Puppy Vaccines: What Shots does a Puppy need?

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    Dr. Amanda Jondle

    Dr. Amanda Jondle is an experienced veterinary who helping pets and educating clients through writing and editing articles to inform pet owners on how to best care for their pets. Amanda graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She and her husband currently have 4 rescue dogs and 3 cats of their own and are often fostering pets with health issues until they find their forever homes.

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  • Updated on: 01/12/2021

When you get a puppy, you may be overwhelmed by everything from what puppy food they should eat, what supplies to have on hand, and how to keep your puppy healthy by getting the vaccines he or she needs. A new puppy visit to your veterinarian is the best place to start, in the meantime, here is some quick information about the vaccines you should consider for your puppy.

what shots do puppies need and when@mrzivica / Freepik

Core Vaccines

The core vaccines are vaccines that should be given to all dogs. These include the distemper combination vaccine and the rabies vaccine.

Distemper combination vaccine

  • The name may be deceiving since this vaccine is actually vaccinating your puppy for several different diseases, including the distemper virus. The viruses this vaccine prevents includes the Canine Distemper Virus, Adenovirus-2, Parvovirus, and the Parainfluenza Virus. This vaccine is often called simply the Distemper vaccine and can be abbreviated as DA2PP, DAPP, or DHPP.  
  • The Distemper combination vaccine can be given to puppies as early as 6 weeks of age. It should be given every 2-4 weeks after the initial vaccine until the puppy is at least 16 weeks of age. As a common example, this vaccine could be given to a puppy at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks of age.
  • After the final vaccine at 16 weeks, this vaccine should be given a year later and then every 1-3 years thereafter.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

The Distemper Virus causes a contagious disease affecting the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and nervous system of dogs. It can also affect and be spread by raccoons and skunks. This virus is spread through airborne exposure such as through coughing or sneezing as well as contact with infected bowls, food, or water. There is no cure for this disease. Treatment involves suppressing symptoms and supportive care until the dog can fight off the virus.

puppy core vaccines@rmsep4 / Pixabay

Adenovirus-2 (CAV-2)

Adenovirus-2 is also known as infectious canine hepatitis. This is a highly contagious virus that affects organs such as the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. The virus causes fever, congestion, vomiting, and pain. This is another disease that has no cure, other than supportive therapy and treating symptoms.

Parvovirus (CPV)

Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus of the gastrointestinal tract. It causes vomiting, diarrhea – sometimes with blood, loss of appetite, and fever, all leading to extreme dehydration. Puppies are the most susceptible to this virus. There is no specific treatment other than keeping the puppy hydrated and treating the clinical signs.

Parainfluenza Virus

The Parainfluenza Virus causes an upper respiratory infection and is one component of kennel cough.

Rabies vaccine

  • Rabies is a highly contagious virus that can affect all mammals. It attacks the nervous system and quickly leads to death.
  • The Rabies vaccine is given to puppies over 16 weeks of age. A booster vaccine is given at 1 year and then every 1-3 years thereafter.

Noncore Vaccines

Noncore vaccines are those that are not required but may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your puppy’s environment, lifestyle, age, and other risk factors. These include vaccines for Bordetella bronchiseptica, Canine Influenza, Leptospira, and Lyme.

Bordetella bronchiseptica

puppies noncore vaccines@aonip / Freepik

Often known as kennel cough or infectious tracheobronchitis, this disease is caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica as well as viruses such as the Parainfluenza virus. Symptoms of kennel cough most commonly include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. A single vaccine should be given to puppies between 8-12 weeks of age. This vaccine should be given yearly. It is available to be given as an injection, intranasally, or orally.

Canine Influenza (CIV)

The Influenza Virus causes an upper respiratory infection with coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and fever. This vaccine is given in 2 doses 4-6 weeks apart. The first dose can be given as early as 6-8 weeks. After the first 2 doses, this vaccine can be given yearly.


Leptospirosis is a disease caused by various types of Leptospira bacteria. This is a zoonotic disease meaning it can spread between animals and people. It is found worldwide in soil and water.This bacterium affects the liver and kidneys and can cause the failure of these organs, including lethargy, fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other symptoms. The Lepto vaccine can be given to puppies as early as 8 or 9 weeks of age and is given in 2 series 2-4 weeks apart. It is then given yearly.


puppy lyme disease@Matt Botsford

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted by ticks and spread through the bites of ticks injecting this bacteria into the blood of mammals. Lyme disease causes limping and fever and can lead to neurologic issues if not treated. The vaccine is given in 2 series starting as early as 8 to 9 weeks of age, 2-4 weeks apart. It is then given yearly.

It is extremely important to give your puppy vaccines at the right time so they don’t get these terrible diseases. Your veterinarian will help you determine the best schedule for your puppy based on their age, size, and breed. Once your puppy has had the full series of puppy vaccines (Distemper, Rabies, and elective vaccines), he or she can start socializing with other puppies and dogs.

Once fully vaccinated, it is safe to take your puppy to puppy classes, doggie daycare, boarding, and parks. It is still important to keep your puppy far away from other dogs or puppies who appear sick or haven’t had vaccinations.

Article Sources:

  1. Kathryn Primm, DVM. “New AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines: The Importance of Being up to Date.” DVM 360, 12 Jan. 2021, dvm360.com/view/new-aaha-canine-vaccine-guidelines-importance-being-date.
  2. “Vaccination Recommendations for General Practice.” AAHA, aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/vaccination-canine-configuration/vaccination-recommendations-for-general-practice/.
  3. Gardiner, John. “Vaccination Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” School of Veterinary Medicine, 6 Dec. 2020, healthtopics.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/health-topics/feline/vaccination-guidelines-dogs-and-cats.
  4. “A Complete Guide To Puppy Vaccinations.” American Kennel Club, 21 May 2020, akc.org/expert-advice/health/puppy-shots-complete-guide/.

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