What Vaccine Shots Do Puppies Need? (Helpful Answers)


The day that you pick up your precious puppy is finally here! Many owners know about the essentials and basics of bringing home a puppy but are unsure what comes next.

“Shots” or vaccinations are a fundamental aspect of your young dog’s first few months of life, so understanding what they need and the schedule they should receive them is vital for their health.

The recommended vaccines can vary depending on your dog’s lifestyle and where you live. You want to do your best for your puppy, so keep reading to find out what shots your young dog will need during its first year of life.

9 Vaccines Shots Should Puppies Receive

There is a list of recommended core vaccines that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) suggests as mandatory for all puppies.

These vaccines include: 

Some non-core or optional vaccinations are:

These “non-core vaccinations” are often recommended but ultimately left to the decision of the owner. In many US states, it is highly recommended to vaccinate against leptospirosis because it can be picked up in contaminated urine and transmitted to its owners.

What are These Puppy Shots Vaccinating Against?

Understanding these vaccinations can be overwhelming, so to make things easier, let’s break down what the individual vaccinations are protecting puppies against.

1. Canine Distemper

This is a very contagious airborne virus that attacks the animal’s respiratory and gastrointestinal tract as well as the nervous system. While it is mostly transmitted through the air, it can also be contracted through contaminated bowls, cages, and other equipment.

Symptoms of distemper are discharging from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, twitching, seizures, paralysis, and oftentimes death.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for distemper and the best thing to do is supportive, palliative care and hope that the immune system can fight the virus on its own.

2. Hepatitis

Also called canine infectious hepatitis, this highly contagious viral infection affects several organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, lung, and eyes of dogs. This is not to be confused with the human form of hepatitis, in which the liver is affected by a different strain of the disease.

Symptoms of hepatitis include fever, nasal congestion, vomiting, jaundice, distended abdomen, and painful liver. There is, unfortunately, no cure, but the symptoms can be treated.

3. Canine Parainfluenza

A similar and highly contagious respiratory illness that causes kennel cough.

Symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, sneezing, lethargy, and vomiting.

4. Adenovirus 2

Canine adenovirus type 2 is a common respiratory disease that affects dogs. It is commonly associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis (also known as kennel cough).

5. Canine Parvovirus

One of the scariest viruses that can affect a young dog. Parvo is highly contagious and can cause a puppy to go from normal to extremely sick in a short amount of time. All dogs can be affected but the most at risk are young and unvaccinated puppies.

The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and causes extreme diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. Prompt treatment is crucial as extreme dehydration can set in within less than 24 hours, leading to death if untreated.

Puppies can pull through with veterinary care and hospitalization as long as they were taken to the vet early.

6. Kennel Cough (Bordetella)

Many owners are familiar with kennel cough, especially if they have a dog that requires lots of grooming or goes to daycare often. Kennel cough is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis and is caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections of the respiratory tract.

Symptoms of kennel cough are bouts of dry, harsh coughing (like a honk), lethargy, decreased appetite, and sometimes vomiting, wrenching, or gagging from coughing too much. Kennel’s cough can be treated with supportive care and antibiotics.

7. Leptospirosis

Even though leptospirosis is commonly called the “lepto virus” it is actually caused by bacteria. This bacteria can be found worldwide in soil and water and affects many different animals and people.

Sometimes symptoms do not appear, but when they do, they often include fever, lethargy, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, jaundice, and sometimes kidney failure. Thankfully, with supportive care and antibiotics, many animals can be cured.

8. Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is spread through the bite of an infected tick. They can be positive for Lyme disease for many years and show no clinical signs, but when it decides to flare up, symptoms are joint pain, limping, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and loss of appetite.

9. Rabies

Rabies is the most deadly disease of the bunch. Because of rabies’ highly infectious nature, almost all US states legally require dogs and cats to be vaccinated against it, otherwise, the owner will receive a fine.

Many countries (especially island nations) are extremely strict about their rabies laws and will force imported pets to undergo months of quarantine before being released back to their owners.

Symptoms of rabies include headache, anxiety, change in behavior and temperament, excessive drooling, paralysis, and death. There is no cure for rabies. If a human was bitten by an animal suspected of rabies, they will undergo an intense series of inoculations.

Puppy Shots and Multivalent Vaccines

Looking at that list of recommended vaccines seems like a lot of pokes, and I agree! Thankfully, in veterinary medicine, we have what is called multivalent vaccines.

A multivalent vaccine is very convenient because it covers multiple microorganisms, meaning your precious puppy doesn’t have to be poked a half dozen times. Instead, it’s usually only twice.

The common multivalent vaccines that are given to puppies are:

  • DA2P: Distemper, adenovirus and parvo
  • DA2PP: includes parainfluenza
  • DHPP: Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvo
  • DHPPL: Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvo, and lepto

Either multivalent vaccine is fine, it just will depend on what brand and vaccines your vet prefers to use. These combo shots are very safe for your puppy, but it is important that they are not mixed with any other unapproved vaccines into one syringe.

How Often Do Puppies Need Shots?

It is important that these vaccinations be given on a schedule of every 2-4 weeks between the ages of 7-16 weeks. The final vaccines should not be given any earlier than 16 weeks of age.

The reason that the schedule is so important is that the puppy’s maternal antibodies can actually interfere with the body’s immune response. By vaccinating every 4 weeks, we are boosting the pet’s immune system until it is strong enough to create its own long-term protection.

Your Puppy’s Shots and Schedule at a Glance

Here’s a quick chart for easy reference to when and what vaccinations your little fluff ball should receive.

Puppy’s AgeVaccinations
7-8 weeksDA2P or DHPP
10-11 weeksDA2PP or DHPP

  • Lepto and bordetella may be given at this time
  • Give Lyme if needed
14-16 weeksDA2PP or DHPP

  • Lepto and bordetella need bolstered
  • Give Lyme if needed


Are Shots Safe For My Puppy?

Vaccinations for dogs are extremely safe. Sure, it’s possible that any dog could have a reaction, but it is rare. The reality is, if you are debating on not vaccinating your puppy out of fear of an adverse reaction, you are doing a detriment to your dog.

Vaccines were created to prevent life-threatening diseases and illnesses that can affect our pets. Vaccinating humans and animals has long been considered one of the best and easiest ways to avoid nasty health complications or deadly diseases.

There is nothing worse than watching a puppy suffer from the parvovirus when it could have been prevented with a simple injection.

How Do Vaccines Work?

This is a great question and will help to clear up any confusion or misunderstandings around vaccinating our pets.

Vaccines include antigens in very small doses of specific viruses and diseases. When injected, the immune system is mildly stimulated, which causes the dog’s body to fight off the disease-causing organisms. Because of this, their immune system is now prepared to fight off the real disease if they are ever exposed to it.

Conclusion: Puppy Shots Protecting Your Pooch From the Inside Out

Vaccinations are an extremely important part of your puppy’s first year of life.

By having your pet vaccinated against life-threatening and debilitating diseases and illnesses, you are setting your puppy up for the best possible outcome.

These vaccinations ensure that your puppy is protected and healthy, keeping them happy and disease-free for many years.

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