Puppy Immunizations: A Guide For Birth Through Year One

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Getting a puppy comes with a ton of excitement, responsibilities, and for a lot of puppy owners, questions. How much food does a puppy need? How much exercise? What’s the best age to start training a puppy? These are all common and important questions for a puppy owner to ask. So to is the question of vaccination.


When most pet owners think about vaccines, they likely think about rabies and that dogs need to receive an annual rabies shot to prevent contracting the disease. Perhaps the classic book and film Old Yeller is the reason that rabies awareness is so high amongst dog owners. But there is a score of other vaccines that your puppy will need to receive in order to live a full and happy life. Additionally, vaccinated your puppy is important in terms of keeping other dogs and humans healthy. Vaccines protect your dog from infectious diseases that can spread quickly from dog to dog or be transmitted from dog to human, as in the case of rabies.


So when does your puppy require his first round of vaccines?


The early rounds of puppy vaccinations are referred to as boosters, as most of the vaccines work to boost the immune system of your puppy. Little Rufus is due for his first round of vaccines when he is between six and eight weeks old when he receives his first distemper vaccine as well as a measles vaccine. At about 12-20 weeks old, he’ll need his first rabies shot. Rabies shots are temporary, and do not stay active in your puppy’s body forever. Because of this, many states require that your dog is given a rabies shot once a year to ensure it can fight off rabies upon potential exposure. You should consult with your vet to make sure your shot schedule is compliant with your state’s regulations.


The next round of vaccines comes between 16 and 20 weeks old when your puppy receives a DHPP vaccine. This very efficient shot contains four vaccines all in one that fight against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and parainfluenza. Your vet may recommend that your puppy receives another DHPP shot every couple of years, but this is not always necessary.  Up until your puppy eclipses the 20-week age, your veterinarian may suggest that your puppy is also vaccinated against diseases such as lyme, leptospirosis and coronavirus. These vaccines might be necessary for your puppy depending on the environment and location that your puppy lives.  You should discuss these additional vaccines at length with your veterinarian to determine whether it is advisable for your puppy to receive them.


Your puppy will be finished with booster vaccinations at around 20 weeks old. From there, outside of getting a annual rabies shot, how often your puppy receives vaccinations should be discussed with your vet.  Some people involved with animal rights activism have recently challenged veterinarians on whether dogs require vaccinations every single year. If you believe that your dog does not need vaccines that often, make sure to discuss it with your veterinarian and get a second opinion. You may well reach the conclusion that your dog is safe as long as it is vaccinated once every two years.

Puppy Vaccine Breakdown

Each vaccine your puppy receives fights a particular disease or bacteria. Here is a breakdown of each of those diseases.


Bordetella is a bacteria that causes kennel cough. Puppies have weak immune systems, making them especially susceptible. The name kennel cough derives from the likelihood that dogs that are boarded contract it. However, your dog can contract kennel cough anywhere, from the vet’s office to a dog park. The vaccine DHPP greatly decreases the odds that your dog contracts kennel cough. If untreated, kennel cough can develop into a serious upper respiratory disease that can lead to lung collapse..


Distemper is a viral disease that attacks a dog’s respiratory and nervous systems. It is a serious and contagious disease that is extremely difficult to treat and is unfortunately almost always fatal. Puppies are treated with vaccines to combat distemper at an early age.


Hepatitis in canines is a viral disease that attacks a dog’s liver and eyes. It can lead to reproductive issues. Though humans can also contract forms of hepatitis, this form can not be transmitted to humans.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that aggressively attacks a dog’s liver and kidneys. It can be transmitted to humans. DHPP is used to prevent it.


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