A new puppy is bound to be inquisitive and stick his wet nose in places it doesn’t belong! That is why it is really important to know what shots do puppies need and ensure that all his vaccinations are done to schedule. The shots your puppy will need vary based on his breed, health, and where you live.
Dogs that will be travelling, boarding or showing will usually need a more comprehensive course of vaccinations, as will outdoor dogs in certain areas. Though the schedules vary, we’ve included a standard timeline here so you can plan for your new puppy’s vet visits. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a more accurate timeline for your pet's specific needs.
A vaccine is a micro dose of a disabled virus. The dose is enough that it stimulates the puppy’s immune system to fight the virus, almost like a practice run, so if they ever come across the infection again they will be able to shake it off.
Many diseases that are controlled with vaccines are incurable if contracted at a later stage, so immunization is the only way to protect your puppy’s future.
Puppies are not born with immunity to diseases. However, they do have some antibody protection from drinking their mother's milk. Nearly all of a puppy's natural immunity comes from antibodies found in the mother’s colostrum, or first milk.
RELEVANT: 8 Laws All Dog Owners Should Be Aware Of
Be aware though, that the puppy will only receive antibodies against diseases if its mother had been recently exposed to them, and/or her vaccinations were kept up to date.
Stray or orphaned puppies, or any other pups with unknown history should receive a comprehensive vaccination to be sure they stay healthy.
Some vets like to have puppies begin with their vaccinations as soon as you pick them up from the breeder or shelter.
Others prefer to allow them a few days to settle in at their new home first to reduce additional stress, which may impact their immune system and allow any incubated diseases to come to the fore. Have a chat with your vet a few days before you’re due to bring home your new fluffy friend to get their advice.
During your pup's initial examination, the veterinarian will look at the pup's medical and vaccination history. If the breeder or shelter gave him any vaccinations recently, and your veterinarian is confident that they are genuine and were performed properly, then a schedule for follow-up vaccinations will be made. If there is any uncertainty, the vet will likely recommend starting over with the whole vaccination schedule to be on the safe side.
READ ALSO: Preventing Over-Vaccination in Dogs
What Shots Do Puppies Need? Dog Vaccination Schedule
The exact vaccinations a puppy will need will vary slightly depending on his breed and where you live, whether they will be indoor or outdoor, whether you plan on travelling or boarding them, and any history of disease or vulnerability.
As a general rule, the earliest a puppy will be vaccinated is at six weeks old and the first run of vaccines will end when your puppy is 16 to 18 weeks old.
Often vaccinations need to be done on a strict schedule to ensure that subsequent vaccinations hit the ‘sweet spot’ that boosts immunity, usually within two to four weeks after the previous one, so make sure you allow time for plenty of vet visits.
Because a puppy’s shot schedule is going to be a very individual thing, you will always need to discuss immunization with your vet and they will give you a full schedule. But if you're wondering what shots do puppies need, you can use this approximate guideline:
- Parvovirus vaccine: For some breeds especially susceptible or exposed to parvovirus, or immunocompromised puppies, your vet may recommend early inoculation.
- At six weeks, your puppy will receive their first combination vaccine. The combination vaccine, or 5-way vaccine, will include protection against adenovirus (canine hepatitis), distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Another option is the 9-way vaccine which will inoculate against all the diseases in the 5-way and leptospirosis and/or coronavirus.
- The inclusion of either canine adenovirus-1 or adenovirus-2 in a vaccine will protect against both adenovirus cough and hepatitis. The adenovirus-1 vaccine has a high risk of adverse side effects, so the adenovius-2 vaccine is the preferred choice.
- Second round of the combination vaccine is given.
- Rabies vaccine: In many places in the U.S. this vaccine is mandatory by law.
14 – 16 weeks
- Around this time the final combination vaccine is due. It will include protection against leptospirosis and coronavirus if not included before, and Lyme disease if necessary.
1 year old
- Rabies and distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvovirus combination vaccine booster.
Every 1 – 3 years
- Rabies booster, which is required by law. Lyme disease booster if applicable.
There are some circumstances that require a dog to have extra shots. Certain breeds such as Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Labradors, German Shepherds, Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, Springer Spaniels and Rottweilers are more vulnerable to parvovirus so may need additional booster shots.
Parvovirus infection is also more likely in dogs with another disease or on medications that suppress the immune system.
RELATED: Where to Buy Puppies?
Dogs expected to travel, board and kennel or take part in shows will be exposed to lots of different dogs from all over the country and even the world, so they will need extra vaccines to keep them healthy.
Your vet may recommend administering the Bordetella vaccines which protects again a respiratory infection commonly known as kennel cough, and a shot to protect against the canine parainfluenza virus.
Outdoor dogs, especially those living in rural areas may come in contact with deer ticks, so yearly vaccines against Lyme disease may be recommended. Similarly, dogs living in or travelling to rural areas with possible contact with other wildlife may need to be vaccinated against Leptospirosis, a disease with symptoms of lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain and vomiting, fever and ultimately kidney and liver failure.
Leptospirosis is a contagious bacterial disease that comes from stagnant water contaminated with urine from leptospira infected animals. Leptospirosis, flu and kennel cough vaccines only last for a year so they need to be topped up with annual booster shots. Lyme disease and rabies vaccines also need to be administered on a regular basis.
So you’ve got your puppy booked in for his first shot, and you might have concerns about side effects. There may be some minor side-effects after the vaccination.
Sometimes puppies seem tired and lacking in energy after their visit, which is partly from the vaccine itself but is also because it was a big, new experience for him and he's exhausted from it all.
Good quality dog food, a few extra cuddles and sympathy should see your puppy feeling better in a day or two.
Major side-effects are extremely rare, but call your vet if your puppy is running a fever or if you see any other unusual symptoms. Vaccines are the best way to protect your puppy for life, as many diseases cannot be cured and some are fatal.
Usually puppy vaccinations will be done over a period of three months, and after that he will only need boosters every year or three to keep your new puppy a happy, healthy member of the family for years to come.
READ NEXT: Where to Buy a Dog – Responsible Adoption