Puppy Shot Schedule

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As I was preparing to bring my puppy Maggie home, I was told by many friends and family members who had raised their own puppies that I needed to prepare for vet visits.

Puppies need to go to the vet very often during their first year at home. It’s crucial for the vet to monitor their growth, health, and vaccinations.

The number of puppy shots you’ll need to look forward to may be overwhelming, so here’s everything you need to know about the typical puppy shot schedule.

Age Recommended Vaccinations Optional Vaccinations
6-8 weeks DHPP Bordetella, Measles
8-12 weeks DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
12 weeks+ Rabies None
14-16 weeks DHPP Coronavirus, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis
12-16 months Rabies, DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every year  – Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 3 years (after initial booster) DHPP  –
Every 1-3 years Rabies (as required by law)  –

Why Puppies Need Shots

Before puppies go home at eight weeks, they haven’t really been exposed to the world.

Puppy vet health checkups are important to monitor their growth

Their immune systems are still developing, so they’re kept in their own space or one shared with their mom and siblings. They need regular shots to keep them safe from the world they’re encountering as they grow.

The shots also need to be spaced out because their tiny systems can’t handle all the shots at once.

Taking your puppy to the vet is just part of the schedule you’ll need to follow with your new puppy.

How Many Vaccinations Puppies Need

After they turn eight weeks old, puppies need to get vaccinated every two to four weeks until they’re 14 weeks old. After that, their bigger vaccinations will wait until they’re six months and twelve months old.

When Maggie was a baby, I thought the vet trips were a little overboard. Then I learned what they were for.

With each vaccination, she got a little more freedom and her health stayed safe. Keeping your growing pup safe is totally worth the visits and vet bills.

Which Shots are Required by Law?

It may surprise you to discover this, but only the rabies vaccine is required by law.

Do puppies need shots before playing in the dog park with others
Your puppy will be safer at the dog park once fully immunized

Some states allow dogs to get the vaccine later in life, but most vets recommend that puppies start their shots around 16 weeks old.

Other vaccines are not mandatory, but it’s best to make sure your puppy gets them. These are called the canine core vaccines. Your vet will make sure your puppy gets them in the order that they need according to their age.

These vaccines are the ones for canine distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis.

When to Give Your Puppy Shots

Breeders should give puppies their vaccinations every 2 to 4 weeks after they’re born, and it’s the dog owners responsibility to take over the vaccines after puppies go home at eight weeks old.

Your vet will give you specific guidance as to when your puppy needs vaccinations according to the laws of your state and where you live, but you can follow the general guideline above to know what you can expect over your puppy’s first year at home.

Puppy Shot Schedule

how often do puppies require shots how many vaccinations
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Leah Ferrante

Each puppy vaccination helps different aspects of their health.

There are so many ways for puppies to get sick because they haven’t built up an immunity to anything.

While you’ll be able to take care of, say, ear mites at home, the following diseases are much more serious.

Here’s what each vaccination does so you can better understand how they’ll help your puppy.

Canine Distemper – 6-8 Weeks

Distemper is a terrible airborne virus that unvaccinated dogs and puppies are especially susceptible to.

It’s a virus that attacks the nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems. Puppies can get it from other dogs, as well as skunks, raccoons, and other small animals.

It’s most commonly received through airborne exposure, although dogs can get it from sharing toys or bowls with other dogs.

Distemper starts out as a fever, with slightly reddened eyes and discharge from the nose. As the disease spreads, the infected dog will become tired and resist eating. Vomiting and diarrhea can also appear as symptoms, as well as continuous coughing.

sick puppy lethargic low energy sad Canine Parainfluenza Distemper Parvovirus

A complete list of symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Discharge from the nose and eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures

There’s currently no cure for distemper, which is why the vaccine is crucial.

Canine Parainfluenza – 6-8 Weeks

Another highly contagious virus is parainfluenza.

It’s a respiratory virus that can sometimes be mistaken for influenza, but they require two different vaccinations.

Parainfluenza can result in:

  • Coughing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of energy
  • Nasal discharge

Puppies can get it from being around other dogs, public spaces, or even groomers.

Parvovirus – 10-12 Weeks

If you’ve been a previous dog owner, you may have heard of parvo before.

It mostly affects puppies between six weeks to six months old.

They get it if they sniff or lick anything that’s been touched by contaminated feces, so it’s easy to contract if puppies are out in public or at dog parks.

Dog gets canine parainfluenza vaccine shot to help prevent doggy flu
U.S. Air Force Photo by Josh Plueger

Symptoms may include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

These symptoms are especially noticeable in young puppies, since they’ll naturally have high levels of energy and want to eat all the time.

DHPP – Multiple Shots Starting at 10-12 Weeks

The DHPP vaccine contains many vaccinations in one.

It protects your puppy from distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis, as well as parainfluenza. This combo vaccine may be the most powerful one your puppy gets.

Rabies – Multiple Shots Starting at 12-24 Weeks

Rabies may be the most well-known virus that a dog can contract, and puppies get multiple vaccinations against it in their first year.

They can only get it from the bite of an infected animal, but it works quickly.

Old Yeller Fred Gipson rabies vaccine keep dogs safe from rabid animals
The rabies vaccine would have changed the ending of this classic story

An infected dog will experience a burst of energy before facing paralysis in their limbs. The paralysis then moves to the face, locking their jaw.

Other common symptoms are:

  • Eating dirt or stones
  • Dehydration
  • Anorexia
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety

Since many of the symptoms for these common puppy diseases may not appear to be symptoms of a disease at first, puppies may not get the help they need in time.

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The rigorous vaccination schedule each puppy undergoes at a vet is for their own good.

What Do Puppy Vaccines Protect Against?

There are many different types of puppy vaccines you can get for your dog, which depends on the vet clinic you visit, the age of your puppy, and many other factors.

These are a few of the things puppy vaccines protect against and why they are important:

  • Bordetella Bronchiseptica
  • Canine Distemper
  • Canine Hepatitis
  • Canine Parainfluenza
  • Coronavirus
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme Disease
  • Parvovirus
  • Rabies
  • Click the plus button for more info on each of these diseases.

    Bordetella Bronchiseptica

    Puppies are more at risk for certain diseases, especially respiratory complications.

    Bordetella, which is also known as tracheobronchitis, is highly contagious and can be passed from dogs to puppies.

    If your dog comes in direct contact with a sick dog, they can get it from the dog sneezing or coughing next to them or licking their face. It inflames the bronchi and the trachea, which make breathing very difficult.

    The good news is that your puppy shouldn’t be in a boarding facility anytime soon after they come home.

    Thatis where most dogs contract this illness.

    Your puppy will need to get this shot at around six-months old and then repeat it annually or biannually as needed.

    It depends on your vet’s recommendations and how often you board your dog.

    Canine Distemper

    Canine distemper is another highly infectious disease that dogs can get from breathing in infected airborne particles or being around another infected dog.

    It can also be passed on through the placenta, but any adult dogs from reputable breeders will have had all of their shots prior to breeding.

    Although the virus doesn’t last long on surfaces and is killed by most disinfectant products, it’s still highly contagious and infected dogs can pass it on for several months after showing symptoms.

    Symptoms include inflammatory lymphatic tissue, issues with the respiratory tract, digestive system upset, and nervous system issues.

    You may notice discharge from your dog’s eyes, which progresses into a fever, lethargy, and coughing.

    This vaccination will be one of the first your puppy receives at six to eight weeks old.

    Depending on where you get your puppy, the breeder may take them to the vet and give them the shot before they go home with you.

    Although vaccination is important, you must also keep your puppy away from any environments with potentially sick dogs until they’re at least four to five months old.

    Canine Hepatitis

    Any dog that contracts canine hepatitis has come into contact with a severely infectious disease that affects the liver.

    It has a mortality rate of at least 30%, even in young dogs.

    Your puppy may get it by touching another dog’s blood, saliva, urine, nasal discharge, or feces.

    The virus can live for an extended period of time in communities like dog parks and is hard to remove with standard cleaners.

    Your puppy will first get the vaccine for this disease between six to eight weeks old, and then receive booster shots for the remainder of their life.

    They should get their next booster at 15 months old and then get it on a yearly basis at their annual check up.

    Canine Parainfluenza

    If you’ve ever heard someone say their dog needs to go to the vet for a kennel cough vaccination, what they’re really getting is a shot that protects their dog from canine parainfluenza.

    It’s another respiratory virus that’s extremely contagious and it’s very common.

    The symptoms may look like canine influenza, but they need different vaccines.

    If your puppy doesn’t get the vaccination, they may experience dry coughing, fever, sneezing, and loss of appetite, among other symptoms.

    Even though para influenza is contagious, this is not a mandatory shot for puppies because they won’t be boarded until they’re at least six months to one year old.

    This is often a shot that’s required by boarding facilities, so be aware that if your puppy doesn’t get this at first, they should receive the shot before you book them at a kennel and head out on a vacation.


    Canine coronavirus, also known as CCOV, is a well-known virus amongst the canine community.

    There are many different strains of coronaviruses, but the one that affects dogs is typically short-lived and extremely painful.

    Dogs can get it by sniffing, licking, or eating other dogs fecal matter, or by drinking contaminated water from a public bowl.

    Coronavirus will make dogs lethargic, not hungry, and emit loose stool.

    There is a canine coronavirus vaccine, but it’s not administered at all clinics and it’s not mandatory.

    The only time you should worry about giving this vaccination to your puppy is if you know dogs in your local neighborhood or environment have contracted the disease.

    It’s also not effective against COVID-19, which is the human coronavirus causing the current pandemic as of March 2020.


    You may have heard of a heartworm vaccination available for dogs.

    This is a limited vaccination, but it’s popular among some dog owners.

    Dogs can get this vaccination twice a year, which gives them six months of protection at a time.

    It prevents them from contracting heartworms that they may get from mosquitoes that leave larvae in their blood after a bite.

    If you’re interested in giving your dog a heartworm vaccine, you’ll need to wait until they’re at least six to seven months old, depending on your vet’s recommendations.

    The vaccination is really meant for adult dogs, so in the meantime, your puppy can take monthly heartworm medication.

    These will come in the form of tiny pills which can be flavored and disguised as treats.


    Leptospirosis is technically a bacteria that finds its way into a dog’s liver and kidneys.

    They thrive in wooded areas and can be carried by rats or humans.

    The bacteria can affect your dog if they eat contaminated food, step in infected urine, or have the bacteria on their skin when it’s damaged or extremely thin.

    Once dogs start showing symptoms after four to twelve days of incubation, they may exhibit high fevers, bleeding from the mouth or eyes, jaundice around the mouth, or kidney failure.

    The leptospirosis vaccine isn’t mandatory because it isn’t always a threat to all dogs.

    Your vet will know if there have been any outbreaks in the area and if you’re living in a high-risk environment.

    If they want you to sign your dog up for the vaccine, your dog will need to come in annually for treatment.

    Puppies may not get this vaccine until they’re at least a year old, so it’s smart to keep them out of wooded areas if your vet recommends it.

    Lyme Disease

    Sometimes people make the news for contracting Lyme disease from ticks, and so can dogs.

    They get this disease from deer ticks that live in tall grasses in wooded areas.

    Your puppy’s chances of contracting this disease depends on where you live, what time of year it is, and if they already take tick prevention pills.

    Your puppy may be able to get the Lyme disease vaccination when they’re a year old, but until then they’ll need to take preventative tick medication.

    Medication will keep ticks from attaching to your dog for long periods and also prevent other diseases they carry in their blood.

    Your vet will help you choose the best medication and dosage for your puppy, which you may be able to order online or get through their clinic.


    Parvo might be one of the first things you hear about when you mention that you’re getting a puppy.

    Puppies are most at risk for contracting parvo, but adult dogs can get it too.

    The highly infectious virus can be carried on tires, shoes, anything you touch, other animals, and even water.

    It is very difficult to completely remove parvo from the environment because it clings so strongly to whatever it finds as a host.

    Dogs can also get it from the shedded hair of infected dogs, which means it’s also most likely at pet salons, vet clinics, obedience schools, and even dog shows.

    Anywhere dogs walk, parvo may be waiting for them.

    Any dog that gets parvo will show symptoms within two to three days and may stop eating.

    They could show other symptoms as well, like vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, and low body temperature.

    Their abdomen can sometimes become distended too.

    Puppies will receive a number of parvovirus vaccines between 14 to 16 weeks of age.

    If your vet recommends more than two or three shots at different visits, that’s not unheard of.

    It’s important to get multiple vaccinations because there are many different strains of parvo.

    No vaccine has a 100% prevention rate, so along with getting vaccinated, your puppy will need to stay away from areas with other dogs until they’re at least six months to one year old.


    Rabies might be the first thing you think of when you imagine a sick dog.

    You might picture an angry dog foaming at the mouth, barking loudly at the end of the leash.

    Rabies is much more than that.

    It’s a virus that infects the brain and spinal cord of any dog or mammal.

    Dogs of any age can get rabies by receiving a bite from an infected animal.

    It can also infect your dogs through a scratch or anywhere that infected saliva could find its way into mucous membranes or open wounds.

    It’s an especially common disease for dogs that are around wild animals or forest environments.

    If a dog has rabies, they may become more irritable and have a fever, before becoming hypersensitive to light, touch, and sound.

    Their throat and jaw muscles will become paralyzed and that’s when they start foaming at the mouth.

    It ends in seizures and sudden death.

    Puppies will get their first rabies vaccination around 16 weeks old, but it depends on the state you live in.

    They’ll need booster shots for the rest of their lives, every 12 to 36 months.

    Where to Get Puppy Shots

    Your dog can get puppy shots at any vet clinic, animal hospital, or even some pet supply stores.

    It depends on if a location has a partnered veterinary service.

    You can also look into mobile pet vaccination clinics, which often are low cost and closer to home.

    How Much Are Puppy Shots?

    How much do puppy vaccinations cost big vet bills cheap expensive immunization Your puppy will receive shots throughout the first six months to one year of their first year at home, so be prepared to have some savings built up before you start going to the vet.

    You’ll have to pay exam fees, which differ for each clinic.

    Some clinics only charge $25 for an exam, but others can charge up to $100.

    The cost per vaccine should also be considered as well, although it’s difficult to predict a number specifically for each vaccine because you can get them at different prices in different locations.

    Vaccines on average will cost between $75-$100 each, rounding out a standard vet trip with your puppy to between $200 and $300.

    You can also look into special clinics that offer lower rates.

    Any type of clinic will answer all of your specific questions during a phone call, so you can always call ahead and get an estimate before you schedule a check up.

    What to Expect from Vet Bills

    It’s difficult to know what to expect from your vet bills once you start going in with your puppy to get their vaccinations.

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness healthy holistic grain free puppy lifesource dog food
    Vaccinating your dog is just as important to their health as is providing healthy food that will help them grow and add weight safely

    Not every veterinarian office will charge the same amount for every visit or vaccination.

    You can always call ahead and ask for a price estimate before an appointment. This is especially good to do before you go in for your puppy’s first vaccination appointment because it shows a couple of important things:

    First, it’ll show if your vet is willing to work with you.

    Most vets should be able to provide an estimate with no hassle. Vaccinations are standard, so there shouldn’t be much flexibility in pricing within the one office.

    Second, you’ll get to know your vet’s office better. You want to go to a clinic where the staff is friendly and welcoming.

    Especially if you’re a first time dog owner, those staff members will be the ones answering all of your questions at appointments and during phone calls.

    Possible Reactions

    Sometimes when humans get a vaccine or flu shot, you can feel not quite yourself afterwards.

    Dogs sometimes experience the same thing, with symptoms like:

    • Fever
    • Loss of appetite
    • Vomiting, diarrhea
    • Sluggishness
    • Paw swelling
    • Swelling around the injection site
    • Difficulty breathing
    Puppy shots concerns reactions symptoms dangers what to watch out for
    The most common puppy shot “symptom” is a healthier puppy

    These symptoms are quite rare, otherwise the vaccines would not be recommended or would be replaced.

    If you know your dog’s parental history, discuss it with your vet in case you have any concerns that your puppy may have inherited any health sensitivities regarding vaccinations.


    According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are some bad reactions that can occur from puppies getting vaccines, but they are extremely rare.

    The benefits far outweigh any risks that your puppy may experience because every vaccine prevents your dog and the dogs around you from becoming sick.

    Rare reactions include things like brain swelling and unexplained seizures.

    One Chicago dog owner had to take her dog to a specialized clinic for brain swelling after receiving a vaccine, but it was due to a predisposition to allergies.

    After an investigation, no evidence was found to link the vaccine and the dog’s brain swelling.

    You can always talk with your puppy’s vet about your concerns, but remember that they will always have your dog’s best interest in mind when treating them.


    Preparing to bring your puppy home will require time, energy, and more money than you may have initially thought.

    Dogs require supplies, so when you pay for everything your pup will need and then realize you still have vet visits in your future, puppy vaccinations may seem like a pain.

    Vaccinations are some of the best things your puppy will receive in their first year of life.

    Ultimately, they’ll be able to protect themselves from many common diseases that are completely preventable.

    Trust the vaccination process and that your vet will do everything in their power to help your puppy grow into their strongest and healthiest self.

    By the time your puppy turns one year old, you’ll forget the many vet trips and only need to think about vaccinations at their annual checkup.


    How Old Should a Puppy Be to Get Shots?

    Your puppy should start receiving their vaccinations between six and eight weeks old, which will continue until their first one-year check up.

    The frequency of the vaccinations will depend on what’s required in your state and what your vet recommends for your puppy.

    How Many Shots Are Needed?

    Your puppy will receive the core vaccines, which are hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, distemper, and parainfluenza.

    They also receive their rabies vaccination, which may happen at least twice before their first birthday.

    These core vaccines are administered at 6, 12, and 16 weeks old.

    That adds up to an average number of 18 total vaccinations over the first few months of life.

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