Puppy Vaccination Schedule: What Shots Does Your Puppy Need?
Updated December 20, 2022
Reading time: 6 minutes
Bringing home a new puppy can be exciting — the energy and playfulness of puppies can truly be life-changing. But with a new puppy comes a lot of responsibility. They need potty training, exercise, and a healthy diet, and maybe most importantly, they’ll need certain vaccinations.
Here’s what you should know about which vaccinations are common for new puppies, when most vets recommend them, and what they might cost.
Pet insurance can help cover the costs of vaccinations for puppies. It’s a good idea to compare quotes from multiple insurers to find a plan that works for your needs.
Puppy vaccinations are necessary to keep your puppy healthy now and through its adult years. Vaccines protect puppies against harmful and sometimes fatal diseases. The most harmful of these are distemper and parvo, but various others could be serious for your puppy. 
Puppy vaccinations follow a strict schedule, much like human vaccinations. However, the mother’s antibodies could fight off the vaccines, preventing the full immune response necessary to protect your puppy, so multiple rounds of vaccines may be necessary.
Puppies need a series of several vaccines in the first year of their life. It may feel like a lot at first, but rest assured, once they pass their first birthday, they’ll only need vaccines annually.
Core vaccines are vaccines that all puppies need, regardless of their breed, size, or other factors. These core vaccines include:
DHP: DHP stands for distemper, hepatitis, and parvo. It fights against five diseases, including the three in its name, plus parainfluenza and canine adenovirus 1 and 2.
Distemper: Canine distemper virus affects a dog’s gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems. It can have many symptoms, including cough, diarrhea, and runny nose and eyes. Many dogs experience a high fever, and if not treated promptly, it can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and other fatal conditions. Distemper spreads through the air, shared toys or bowls, and contact with an infected dog.
Infectious canine hepatitis: Hepatitis in dogs can be detrimental to their health, causing kidney failure and issues with their lungs, eyes, and spleen. Symptoms include low-grade fevers, vomiting, congestion, and eye inflammation. Hepatitis can even be fatal.
Canine parvovirus: Parvovirus is typically prevalent in puppies, but unvaccinated adults are at risk, too. Parvo is often fatal and is primarily a gastrointestinal disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and rapid weight loss, and prevents puppies from maintaining the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Parvovirus spreads through contact and can live on surfaces for as long as one year, so vaccination is essential.
Canine adenovirus: Adenovirus or kennel cough isn’t fatal like most of the other diseases on this list, but it’s still dangerous for your dog as it can weaken its immune system, leaving it vulnerable to other illnesses.
Rabies: Most state and local laws require dogs to have annual rabies shots. Rabies is an illness that affects the central nervous system, and it’s almost always fatal once symptoms appear. It can also be transferred to humans if a dog bites them, so the rabies shot is maybe the most important on this list.
While the core vaccines are required for all dogs, any additional vaccines are optional.
Parainfluenza: This vaccine is typically included with DHP for most vets, so you likely won’t need to get your dog a separate parainfluenza shot. But if your vet’s DHP shot didn’t include the parainfluenza vaccine, you may want to consider it to give your dog extra protection, especially if it’s often around other dogs.
Leptospirosis: This vaccine protects against a bacterial infection that’s found in soil and water outside. The infection can be transmitted from dogs to humans and can cause lethargy, fevers, difficulty moving, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. If not treated, leptospirosis can be fatal.
Bordetella: The bordetella vaccine may be required if you often put your dog in a kennel. It prevents kennel cough — an upper respiratory disease that causes typical cold symptoms and is highly contagious among animals who are in close proximity.
Canine influenza: Canine influenza is similar to human influenza. The canine influenza shot has two strains and is usually administered as a two-series shot.
Lyme: You may want to consider the lyme vaccine if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, as the disease is carried by ticks. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection in dogs that spreads throughout the body quickly and can cause lethargy, lameness, swollen joints, and stiffness.
Coronavirus: Coronavirus in dogs isn’t the same virus as COVID-19. In fact, several strains of coronavirus have been around for decades. These viruses can cause depression, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
Your veterinarian will develop a vaccination schedule for your puppy based on its age and health. It’s important to follow the schedule carefully as the shots are spaced out based on how the body responds to the injections, as well as how long it will take the mother’s antibodies to wear off.
|Puppy’s Age||Recommended Vaccines||Optional Vaccines|
|6-8 weeks||Distemper, parvovirus||Bordetella|
|10-12 weeks||DHPP||Lyme, lepto, bordetella|
|16-18 weeks||DHPP, rabies||Lyme, lepto, bordetella|
|12-16 months||DHPP, rabies||Lyme, lepto, bordetella, coronavirus|
|Every 1 to 2 years||DHPP||Influenza, coronavirus, lepto, bordetella, lyme|
|Every 1 to 3 years||Rabies||N/A|
Puppy vaccination costs vary by location and vet, but here’s a general range of average puppy vaccination costs:
|Type of Vaccine||Cost|
Some dog insurance plans cover puppy vaccines, but usually only if you have a wellness plan. Read what’s covered carefully so you know what to expect. Most policies don’t cover 100% of the cost of vaccines but will often cover a percentage of the cost. Consider preventative care insurance if you’re concerned about your pet having issues.
See More: What Is Pet Insurance?
Most vets agree that dogs should receive certain vaccines annually to stay healthy. The vaccines adult dogs receive are boosters, so they may cost less than the original shot. Talk to your vet about the pros and cons of continuing the vaccines into adulthood.
If you’re unsure about giving your dog another vaccine, you should consider a titer, a laboratory test that measures the level of a dog’s immunity to certain diseases. It may seem inconvenient to repeatedly go to the vet for vaccines or titers, but they could save your dog’s life. However, there currently isn’t a titer test for rabies, and this vaccine is required by law.
Your vet will develop a vaccination schedule for your adult dog just like they would for a puppy.
Every year: Rabies, lepto, bordetella, lyme
Every three years: DHPP, rabies if you opt for a three-year vaccine
Getting a new puppy is exciting, but it can leave you with many questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about puppy vaccines.
Core vaccines are vaccines that vets require for most dogs, except in rare situations. Non-core vaccines are optional vaccines that vets might recommend based on your dog’s overall health or lifestyle. For example, the bordetella vaccine isn’t considered necessary for dogs that don’t go to off-leash dog parks or kennels and mostly stay home.
Most puppies are considered fully vaccinated at 16 weeks if you follow the typical vaccine schedule. Before that point, protecting your puppy from potential illnesses is important. Keep it away from other (non-family) dogs and areas with ticks or dirty water or soil.
Puppies should have their distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza shots before spending time outside. Taking your puppy outside to begin potty training is okay — just make sure you don’t leave it unattended. This will reduce the risk of your puppy getting into something that could make it sick when its immune system is low.
It’s best to keep puppies that aren’t fully vaccinated close to home. There’s less risk in letting your puppy socialize with dogs you know are fully vaccinated, but you still might want to use caution until your puppy has had all its vaccinations.
If you’re unable to adhere to your puppy’s vaccination schedule, talk to your vet immediately, since missing a shot could compromise your pet’s immune system. Your vet will likely be able to adjust the schedule to get your dog back on track, but it’s best to avoid missing scheduled shots.
Yes, puppies need booster shots because their mothers’ antibodies remain in their system for a while. The initial shots are necessary to begin protection, and the boosters are essential in keeping your puppy’s immune system strong as it grows older.
Puppies typically need three rounds of vaccines, even with the combined DHPP shot. Due to the prevalence of their mother’s antibodies, puppies may not respond to the first two vaccines, so the World Small Animal Veterinary Association strongly suggests that a third round of shots be given.
Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA is a freelance writer with a background in accounting and income tax planning and preparation. She's passionate about making complicated financial topics accessible to readers. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter. Visit her website at www.jberryjohnson.com.Learn More