The Complete Guide to Dog Vaccinations

Before you head out and adopt that puppy your kids have been begging you for, you want to educate yourself on what shots your new furry baby will need. This illustration may not be your specific situation, but it’s safe to assume that you found your way here because you are unfamiliar with this process, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

That’s why we put together this guide that will take you through the process step by step so you can walk into the vet's office knowledgeable about what you want for your new family member and what to expect as an owner. 

Getting A Dog

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There are all kinds of dogs out there, and a puppy isn’t the answer for everyone. No matter if you brought home a senior dog or just hopped on down to shelter and picked out a wagging tail at random, there will be a first time when you deal with vaccinations.

Finding a Vet

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When that time approaches, you want to make sure the veterinary specialist you choose is the best around if you don’t already have one for other animals in your home. There are several ways you can narrow it down to one doctor or clinic. 

You can ask your fur loving friends who they use. Another option is sitting right in front of you. A fancy invention called the internet. 

There are several ways to research the vets in your area without ever having to leave your home. Personal referrals are the best if you can get some because word of mouth recommendations rarely disappoint when it comes to finding a reputable and reliable place. 

Now that you found a vet, here is what you should expect when you go there, depending on the type of dog you have chosen to join your family. 


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If you broke down and got a puppy, then it is imperative to find out from the people or organization you are adopting the baby from what shots they have received, if any, and how old the dog is. When it comes to puppies vaccinations are administered throughout the first year of life, as opposed to every year after that, as with older dogs. 

6-8 Weeks

Ideally, the puppy you adopted will still be with its mother at this stage of life since the ASPCA recommends puppies to be weaned from the tit at 8 to 10 weeks. But, we all know that this world isn’t perfect and some dogs don’t start don’t have the best beginning of life stories. If you have a newborn of this age here are the vaccinations you need to get. 


This canine disease can be harsh, and it is contagious. When it enters a dogs body it invades several of their functions including the nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal (GI) systems. It is an airborne virus and affects skunks, raccoons, and other wild animals as well as other dogs. 

Another way to contract this is through water and food bowls shared with other pets. When infected your dog might show the following symptoms.

  • Eye and nose discharge
  • Thickened foot pads
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Twitching
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Death if not treated

This disease has no cure, so vaccination is essential. Infected animals can spread distemper for several months.

Other recommended vaccinations include measles, a virus related to distemper, and parainfluenza. This virus can lead to kennel cough, which is a profoundly infectious respiratory disease in canines.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica (optional)

Bordetella is a seriously infectious bacteria that causes coughing fits, whooping, and even vomiting. It can also result in seizures and death. This bacteria is the root cause of kennel cough. This vaccination is also available via nasal spray in addition to the shot. 

10-12 Weeks

At this stage, your puppy should be weaned and becoming acclimated as the newest member of your family. This phase is the time when you get the following vaccinations. 


This abbreviation refers to a group of vaccinations that protects against distemper and adenovirus.

Adenovirus (Hepatitis)
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This virus is highly infectious can damage the kidneys, liver, lungs, spleen, and eyes. Your pet can’t get it from you since it’s not the same form of hepatitis. Symptoms include:

  • Slight fever
  • Congestion of the mucous membrane
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged stomach
  • Pain around the liver

Patients can recover from mild cases. Severe cases can result in death. To date, there is no cure. Treatment options are available. 

Coronavirus (optional)

This virus attacks the GI system. It can also cause respiratory issues. Symptoms include:

  • Lost appetite
  • Vomiting
  • List Element

Treatment after infection involves keeping your dog warm and hydrated. You can to ease any nausea with bland foods. 

Leptospirosis (optional)

Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria, and some dogs don’t show any symptoms. It is found in soil and water all over the globe. This bacteria can spread from animals to people, making it a zoonotic disease. Symptoms include: 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting 
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Lost of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle aches
  • Jaundice
  • Infertility
  • Failing kidneys
  • Liver failure

Vets will treat this with antibiotics. 

Lyme Disease (optional)

This disorder is also known as borreliosis. It is passed to dogs from ticks. Lyme disease is caused by an infectious type of bacteria called spirochete. Symptoms include:

  • Limping
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rising temperature
  • Loss of appetite or stops eating

It can result in damaged joints, kidneys, and heart. It may also cause neurological issues if not treated. If you catch it right away, the vet should prescribe antibiotics. However, dogs can relapse months or years later. 

12-24 Weeks

At this point in your relationship with your puppy, you will already be wondering how you got along without his cute little smiling face and quizzical look. It’s at this stage of life you get this vaccination. 


This viral disease pounces on the central nervous system. It is typically spread via bites from other animals with the disease. Symptoms include:

  • Exorbitant drooling
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Fear of water
  • Hallucinations
  • Paralysis
  • Death

Treatment for this disease must be administered within a few hours of the bite; otherwise, the patient will likely die. This vaccination is required by law in most areas of the United States and Europe. Ask your veterinarian about the laws where you live. 

14-16 Weeks

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From this point on the vaccinations are repeats of shots we’ve already discussed. 

  • DHPP
  • Coronavirus (optional)
  • Leptospirosis (optional)
  • Lyme disease (optional)

12-16 Weeks

  • DHPP
  • Rabies
  • Coronavirus (optional)
  • Bordetella (optional)
  • Lyme disease (optional)
  • Leptospirosis (optional)

Older Dogs

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Now your puppy has grown and doesn’t need so many visits to the vet. Or, you opted to get an older dog from the kennel and want to keep up on their vaccinations to ensure their health and well-being. While the regimen for a puppy is rigorous, older dogs typically only need to see the vet once a year for boosters. 

Some owners check their dog’s immunity levels before getting shots. Here are the suggested vaccinations for dogs over one year old. 

Every 1-2 Years

At this stage in their life, you should be getting the DHPP vaccination on a schedule with your vet. Optional preventative meds during this time include Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme disease. 

Every 1-3 Years

Your dog should be getting the rabies vaccination for the duration of their life. The time lapse between shots depends on the laws in your area. 


As pet owners, we all know that keeping them in our lives isn’t cheap, but the payoff is more than worth it, so we put some aside to make sure Fluffy is safe and healthy. Still, going into this blind is never fun so we put together a list of what you can expect to pay for that first year of having a puppy and every year after that. 

 In most areas, the cost of vaccinations will be anywhere from $75 to $100. This cost should cover the required shots given at six, twelve, and sixteen weeks, which is the DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza). 

Rabies vaccinations are relatively inexpensive, around $15 - $20 but you can get a discount at some shelters, and there are even organizations that promote shots by offering discounts at certain times of the year. 


We can fix some health issues with natural solutions but, when it comes to vaccinating your dog, the risks are far too high. Each of the diseases we described above is out there waiting for your fur baby every time you go to the park or send him to the daycare to run around with his friends. 

The fact of the matter is, most areas of the world require some of these vaccinations, so there isn’t any way to get around it. You can choose whether you want to get the shots that are not required by law, but there are grooming facilities and kennels who won’t accept your dog without some of these vaccinations. 

In Conclusion

fawn pug puppy laying on ground

Now you know what it takes to get your newly adopted family member ready for the world and all the dangers that exist outside your front door, you can face this with the knowledge of what diseases threaten your dog, what vaccinations prevent them, and how often you need to get them back into the vet. 

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