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Vaccination Schedule for a Healthy Puppy

Profile picture of the author - Anna Lengacherby Anna Lengacher

Say hello to your own fur-ball and you’ll soon discover bringing home a puppy is no small task.

Suddenly you have a sweet little bundle of fur who is dependent on you for food, a loving home, adequate exercise, and protection against preventable diseases.

In today’s blog post, you’ll discover which vaccines are considered core for your puppy’s health, which vaccines are optional, and how you can be proactive in protecting your maturing canine from unpleasant dog illnesses.

What Are Vaccines?

Vaccinations are typically given in the form of an injection and can be either one-time or on-going.

With each vaccine, a small portion of infectious organisms are injected into a dog’s bloodstream.  The body then recognizes these organisms as foreign and learns to fight off these foreign organisms.  Following the initial exposure, puppies and dogs alike are then quicker to identify these foreign agents in the future and respond by releasing necessary antibodies.

What to Consider When Vaccinating

When considering vaccinations for your canine, learn your local and country laws regarding pet vaccinations.  Various vaccinations are required in different areas depending on which diseases may be prevalent in your local area.  For example, if you buy a puppy online in Ohio, you’ll likely encounter different vaccine requirements than for a puppy adopted in Los Angeles.

Speak with a nearby veterinarian or do a careful internet search to learn what is required in your specific state.

Vaccinations can be divided into two categories: core and non-core.

Core vaccinations are those considered mandatory and are designed to protect against extreme cases.  Today’s core vaccinations in the United States as identified by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) include Canine Distemper (CDV), Canine Hepatitis virus or Adenovirus-2 (CAV-2), Canine Parvovirus (CPV-2), and Parainfluenza.  Rabies is also a mandatory vaccine in many states across the United States.

In contrast, non-core vaccines are those not required by law except for in specific areas.  Non-core vaccinations are typically limited to areas where a specific illness or disease is rampant.  Examples of non-core vaccinations include Leptospirosis, Canine Parainfluenza, Bordetella Bronchiseptica, and Lyme disease.  Many veterinarians do offer these non-core vaccines even if they are not mandatory.  Speak with your veterinarian to learn what is most beneficial for you and your pet.

How Susceptible is My Dog to Illness?

As a puppy matures into adulthood, their immune system develops and typically becomes stronger at fighting off foreign and infectious organisms.  However, poor nutrition, an unclean environment, and even too many vaccinations will directly encumber a dog’s immune system.

To strengthen your dog’s immune system, be sure to have your pet complete a thorough detox and always feed only quality dog food.  Pure water, a clean home, appropriate nutritional supplements and a positive emotional environment are additional factors which aid in strengthening a dog’s immune system.

Additional factors influencing a dog’s immune system include his or her exposure to other animals.  The more exposure a puppy receives to other pets, the greater the risk in picking up unwanted illnesses.  Especially as a puppy matures, aim for moderate exposure between your puppy and other favorite little fur-balls.  By enjoying moderate exposure to fellow pets, a puppy’s immune system receives training in fighting foreign organisms.  Too much exposure, however, can soon overwhelm and harm a growing pup’s immune system.

Location is another factor sure to leave fingerprints on your puppy’s immune system.  Learn potential threats which are already present in your community as well as research risks specific to your breed.

When Should I Vaccinate My Puppy?

Vaccination schedules can vary from one puppy to the next.  Hopefully your puppy is coming from a responsible breeder who has documented your puppy’s first shots.  For example, they should have included a document detailing completed shots that looks similar to the following document.

Paper listing the puppy's shots & vaccinations.Plan to begin puppy vaccinations immediately after he or she is in your possession.  While the AAHA recommends undergoing a series of vaccines every two to four weeks between the ages of six and sixteen weeks, discuss with your veterinarian the best schedule for your individual canine.

Factors influencing when your Fido receives vaccinations include his or her breed as well as any time needed until the immune system matures.  Communicate with your veterinarian about your puppy’s medical and vaccination history in order to make wise and well-informed decisions for you and Fido.

What Injections do Puppies Need at What Age? 

A recommended schedule for puppy vaccinations is as follows:


Common Dog Vaccines

Between six and eight weeks old, puppies typically begin either the DHPP vaccine or a 5-way vaccine known as DHLPP.  DHPP protects against four canine diseases (Canine Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus Infection), while DHLPP protects against the same four diseases plus a fifth disease known as Leptospirosis.

Following is a breakdown of each disease treated for with the DHLPP vaccine.

What is Canine Distemper?

Canine Distemper is a super contagious viral disease which spreads through the air.  To date, there is no known cure for it.  Instead, victims of Canine Distemper typically recover after receiving treatment for symptoms while being under constant care.  After a canine recovers from canine distemper, they no longer carry or spread the disease.  Symptoms of canine distemper include a high fever, an eye discharge, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, seizures, and a runny nose.

Furthermore, canine distemper typically begins as an upper respiratory infection and unless cared for, can progress into seizures and eventual death.  Foxes, raccoons, dogs and coyotes are all considered transmitters of Canine Distemper.  Should a dog fall prey to Canine Distemper, the illness will attack their tonsils and lymph nodes as well as their gastrointestinal, respiratory, urogenital, and nervous systems.

A vaccine required to protect pets from canine distemper is the DHLPP vaccination (‘D’ representing distemper).  Puppies receive this vaccination in a series of shots beginning at 6-8 weeks, then again at 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks of age.  Veterinarians provide a booster shot again at twelve months, and then every three years following.

What is Infectious Hepatitis?

Infectious Hepatitis is a viral disease which is passed in the urine or feces of infected dogs.  It causes swelling and cell damage to both the liver and kidneys and can result in hemorrhaging and death.  Symptoms of Infectious Hepatitis include abdomen pain, abdominal distension, pale color, lethargy, fever, and a lack in appetite.

Infectious Hepatitis is a severe illness which can cause death within one to two days of contracting the disease.  If a dog survives past the first days, it is likely he or she will experience a full recovery and enjoy future immunity to the disease.

To protect a growing pup from Infectious Hepatitis, experts recommend either the Canine Adenovirus-1 or Canine Adenovirus-2 vaccine.  Between the two, folks generally prefer Adenovirus-2 although both vaccines protect against Hepatitis as well as Adenovirus cough.  Both 5-way and 7-way vaccines include the vaccine.

Puppies benefit most from Infectious Hepatitis vaccine when they receive it first at 6-8 weeks.  The series continues with additional shots at 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks.  Veterinarians offer a booster twelve months following the last dosage, followed by reoccurring shots every three years thereafter.

What is Parainfluenza?

Parainfluenza is a viral disease which is highly contagious and contributes to kennel cough.  Symptoms include fever, difficult breathing, wheezing, pneumonia, sneezing, reduced appetite, eye inflammation, conjunctivitis, and runny eyes.

Parainfluenza spreads through tiny droplets of nasal secretion which is inhaled by dogs.  Unless protected against, Parainfluenza will lead to an upper respiratory infection and coughing.  Most victims are able to recover alone, although veterinarians like to treat the illness with antibiotics as Parainfluenza is highly contagious.

Proper vaccines for Parainfluenza do not prevent the illness from spreading, although they do limit the severity of the disease.  Both the DHPP combination vaccine as well as the canine distemper-measles-parainfluenza shots include appropriate vaccines.  Puppies most benefit from the vaccine when provided in a series of visits occurring first at 6-8 weeks, then again at 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks.  Experts recommend a combination booster twelve months following the last interval dosage and then again every three years thereafter.

What is Parvovirus Infection?

Parvovirus Infection is a viral disease causing an intestinal tract infection.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and lethargy, along with a variety of secondary infections.  Such symptoms typically surface between three and ten days after exposure.

Parvovirus Infection passes through the feces of any infected dogs and can prove infectious in contaminated soil for one to two years.  Unless treated, Parvovirus may result in possible death.  While Parvovirus has proven highly contagious, it does not spread to humans.

Both 4 and 5-way vaccines (DHPP and DHLPP respectively) include a vaccination targeting Parvovirus.

What is Leptospira?

Leptospira, also known as leptospirosis, is a bacterial infection affecting both dogs and humans.  The illness is passed by consuming water which is contaminated with any infected urine.  Unless properly cared for, the disease can result in death.  Early symptoms include fever, depression, loss of appetite, vomiting and generalized pain.  As the illness progresses, symptoms will intensify and cause increased thirst, change in urine color, jaundice, a drop in body temperature, dehydration, difficult breathing, bloody feces, and/or vomiting.

If Leptospira is detected early, antibiotics may be subscribed which both shorten the length of the disease as well as reduce the potential of organ damage.  However, if the illness has grown severe before symptoms are identified, an infected canine may need a kidney filtration or blood transfusion.

Vaccinating against Leptospira is in many areas not required and may be uncommon unless numerous local cases are discovered.  In addition, veterinarians can offer the vaccine either individually or as part of a combination vaccine known as DHLPP.

Optional Vaccines

Use a syringe to give puppy vaccinations.


Many states in North America require the rabies vaccine by law, although there are a few exceptions.  Check your state laws to learn the requirements in your respective state.  Alternatively, you could speak with a local veterinarian to learn if the Rabies vaccine is mandatory in your home area.

Rabies is a viral disease carried by mammals and can transfer to humans.  Passed along by an infected mammal’s bite, it quickly infects the nervous system and can result in death.  Proper treatment can annihilate rabies in a dog if he or she receives treatment before any symptoms arise.  However, should symptoms surface, Rabies will most certainly result in death.

Rabies symptoms can take anywhere from two to twelve weeks or longer to surface.  These symptoms include fever, paralysis, inability to swallow, dropped jaw, unusual aggression, a lack of coordination, and frothy saliva.

Proper Rabies vaccines are typically administered when a puppy is twelve weeks old, although this can vary based on local laws.  Experts recommend a second shot given within a year, followed by additional booster shots received every one to three years thereafter.

5-way Vaccine

The 5-way vaccine, also known as DHLPP, consists of Canine Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospira, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus infection.  Many areas inside the United States consider Canine Distemper, Infectious Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus vaccines as core and even mandatory.  Leptospira, however, is less commonly required.


Lyme disease spreads through an infected tick bite and results in symptoms that are sometimes hard to identify.  Regardless, symptoms typically include swollen lymph nodes and lameness.  If your Fido begins showing either of these signs, check your pal for any ticks latched onto his or her skin.  If Lyme is left untreated, it can cause inflammation of the nervous system, heart, and kidneys and can even result in possible death.  A veterinarian can test a canine for Lyme by collecting appropriate blood samples.

Veterinarians typically suggest the Lyme vaccine only in areas where Lyme is of direct concern.  Puppies receive their first shot when just eight weeks old.  A second shot is provided two-four weeks later, while a booster shot is given one year following the second dose.  Canines receive additional shots annually.


Bordatella, also known as kennel cough, is a disease traveling through bacteria which spreads through the air.  Bacteria transfers through dog bowls, cages, water dishes, and more.  Symptoms of Bordatella include sneezing, depression, a nasal discharge, loss of appetite, and fever.  Bordatella works to destroy the lining in a dog’s trachea and thus results in a high pitched cough.  Victims of Bordatella often gag while coughing.

If left untreated, Bordatella can lead to pneumonia or a secondary bacterial infection.  If you discover your dog to be a victim of Bordatella, consider antibiotics and cough suppressants to the rescue.

A puppy can withstand Bordatella by receiving vaccinations either traditionally (via a shot), orally, or through inhaling a nasal mist.  Experts recommend a pet receive the Bordatella vaccine once every twelve months.  Once administered, it generally takes 48 hours from the time of vaccinations for a dog to develop immunity to Bordatella.  In addition, many puppy day-cares and dog boarding centers require pets to receive the Bordatella vaccine prior to admission.

How Much do Vaccinations Cost?

Much like any other service, the cost of vaccinations varies between locations.  Typically urban areas and populous regions sport higher vaccination costs, although there are exceptions.

For a standard vaccination including Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvo, and Parainfluenza, prices range typically from $70 – $120.  This includes a series of three vaccines occurring at six, twelve, and sixteen weeks.  The Rabies vaccine is often an additional $15 – $20.

Alternatively, shelters often provide vaccinations at a lower cost (sometimes even free!).  If you bring home a pet from your local shelter, it’s likely he or she has already been vaccinated.

The initial cost for puppy vaccines is generally higher than what you’ll experience for an adult dog.  For example, costs will be higher for a puppy receiving vaccines every few weeks as opposed to an adult dog receiving a booster vaccine every one to three years.

Titer Tests

Speak with dog experts and you’ll likely discover varying opinions on how many vaccines an adult dog should receive.  To the rescue is the Titer test.

The Titer test measures a canine’s immunity level to core diseases including Parvovirus, Distemper, and Adenovirus.  Results from this test can help determine if or which booster vaccinations are necessary.  If you are concerned about over vaccinating your four-legged friend, speak with your local veterinarian about the Titer test.


When Can a Puppy be Exposed to Other Dogs?

Canine experts consider a dog low risk for catching a disease 7 – 10 days following a puppy’s final vaccination at 14-16 weeks.  Prior to this point, keep exposure to other dogs at a minimum for your growing little pup.  Plus, be sure any dogs you expose your puppy to have been fully vaccinated and are healthy.

Until fully vaccinated at 14 – 16 weeks, avoid doggy day-cares as well as any public places where the vaccine history of other pets is unknown or even questionable.

Can I Walk my Puppy Before Vaccinations?

Because of how easily disease can travel, veterinarians recommend not walking your puppy prior to receiving vaccinations.

Can I Take my Puppy Out After the First Vaccination?

Speak with your veterinarian on when the best time is to take your puppy on a stroll.  While many individuals recommend waiting one to two weeks after your puppy’s second vaccination before going into public, this can vary from one puppy to the next.

Final Puppy Vaccination Thoughts

Your puppy is counting on you to make the best decision.  Now that you know what’s behind those big vaccination terms, speak with your local veterinarian to set up a vaccination schedule that’s right for you.



Or perhaps vaccinations are complete for your little fur-ball and he/she is ready to head into public.  If so, which vaccines did you choose and why?  We’d love to hear in the comments below.

Profile picture of the author - Anna LengacherAs the Editor in Chief, Anna Lengacher helps dog lovers learn the ropes of finding, raising, and caring for their dogs so they can enjoy many happy memories together.

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