to Prepare Your Puppy or Dog for Vaccinations
  • Finding a Veterinarian and Vaccination Clinic
  • Additional Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Prevent Illnesses

Cute labrador puppy dog getting a vaccine at the veterinary clinic

Importance of Puppy and Dog Vaccinations

Vaccinations are vital in protecting your puppy or dog from various diseases and infections. They stimulate your pet's immune system to produce antibodies that fight off specific pathogens, preventing illness and potentially saving their life. Vaccinations are not only important for your pet's health but also contribute to the overall well-being of the pet population by reducing the spread of contagious diseases.

Properly vaccinated puppies and dogs have a significantly lower risk of contracting and spreading diseases such as rabies, distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza among others. These diseases can be severe, lead to long-term health issues, and even be fatal. By ensuring your pet is up to date on their vaccinations, you are providing them with the best chance of a healthy and happy life.

It's important to note that vaccinations are not a one-time event. Your pet's immunity can wane over time, making booster shots necessary to maintain their protection. Additionally, different vaccines have different durations of immunity, so it's crucial to follow the recommended vaccination schedule provided by your veterinarian.

Vaccines and Syringe

Types of Vaccinations for Puppies and Dogs

Vaccinations for puppies and dogs can be categorized into two main types: core vaccines and non-core vaccines. 

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are considered essential for all dogs due to the high risk and severity of the diseases they protect against.

  • Distemper Vaccine

Protects against a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease that affects multiple body systems. The distemper vaccine is a core vaccine and essential for all dogs.

  • Adenovirus Vaccine

    Shields against hepatitis, a viral infection that affects the liver and can cause serious illness or death.

    • Parvovirus Vaccine

    Protects against a highly contagious and often fatal viral infection that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract. The parvovirus vaccine is crucial for puppies and adult dogs.

    • ParaInfluenza Vaccine 

    The canine parainfluenza vaccine works by stimulating the dog's immune system to produce antibodies against the Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV). The CPIV vaccine is typically combined with other vaccines in a multi-component vaccine, such as the DAPP (distemper, adenovirus-2, parvovirus, parainfluenza) vaccine or the DA2PP vaccine.

    • Rabies Vaccine

    Required by law in many regions, this vaccine safeguards against the deadly rabies virus that can be transmitted to humans.

    Non-Core Vaccines

    Non-core vaccines are recommended based on factors such as lifestyle, geographic location, and exposure risk.

    • Bordetella Vaccine

    Recommended for dogs frequently exposed to other dogs, such as those attending daycare or participating in dog shows.

    • Lyme Disease Vaccine

    Recommended for dogs living in areas where ticks carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease are prevalent.

    • Leptospirosis Vaccine

    Protects against a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans and other animals through contaminated water, soil, or contact with infected animals.

    It's crucial to consult with your veterinarian to determine which non-core vaccines are appropriate for your dog based on their individual risk factors and lifestyle.

    Vaccination Schedule for Puppies and Adult Dogs

    Puppies are particularly vulnerable to diseases due to their immature immune systems. Vaccinating them at the appropriate ages and intervals is crucial to ensure their protection. 

    Adult dogs who have received their puppy vaccinations require regular booster shots to maintain their immunity. The frequency of these booster shots depends on various factors, including the vaccine type, your dog's lifestyle, and local regulations.

    The table below is a general vaccination schedule as recommended by the 2022 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines. The first dose of DAPP Vaccines is usually given at 6-8 weeks and the final dose is at 16 weeks or later, while the first dose of the Rabies vaccine could be given at 14-16 weeks or earlier if required by law (Tarantino, M. & Higgs, V., 2023).

    Core Vaccines for Dogs
    NonCore Vaccines for Dogs
    Overdue Vaccines and Unknown Vaccine History

    It's important to consult with your veterinarian to establish a vaccination schedule tailored to your dog's specific needs and circumstances.

    Vet Vaccinating a Dog

    Dog Diseases Preventable by Core Vaccines

    Several diseases pose significant health risks to dogs, and fortunately, vaccines are available to prevent many of these illnesses. Listed below are the dog diseases covered by the core vaccines.

    Canine Distemper

    A highly contagious viral disease that affects multiple body systems. Some dogs only appear to have a minor cold with eye and nasal discharge, while others may have no symptoms at all (Tupler, T. & Coates, J., 2022). Clinical signs for minor cases include eye and nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, depression, vomiting, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. 

    Whereas in severe cases, signs could progress to crusting of the nose and foot pads, severe vomiting and diarrhea, pneumonia, drooling, and neurological signs such as chewing motions of the jaw (“chewing gum fits”), tremors, seizures, walking in circles, unable to follow a straight path, head tilt, lack of coordination, muscle twitches, convulsions, partial or complete paralysis, and death in many cases.

    Infectious Canine Hepatitis

    Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH) is an inflammation of the liver caused by Canine Adenovirus Type 1 (CAdV-1) and can cause serious illness or death. CAdV is present in the nose and eye discharges, as well as in the urine of infected animals, and it is transmitted by direct contact with these infected materials (Weir, M., Hunter, T., & Ward, E., 2024).

    Clinical signs of ICH include fever, vasculitis, congestion of the mucous membranes to severe depression, marked leukopenia, coagulopathy, immune-mediated uveitis, corneal clouding, or renal effects (
    Creevy, K and Evans, J., 2023).

    On the other hand, Canine Adenovirus Type 2 (CAdV-2) causes respiratory problems contributing to the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) complex also called canine infectious tracheobronchitis or kennel cough (
    Burling, A., 2021). CAdV-1 and CAdV-2 are closely related but genetically distinct.

    According to American Animal Hospital Association
    guidelines, CAdV-2 is usually included in DAPP vaccines, providing a cross-protection to ICH. An intranasal  MLV CAV-2 vaccine in combination with canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) and Bordetella vaccines is also available for 3-week-old puppies. 


    A highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract. Canine parvovirus (CPV) is one of the most serious viruses that dogs can get commonly referred to as “parvo” (Malmanger, E. & Coates, J., 2023).

    Common signs of parvovirus are decreased appetite, listlessness, lethargy, fever, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea (
    Weir, M., Panning, A., & Ernest Ward, E., 2024). Though highly contagious and life-threatening, almost 90 percent of dogs diagnosed with parvovirus survive (Wooten, S. & Catherine Barnette, C., 2020).

    Canine Parainfluenza

    Canine parainfluenza virus (CPIV) is one of the causes of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) complex, also known as “kennel cough”, along with other pathogens such as Bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus 2 (CAdV-2), canine influenza, and less likely canine distemper virus (CAD) (Tonozzi, C., 2022).

    It's a respiratory virus that can cause mild clinical signs of a dry, harsh cough for up to 7 days, with or without fever and nasal discharge (
    Stone, A., 2021). Diagnosis is mainly by demonstration of the virus by ELISA, Immunofluorescence (IF) staining, or PCR (Ellis, J. & Krakowka, S., 2012

    According to Merck Animal Health, while the CPIV vaccine can help reduce the risk of kennel cough, it may not provide complete protection against all causes of infectious tracheobronchitis, and other different vaccines are still needed for protection depending on the dog's risk factors and lifestyle.


    A fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The classical rabies has two forms: furious and paralytic. In furious form (“mad-dog”), dogs become aggressive and delusional. They may seem to hallucinate, attacking their surroundings without a trigger.

    Whereas, in paralytic form ("dumb rabies"), dogs develop paralysis and inability to swallow leading to hypersalivation and foaming at the mouth (
    Rupprecht, C., 2022). Rabies infection is transmitted through bites of infected animals (Williams, K., Hunter, T., & Ward, E., 2024)

    Risks and Side Effects of Vaccinations

    While vaccines are generally safe and essential for your dog's health, there can be potential risks and side effects. Most dogs experience no adverse reactions or only mild, temporary side effects after vaccination. However, it's crucial to be aware of possible complications, including:

    Injection Site Reactions

    Swelling, redness, or soreness at the injection site are common and usually resolve within a few days.


    Some dogs may develop a low-grade fever, which typically subsides within 24 to 48 hours.

    Allergic Reactions

    In rare cases, dogs may have an allergic reaction to a vaccine, which can range from mild itching to severe anaphylaxis. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary if your dog shows signs of a severe allergic reaction.

    Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma

    Although extremely rare, some vaccines have been associated with the development of cancerous tumors at the injection site. However, the benefits of vaccination outweigh this minimal risk.

    It's important to discuss any concerns or potential risks with your veterinarian before vaccinating your dog. They can provide guidance based on your pet's individual health and medical history.

    How to Prepare Your Puppy or Dog for Vaccinations 

    Preparing your puppy or dog for vaccinations can ensure a smooth and stress-free experience. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

    1. Schedule an Appointment: Contact your veterinarian to schedule a vaccination appointment. They will advise you on which vaccines are due and provide instructions for preparation.

    2. Bring Records: Bring any previous vaccination records or medical history documentation to your appointment. This information helps your veterinarian determine the necessary vaccines and avoid unnecessary duplication.

    3. Keep Your Dog Calm: Help your dog remain calm and relaxed before and during the appointment. Offer treats, use positive reinforcement, and provide a reassuring presence to reduce anxiety. 

    4. Consider a Leash or Carrier: If your dog tends to be anxious or reactive during vet visits, consider using a leash or carrier to ensure their safety and the safety of veterinary staff and other pets.

    5. Follow Post-Vaccination Guidelines: After vaccinations, follow any guidelines provided by your veterinarian, such as limiting physical activity or monitoring for potential side effects. Report any concerns to your veterinarian promptly.

    By taking these steps, you can help create a positive experience for your pet during their vaccination appointments.

    Finding a Veterinarian and Vaccination Clinic

    Finding a reliable and experienced veterinarian is essential for your dog's overall healthcare, including vaccinations. Here are some tips to help you find the right veterinarian and vaccination clinic:

    1. Ask for Recommendations: Seek recommendations from friends, family, or fellow pet owners. Their personal experiences can provide valuable insights.

    2. Research and Read Reviews: Use online resources to research local veterinarians and read reviews from their clients. Pay attention to their expertise, customer service, and overall satisfaction ratings.

    3. Schedule a Consultation: Once you narrow down your options, schedule a consultation with potential veterinarians. This allows you to assess their compatibility, ask questions, and discuss your pet's specific needs.

    4. Consider Location and Accessibility: Choose a veterinarian and vaccination clinic that is conveniently located and easily accessible, especially during emergencies.

    5. Evaluate Facilities and Staff: Visit the clinic in person to observe the facilities, cleanliness, and the behavior of the staff towards pets and their owners. A welcoming and well-equipped clinic is essential for a positive experience.

    Building a strong and trusting relationship with your veterinarian is crucial for your dog's long-term well-being.

    Dog taking bath at home

    Additional Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Prevent Illnesses

    While vaccinations are an integral part of keeping your dog healthy, there are additional measures you can take to prevent illnesses and promote their overall well-being. Here are some tips to consider:

    Proper Nutrition

    Feed your dog a balanced and nutritious diet that meets their specific nutritional needs. Consult your veterinarian for dietary recommendations based on your dog's age, breed, and health condition. Here are 7 Ways To Boost Your Dog’s Appetite: Including CBD Oil Tips.

    Regular Exercise

    Provide your dog with regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, stimulate their mind, and prevent behavioral problems.

    Dental Care

    Brush your dog's teeth regularly and schedule professional dental cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian. Good oral hygiene helps prevent dental diseases and maintains overall health. Here are 6 Ways To Eliminate Your Dog's Stinky Breath!

    Parasite Prevention

    Protect your dog from fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal parasites by using appropriate preventatives recommended by your veterinarian. Regularly check your dog for signs of parasites and seek treatment if necessary.

    Grooming and Hygiene

    Regular grooming, including bathing, brushing, and nail trimming, helps maintain your dog's skin and coat health. These 11 Essential Grooming Tips For Your Dog will help maintain your dog's health. By incorporating these practices into your dog's routine, you can provide them with a solid foundation for optimal health and well-being.

    In conclusion, vaccinations are a critical aspect of responsible pet ownership. By understanding the importance of puppy and dog vaccinations, you can make informed decisions regarding your pet's healthcare. Ensure your furry friend receives the necessary core vaccines and consider non-core vaccines based on their risk factors.

    Follow the recommended vaccination schedules, consult with your veterinarian, and be aware of potential risks and side effects. By prioritizing your dog's vaccinations and taking additional preventive measures, you're taking essential steps towards keeping your furry friend healthy and happy throughout their life.