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Puppy Vaccinations: Everything You Need to Know

Once you bring a puppy into your home, you must realize the importance of keeping them healthy and immunized. Most dogs receive their first vaccinations within their first few weeks. Giving your puppy plenty of time to adjust to their new home and learn to trust you. Early veterinary care and vaccination care is essential for your pet to live a healthy and happy life

The Importance of Pet Vaccinations

Puppy's first Vet Visit

When puppies are first born, their immune system is not yet fully developed. In order to stay protected, puppies need help to strengthen their immunity and stay protected. When puppies nurse, their mothers provide the puppies with antibody-rich milk, which helps them gain a temporary shield of immunity. How long this protects the puppy differs in every dog. Typically these antibodies fade away after the puppy turns 16 weeks old.

Vaccines help prevent future disease and to help to give a dog’s immune system a boost. Puppy vaccinations help to safeguard dog’s against dangerous diseases which can cause serious health problems.

Non-core Vaccines for Dogs

Core vaccines are a must for your puppy whereas other non-core vaccines may be optional and doctor recommended based off your lifestyle and where you live.  Here are a few key reasons why your dog may need a non-core vaccine:

Does Your Dog Come In Contact with Other Dogs?

If your puppy greets other dogs in the streets or in the park. This type of contact can be dangerous for an unvaccinated pup. Many doggy day cares will require your dog to have certain vaccinations to protect your dog (and the others in their care) against the spread of disease. Other activities that can put a dog at risk: dog shows, going to the groomers, or swimming in fresh water.

Does Your Dog Have Specific Health Needs?

Even your dog’s breed factors into the decision on what vaccinations they need. Breed, your dog’s overall health, and the age of the dog are just a few key factors to consider when making your decision. If you are intending to breed your dog later on, this needs to be factored into their vaccination plan as a puppy.

Will You Be Traveling With Your Pup?

You need to consider your dog’s health needs, just like you would your own when traveling. Traveling internationally or even to a different part of the country can put your dog’s health at risk for catching different diseases. Be prepared and research before you travel with a pet.

Still have questions? Visit the AAHA to learn more about vaccines and what to ask your Vet.

Required Canine Vaccines

Canine Distemper

Distemper is viral disease that begins with respiratory issues and can also include seizures, nausea, diarrhea and in severe cases even death. Distemper is related to the disease that causes measles and is extremely contagious. Frequently transmitted by foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and pooches through an airborne introduction or shared food and water bowls.


Adenovirus is a dangerous respiratory infection that targets multiple organs in the body. Canine adenovirus type 1 causes canine hepatitis. It can cause severe liver and kidney infection in pets and can be fatal in 30% of infected dogs. The Adenovirus vaccine is usually given alongside distemper.


Parvovirus assaults the digestive and immune system which leads to diarrhea and vomiting is profoundly infectious through direct contact and contaminated feces. It can put a lot of strain on the heart of very young dogs. It is intense and when left untreated has a very high death rate.

Canine Parainfluenza

This virus attacks a dog’s respiratory system and contributes to kennel cough. Dogs can catch this virus if they inhale the tiny droplets of the nasal discharge from the other dogs.


A bacterial disease that leads to infection in the liver and kidneys. The vaccine for this disease is considered non-core because this infection is not common in all the areas. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning infected animals can transmit the virus to a human.


This infection is highly contagious and attacks a dog’s intestines, leading to diarrhea and vomiting. Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) is not the same virus as SARS-CoV-2 that causes the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Not every dog receives this vaccine as it is not usually found in every region and occurs only in very young dogs. Check with your Vet to see if this is recommended in your area.


Rabies attacks a dog’s nervous system and is caused by the bite of another infected animal. Considered a zoonotic disease, rabies can also infect humans. Rabies is transmitted from animal to human through the bit of an infected animal. This is the only vaccine required by law in the United States. Rabid animals might experience hallucinations, headaches, foam in the mouth, anxiety, fear of water, paralysis, and even death.

If your dog comes in contact with rabies, visit the Vet immediately. Even if they are up to date on their Rabies vaccine.

How Do Vaccinations Work?

Kitten vaccination at Vets

It is important that you vaccinate your puppy or kitten at the right time. Pets receive their first round of vaccines between six to eight weeks of age. Then continued and updated regularly. Expect to visit the Vet frequently in your puppy’s first year.

During your first visit, your Vet will tell you the entire vaccination schedule and when you’ll need to be back for the next round.

Be aware that vaccines will not work immediately and it may take five to ten days for the vaccine to start working. Puppies do have some maternal antibodies which give the puppy a little immunity. Your dog may not reach full immunity until they turn 4 months old!

After the First Four Months

Just because your dog has reached four months old doesn’t mean they’ve received all their shots. Vaccinations and boosters will continue throughout your dog’s life. Make regular appointments for your dog to see their Vet to always keep them up to date.

Guest Author:
Harsh Arora

Harsh began his career in journalism. And has since worked and written for several top equestrian publications and websites. Most recently, working in corporate marketing with a focus on strategic and digital planning. Along with being a lifelong dog and horse owner. Harsh is a certified therapeutic riding instructor and previously managed the care and training of a 12-horse therapy herd.

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  1. It’s helpful to learn that the law states that we vaccinate our dogs against rabies. Next weekend, we’re adopting a puppy from our neighbors, so we’ll definitely use your guide to know which vaccinations are a must for her. Thank you for the intake about how rabies leads to death.

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