When you bring home a new dog one of the first things on your to-do list is scheduling vaccinations. Giving a dog shots right out of the gate may not seem like the best way to build a trusting relationship. However, adhering to a dog vaccination schedule is an important first step in pet ownership.

It can be overwhelming for new owners to get a handle on all required vaccinations — especially someone who has never owned a young dog.

Responsible breeders stay on top of the vaccine schedule and are even a resource for educating customers who are new to puppy ownership. In fact, outlining upcoming vaccinations in your puppy kit is a great way to set your business apart and demonstrates your commitment to breeding healthy pups.

This guide gives a detailed look at the most common canine vaccinations, the types of disease they prevent, the windows for each shot and the price range for each vaccination.

What Is a Vaccination?

Most dog owners and breeders have a general idea of what a vaccine is — humans get them too, after all — but it’s important to understand exactly what a vaccination is, how it works and why it’s safe.

Vaccinations are usually administered via injection, though some like Bordetella are administered with a nasal spray. Vaccinations trigger protective immune responses.

These immune responses produce antibodies, which identify and destroy disease-causing organisms when they enter the body. Essentially, your dog’s immune system knows how to destroy viruses before they can take hold in the body and reproduce. This results in your dog being immune to many diseases and, at the very least, protected from severe illness.

Vaccinations are important for several reasons:

  • Vaccines protect your dog from common pet illnesses that at best will make your dog uncomfortable and lethargic, and at worst cause serious illness or even death.
  • Treating a dog illness is expensive! Sure, fully vaccinating your dog isn’t cheap, but the cost of treating preventable diseases is usually significantly more.
  • Vaccines eliminate widespread disease by causing herd immunity.
  • While a rare occurrence, some diseases like rabies and leptospirosis can be passed from animals to humans. Vaccinating your dog prevents this from happening.
  • You don’t really have a choice — vaccination is a requirement in many jurisdictions.

How Safe are Vaccines?

For the vast majority of pets, they’re very safe. Most pets respond well to vaccines and have minor or no symptoms. Just like some parents have concerns about their human children receiving vaccines, it’s natural to have questions and concerns about the dog vaccination schedule.

As with all medical treatment there are some risks. However most dog owners would agree that the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks. Just as you may have a sore arm or feel malaise the day after a flu shot, the most common symptoms for dog vaccinations are mild and short term. 

Common post-vaccine symptoms include:

  • Localized swelling at the injection site.
  • Mild fever.
  • Lethargy and decreased appetite.
  • Sneezing, coughing and other signs of respiratory congestion. 

While it’s a rare occurrence, serious side effects can happen. In order to quickly treat serious side effects, wait 30-60 minutes before leaving the vet’s office following a vaccine. Most negative effects from the shots will occur within minutes.

Rare but serious side effects include:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties

Over the years, vaccination technology has improved. As a result, dogs need less vaccine shots over the course of their life.

What’s The Difference Between Core & Non-Core Vaccines?

You may see a dog vaccination schedule that differentiates between core and non-core vaccines and wonder, “What’s the difference?” 

  • Core vaccines are those that are required by law in your jurisdiction or are recommended for all dogs. Generally the only core vaccines are for Distemper, Hepatitis/Adenovirus and Parvovirus (DAP/DHP) and Rabies
  • Non-core vaccines are auxiliary and optional. Your vet may recommend these vaccines because of your dog’s lifestyle and medical history. Non-core vaccinations include Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme Disease, Bordetella and Giardia.
Here's an example of a dog vaccination schedule.

Common Dog Vaccination Schedule

Your puppy should receive his first round of vaccinations at around 6-8 weeks of age, or when he’s weaned. First-round core vaccines include Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus — non-core vaccines given in the first round include Bordetella. Parainfluenza is another non-core vaccine given on the first round. Vets often bundle it with core vaccines in the DHPP shot.

After the first round, a typical dog vaccination schedule recommends to get follow-up vaccinations every two to four weeks until the puppy is 18 weeks old. Veterinarians have differing opinions on the ideal dog vaccination schedule — you can always consult with your vet to customize the schedule, and don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion!

Consult a vet if you’ve adopted an older puppy (over 16 weeks old) that isn’t fully vaccinated — or if you don’t know its vaccination status — consult a vet. It may be better to start over to be sure your dog is fully vaxxed. Repeat vaccinations are safer than lacking protection from potentially deadly infections.

DHPP is a core vaccination on the dog vaccination schedule.

DHPP Vaccine

DHPP is a core vaccination. The acronym stands for Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus. Vets usually administer this four-in-one vaccine in three or four shots over the first 18 weeks of a puppy’s life.

  • DAPP adds a vaccine for Parainfluenza to the Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis and Parvovirus (DAP/DHP) shot. Some vets include the Parainfluenza vaccine with the nasal spray administered Bordetella vaccine and find that’s most effective.

There are other options that don’t combine as many vaccinations in one shot. Vets have differing opinions over which option is best.

  • The DAP/DHP vaccine includes immunizations for Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis and Parvovirus. DAP and DHP vaccines are exactly the same.
  • DAPPC adds a vaccine for Coronavirus to the DAPP. According to one veterinarian in San Diego, the Coronavirus vaccine is unnecessary for puppies. He says that while the virus can make small puppies ill, it’s not a serious infection for puppies over eight weeks old (the age when they can start receiving vaccines).

Canine Distemper

Canine Distemper is an airborne viral disease that attacks dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system. It can be transmitted through sneezing or coughing as well as via water bowls and other dog equipment.

There is no cure for distemper and dogs can shed the virus for months, making it a highly infectious disease. One common sign of the disease is thickened, hardened footpads — which led to the disease nickname of “hard pad disease.”

Unfortunately, distemper is often a fatal disease. Those dogs that do survive typically suffer permanent and irreparable damage to their nervous system. Luckily, if you stay on schedule with vaccinations and boosters, your dog will be protected from this disease.

Initial Symptoms of Canine Distemper:

  • Watery or pus-like discharge from the eyes
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy and reduced appetite
  • Vomiting

Secondary/Neurological Symptoms of Canine Distemper:

  • Circling behavior
  • Head tilt
  • Muscle twitches
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Partial or complete paralysis

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious Canine Hepatitis is a viral infection. In areas with high rates of vaccination, the disease is very uncommon. The virus affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs and eyes of a dog.

It’s typically transmitted through the ingestion of urine, feces or saliva of infected dogs. A dog that’s recovered from canine hepatitis sheds the virus for up to six months, and sometimes longer.

Some common signs of the disease include:

  • Apathy
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Serious discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Abdominal pain and vomiting

Less common symptoms include:

  • Intense Hyperemia 
  • Petechiae of the oral mucosa
  • Enlarged tonsils

Canine Parainfluenza

Canine Parainfluenza is an extremely contagious viral disease. It’s one of the most common contributors to kennel cough.

Symptoms of Parainfluenza are similar to that of canine influenza, but it requires a different vaccine. The virus spreads rapidly in places where large numbers of dogs are kept together.

Common symptoms of Canine Parainfluenza:

  • Coughing (dry or moist)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nasal discharge 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Loss of appetite

Parvovirus

Extremely contagious, Parvovirus is transmitted by dog-to-dog contact, feces, environments (like puddles or mud), equipment (like water bowls or leashes) and even by people. It can survive for long periods of time in the environment, making it even more easily transmitted.

Parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal tracts. Most deaths from the disease occur within two to three days of the onset of symptoms, usually from dehydration or septic shock caused by damaged organs.

Rapid treatment of the disease as soon as symptoms are recognized results in better outcomes. But the best way to avoid serious illness from Parvovirus is through vaccination.

Common symptoms of Parvovirus:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Fever or low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Severe, often bloody, diarrhea. 
Leptospirosis is a core vaccination on the dog vaccination schedule.

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can be transmitted from dog to dog and from dog to humans. Because it’s so dangerous — and easily preventable — Rabies is the only canine vaccine that’s required by law in most states.

Vets give the rabies vaccine around 16-18 weeks of age and again at the one year mark. Some states require the vaccine even earlier, so check your state laws for specific guidelines.

The virus is transmitted through saliva, typically when an animal bites a human or other animal. If a wild animal bites you or your dog, ‌seek medical attention immediately. If caught early enough, the disease may ‌be treated; once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. 

Symptoms of Rabies include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Excess salivation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Paralysis
  • Mental confusion
Bordetella is a non-core vaccination on the dog vaccination schedule.

Bordetella Vaccination

While Bordetella is a non-core vaccine, many organizations like training classes and doggy daycare require it. This bacterial infection is highly contagious and is another cause of kennel cough. While kennel cough from Bordetella is rarely deadly, it gives dogs a bad cough, runny nose and general discomfort.

The virus can be administered via a subcutaneous injection or nasal spray. The method of inoculation depends on the age of the dog. There are many opinions among dog professionals about the right time to administer this vaccine.

The number of Bordetella shots your dog will need depends on the age he starts getting vaccinated. 

  • If you have a brand new puppy the first shot should be given between six and eight weeks of age. 
  • Vets give the second shot between 10 and 12 weeks.
  • Some vets recommend a third shot at 14-18 weeks.
  • Booster shots should be given every six to 12 months.

If you’ve purchased a puppy and you’re not sure about his vaccination history, he’ll only need one shot after 16 weeks. This is because his immune system has matured and is stronger and healthier.

Lyme Disease is a non-core vaccination on the dog vaccination schedule.

Lyme Disease Vaccination

Bacteria carried by deer ticks cause Lyme Disease. Humans and dogs are susceptible to this disease, which causes primary symptoms like headache, fever, fatigue and skin rash. If left untreated, it can progress into significantly more serious complications in the joints, heart and nervous system. 

Whether your dog needs a Lyme Disease vaccine is between you and your vet. Location and lifestyle are the determining factors for whether this vaccination is recommended.

Leptospirosis is a non-core vaccination on the dog vaccination schedule.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that’s typically contracted through contaminated soil or water. Because it’s so rare, it’s considered one of the optional, non-core vaccinations on the dog vaccination schedule.

Leptospirosis can be transmitted from dog to human, so many vets consider it a core vaccination. The vaccine is effective for about a year, so annual shots are recommended. Your puppy can get it as early as eight to nine weeks, but many vets suggest waiting until the 12-week mark.

Symptoms of Leptospirosis:

  • Fever 
  • Vomiting 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Appetite loss
  • Severe weakness and depression
  • Stiffness 
  • Severe muscle pain

Symptoms are typically more severe in young dogs, making it even more critical to consider this vaccination for your puppy. 

Heartworm treatment isn't part of the dog vaccination schedule but it's an important early health practice.

Heartworm Treatments

Heartworms are worm-like parasites that are spread by mosquito bites and live in the arteries of the heart and lung. An untreated infestation may lead to cardiac arrest. Unfortunately there are usually no initial symptoms of heartworms.

Classes of Heartworm infection:

  • Class 1 infection shows no symptoms or only mild symptoms. There may be occasional coughing.
  • Mild symptoms are a sign that infection has progressed to Class 2. These symptoms include occasional coughing and tiredness after moderate activity.
  • More severe symptoms are present once the infection reaches Class 3 level. These symptoms include a generally sick appearance, persistent cough, difficulty breathing and tiredness after mild activity. Additionally, changes to the heart and lungs can be seen with a chest x-ray.
  • Caval Syndrome is the term used when a Heartworm infection has reached Class 4. You can see changes to the heart and lungs with a chest x-ray. Blood flowing back to the dog’s heart is blocked by the large mass of worms. The only option to fix this life-threatening condition is surgery.

There isn’t a vaccination for heartworms. However, your vet will likely recommend preventative heartworm medication during the vaccination schedule.

Titer Test

A Titer Test measures the level of antibodies in a dog’s body. This test can ‌determine whether your dog needs additional vaccinations against a specific infection.

If you’re hesitant about giving your dog additional vaccinations, a Titer Test may be worthwhile. However, state law doesn’t accept Titer Tests for legally required vaccinations like Rabies. 

How Much Will Vaccinating My Dog Cost?

Vaccination is essentially a requirement for owning a puppy but it’s always helpful to know how much you’ll pay so you can budget accordingly.

Your puppy will receive most of his core vaccinations during the first six months of life. Naturally, that period is when you’ll pay the most. While vaccinations may seem like a large upfront cost, it’s a fraction of the cost of treating a serious, preventable disease and keeping your dog healthy and happy is priceless.

It’s hard to give an exact cost estimate for a typical dog vaccination schedule. Costs vary depending on location, the brand of vaccine and the kinds of vaccines your vet recommends. One way to save money on vaccinations is to look for a local vaccine clinic, which typically has lower costs than taking the dog into the vet’s office.

Vaccinations Protect Your Pet During Transportation

Vaccinations are critical if you’re purchasing a puppy from an out-of-state breeder or need to transport an older dog long distances. Pet transporters often stack dog shipments in order to maximize efficiency, meaning your dog will share close quarters with other animals.

When several dogs are held this close together for long periods of time, the risk of contracting an infection is higher. By following the recommended dog vaccination schedule, you’ll ensure your family’s best friend is protected from serious complications.

At CitizenShipper, our drivers provide a wide range of dog transportation services. Many drivers stack shipments in order to maximize efficiency.

But if you’re not comfortable with your dog sharing a ride, you can pay a little extra and opt for VIP service. VIP service means your dog is the only animal in the car for the duration of the transport.

VIP service is particularly helpful for breeders shipping a puppy that’s old enough to be transported but has not yet been fully vaccinated. 

If you need to ship your dog, post a free dog-transport listing on CitizenShipper today! Once your listing is posted and you receive bids, you can communicate directly with drivers to negotiate the specifics of the transport, including VIP service!

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