After you've adopted a young dog, one of the first steps is to come up with a puppy shot schedule. The puppy will need several core vaccines, some of which are even required by law. Your veterinarian will tell you what puppy vaccinations are essential, and which are considered non-core vaccines.

Some vets may recommend that your puppy get every vaccine possible, but that's not always the best approach. You must do some research to avoid over-vaccination. Over-vaccinating dogs is a common problem which can have counter-productive results, and some dogs may also be allergic to certain vaccines..

The Puppy Shot Schedule Guide

1. Which Dog Vaccines are Essential?

When you discuss shots for puppies with a vet, you'll learn about many different vaccines, some of which are important and essential, while others are optional. Also, talk to the vet about your cost concerns, because some may work within your budget.

The below diseases are what most puppies are usually vaccinated for:

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Hepatitis
  • Canine Parainfluenza
  • Corona Virus
  • Heartworm
  • Kennel Cough
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Parvovirus
  • Rabies

2. What Are Multivalent Vaccines?

The veterinarian may suggest a multivalent vaccine. These vaccines are designed for convenience, providing immunization from two or more strains of microorganisms in a single injection.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends a common multivalent vaccine known as the DA2P. This vaccine protects dogs against diseases such as canine distemper, adenovirus 2 and adenovirus 1 (which can cause canine hepatitis) and canine parvovirus.

These vaccines are considered safe for puppies and they are always sealed by the manufacturer. No veterinarian will simply mix up vaccines in a single syringe themselves.

3. What Are the Risks of Puppy Vaccination?

As with any medication and vaccines, whether for animals or humans, there's always some risk of potential side effects. However, studies show that all core puppy vaccines on the essential puppy shot schedule, like the DA2PP or rabies vaccine, are completely safe.

Most today's core vaccines for dogs were developed over 50 years ago. After decades of scientific discovery and testing, enough effort has been put into making these vaccines safe and reliable for animals.

In very rare instances, some vaccines may cause adverse effects in puppies that are typically unpredictable. Fortunately, most of those negative reactions dogs have to vaccinations are minor and easily managed.

Your vet will ask about the health of your puppy prior to vaccinations and, if necessary, may perform some tests. If your dog is sick, the vaccine may have to be put on hold due to a dog's compromised immune system. If given during that time, the vaccine could be ineffective or cause side effects.

4. Setting Up a Puppy Shot Schedule

The puppy shot schedule will be designed after several veterinary checkups during your puppy's first year. Your veterinarian will explain the different types of puppy shots that will be on the schedule, best times to get these vaccines, and perform a general health checkup on your puppy.

While the regulations for canine vaccination can differ by country and U.S. state, the general accepted guidelines in the United States for vaccinating dogs are below.

Puppy's Age Essential Vaccines Optional Vaccines
6 to 8 weeks Distemper, measles, parainfluenza Bordetella
10 to 12 weeks DHPP (distemper, adenovirus, [hepatitis], parainfluenza, parvovirus) Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme Disease
12 to 24 weeks Rabies none
14 to 16 weeks DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease
12 to 16 months Rabies, DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme Disease
1 to 2 years DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme Disease
1 to 3 years Rabies (as needed) none

5. Are Puppy Vaccines Expensive?

Vaccinations will be a regular expense, particularly in the early stages of a dog's life. How much vaccinations cost will depend on where you live. Generally, vets in urban areas and large cities charge more than a small town or rural country veterinarian.

It's best to call around to check on price differences in your area. When choosing a vet, also consider that you want them to be located close enough to where you live so that they are available in case of an emergency. This means that you may need to pick a slightly more expensive vet clinic because it's only ten minutes away.

Puppy vaccinations cost more during the dog's first year before they reach adulthood. Puppy shot costs will then start going down as the dog ages.

Here are some things to consider when you're pondering on puppy vaccine costs:

The core vaccines often include the DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza). The average costs is around $75 to $100. Note that as a puppy, this multivalent vaccine is given 3 times at ages 6, 12, and 16 weeks old.

Your puppy will need a rabies vaccine yearly. This vaccine costs between $15 and $20.

If you acquired your puppy from a shelter, vaccines may have been included in the costs of the adoption and shots are up-to-date to the age when you received him.

You can lower the costs of a puppy shot schedule by going to clinics or even local shelters who may offer community programs. Some may offer low-cost or even free vaccinations to those who request it in the area.

Watch for your local pet store to offer a “shot clinic day” where they offer discounted vaccines to patrons often through volunteer services of local veterinarians.

6. Booster Puppy Shots

Veterinarians have a difference of opinion on the efficacy of yearly booster shots for dogs. Some believe that too many vaccines can cause health problems, but most vets (and state regulations) state that yearly vaccinations will prevent dangerous diseases.

What you can do is have a titer test done before vaccinating your puppy. Basically, this test measures the level of immunity the dog has to certain strains of viruses and organisms. Based on this test, the vet can determine if a booster vaccine is needed or not.

Rabies vaccines are unique in that they are required by law in most states (see Texas). They are done each year to three years depending on the type of vaccine given.

7. Vaccination Risks and Should You Do It?

Generally, studies show and most vets consider vaccinations to be safe for healthy dogs, and the basic core vaccines protect against far more serious diseases compared to side effects of vaccines. In short, the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

Moreover, vaccines not only protect your dog, but also the community: they prevent the spread of viruses from your pet to other pets and, in zoonotic cases, even humans.

A good vet will walk you through potential risks and side effects of canine vaccines before injecting your puppy. Post-vaccination, if you notice any change in your dog or at the site of the vaccine, contact your veterinarian immediately.

There are ways that you can reduce the risks of your dog having a negative reaction to a vaccine. This will depend on each individual situation, so discuss it with your vet. Sticking to a proper puppy shot schedule will further reduce the risks.

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Puppy Shot Schedule Guide

Camden Savage is a Phoenix based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught her every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.