Dog Vaccinations Cost: Assessing Puppy Shots Expenses

Medical articles
A puppy being held by his owner on a couch before they go get their puppy shots

Bringing home a puppy should be one of the happiest times in your life, but with that puppy comes great responsibility. Puppies quite literally depend on you for absolutely everything! One of the keys to being a responsible dog owner is to keep your puppy healthy and happy, and the main component of that is providing preventive medical care, like vaccines. 

Importance of Vaccinations for Dogs 

Vaccinating your puppy is one of the best ways to keep your puppy healthy by protecting him against disease. Vaccinations work by introducing small, safe versions of viruses or bacteria to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. The goal is that, in the future, if your dog is exposed to the virus or bacteria, his antibodies will identify them and destroy them before they can cause disease.  

Costs of Dog Vaccinations 

When you bring home a puppy, it’s important to plan ahead for the dog vaccinations cost, because vaccinations, and veterinary care in general, can be costly! You might be asking yourself - exactly how much do puppy shots cost? There are a lot of variable factors that influence how much shots for dogs cost.  

How Much do Puppy Shots cost? 

Caring for puppies can be expensive, and the cost of vaccinations can easily add up. When you bring home a new puppy, you can expect to spend a rough average of $250-$450 on vaccinations in just the first year of your puppy’s life alone. While pet insurance is intended to cover accidents and injuries, many pet insurances also offer additional optional wellness plans that can help cover the cost of routine care, like vaccines. The wellness plan is an addition to the regular puppy insurance, and it can help you budget for the cost of vaccines. 

Factors Affecting Cost  

When it comes to vaccinations for puppies, there are several factors that affect cost. Your location, cost of living, your veterinarian’s recommendations, and your puppy’s lifestyle all affect how much you’ll pay for puppy vaccines.  

Puppy Vaccination Schedule  

As puppies grow and develop, they’ll require a series of vaccinations. These vaccinations begin at 6-8 weeks old and are spaced 3-4 weeks apart. Most vaccination series are completed around 16 weeks old. This multi-part series is required to ensure that your puppy’s immune system is fully mature and protected.  Cost of common vaccinations for puppies There are six vaccines available to your puppy. Two of these vaccines are considered core vaccines, and four of them are considered optional, or “lifestyle” vaccines.  The two core vaccines are DHPP and Rabies. These are both considered core vaccines that are recommended for all puppies.  

  • DHPP protects against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza, which are some of the most contagious and deadly diseases. Some of these diseases, like parvovirus, are also difficult to get rid of in the environment, so it’s important to protect your puppy. 

  • Rabies is most often a horrible, fatal disease, and it can be spread to humans. Because this is such a deadly disease, this vaccine is required by law.  

In addition to these two core vaccines, there are optional lifestyle vaccines that your veterinarian may recommend for your puppy.  

  • Bordetella protects against kennel cough. Kennel cough causes your dog to go into fits of coughing or whooping and can be very contagious. Most dog facilities, like groomers or kennels, require all dogs to be current on their Bordetella vaccines. 

  • Canine Influenza vaccine protects against influenza, which is a flu-like disease, though it isn’t as common as Bordetella. Similar to Bordetella, some dog facilities may require this, and your veterinarian may recommend it if your dog frequents dog parks or boarding facilities. 

  • Leptospirosis vaccine protects against your puppy contracting leptospirosis, which is a bacterial disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, though some dogs show no symptoms if contracted. Leptospirosis can be found in water and is a zoonotic disease that can be spread to humans.  

  • Lyme vaccine helps to protect your dog against Lyme, which is a tick-borne disease. Tick-borne diseases can affect the whole body and can be incredibly painful. The lyme disease vaccine for dogs is generally recommended only for dogs living in areas known for Lyme disease.*costs will vary depending on the vet practice and location in which you live


Average Cost


$20 - $45


$20 -$30


$25 - $35

Canine Influenza

$40 - $60


$20 - $30


$30 - $45

* Costs will vary depending on the vet practice and location in which you live

Vaccination schedules for adult dogs 

Once your puppy has completed his initial puppy vaccination series, he’ll only need boosters every one to three years as an adult dog. The exact vaccination schedule will be dependent upon your dog’s lifestyle and your veterinarian’s recommendation, but the chart below is a guide for the average recommendation.  

Core vaccines 

Similarly to puppies, DHPP and Rabies are still considered the two core vaccines for adult dogs.  

Sometimes, you rescue an adult dog with an unknown history of vaccination. In those cases, DHPP is a series of vaccines with an initial vaccine and then a booster 3-4 weeks later. An initial Rabies vaccine will always be valid for one year, but after that, it’s required only once every 3 years.  


Recommended Schedule


Every 2 - 3 years


Every 3 years

Optional vaccines 

Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and frequency of exposure to other dogs and certain environments, your veterinarian may recommend optional vaccines, like Bordetella, Influenza, Lyme, and Leptospirosis.  

In adult dogs, Influenza, Lyme, and Leptospirosis are given as a series with an initial vaccine and then a booster 3-4 weeks later. After that, they can follow the recommendations below. 


Recommended Schedule


Every 6 months - 1 year







Booster shots for adult dogs 

Once your dog reaches adulthood, the two core vaccines, DHPP and Rabies, are boostered every three years, or as recommended by your veterinarian. The optional, lifestyle vaccines that protect against bacterial diseases are boostered every year.  

Every three years when your dog is due for Rabies and other vaccines, your veterinarian may recommend staggering the vaccines into two groups, 3-4 weeks apart. This can help to not overwhelm your dog’s immune system all at once.  

Factors affecting cost 

Vaccinating adult dogs is less expensive than puppies, since you’re boostering only 2-4 vaccines at a time once annually. On average, you can expect to spend between $220-$350 per year on vaccinating your adult dog.  

Finding Affordable Vaccination Options 

It’s no secret that veterinary care can be expensive, and costs continue to rise. Since dog vaccinations cost so much, it is essential to plan ahead when bringing home a new puppy.  

Discounts and Payment Plans from Veterinarians 

When you schedule your puppy for an appointment, you should ask if your veterinarian offers any discounts or special plans. Some veterinarians offer discounts for certain groups, like military or first responders. Many veterinarians also offer rotating specials on new puppy patients throughout the year.  

It is important to plan ahead for vet costs when bringing home a puppy, because unfortunately, not all veterinarians do not offer payment plans and require full payment at the time of the appointment. 

Low-cost Alternatives Such as Veterinary Colleges, Animal Shelters, and Local Organizations 

Since puppy vaccines cost so much, there are many organizations that provide lower-cost care. Places like Petco, Tractor Supply, and local animal shelters regularly host low-cost vaccine clinics, where you can get all the vaccines for your dog for a much cheaper cost than at the vet.  

In addition to those pop-up vaccine clinics, there are some low-cost animal hospitals. While these are much lower costs than an average veterinarian, the cost isn’t quite as low as it would be at a vaccine clinic.  

Pet Insurance and Vaccination Costs 

Since vet care is so expensive, many veterinarians recommend pet insurance. While pet insurance doesn’t cover vaccinations since that counts as preventative care, pet insurance can help offset the total amount of money you spend at the vet by reimbursing you for at least part of the cost of accidents and illnesses. 

It’s important to note pet insurance does work differently than human medical insurance. Except for a few small exceptions, in most cases you will be required to pay your veterinarian the full cost of services up front, and your pet insurance will reimburse you with the portion of services they cover. Pet insurance cost is well-worth the peace of mind it can provide.   

Wellness Plans that Cover Vaccinations 

When researching pet insurance, it’s essential to pay attention to the specific plans and fine print and understand that pet insurance is primarily there to help you cover unexpected costs for accidents and injuries. Pet insurance helps you put your puppy’s care first and not have to worry so much over the cost. When the unexpected happens, you can depend on your pet insurance to help with the cost, while you focus on your beloved pet. But most pet insurance doesn’t cover preventative care, like vaccinations. That’s where pet wellness plans come in. 

Limitations of Pet Insurance Coverage for Vaccinations 

Every wellness plan is different, but many pet wellness plans will only cover up to a specific dollar amount per year, typically between $200-$600. While these optional pet wellness plans cover vaccines, they can also help cover the cost of other routine care, like examinations, routine blood tests, and more. When you combine a pet insurance plan for accidents and injuries with an additional wellness plan, you can rest assured that you can afford all the veterinary care your dog needs–both routine and unexpected. 

Wrapping Up Your Puppy’s Shots 

While bringing home a puppy should be one of the happiest times, there is certainly a lot to think about and prepare for to ensure your puppy has a long, healthy, and happy life. It’s important to invest in your puppy’s health by taking him for regular exams and vaccines. While dog vaccinations cost can be a significant cost each year, keeping up with this preventative care will help keep your puppy healthy and will be less expensive in the long run. Opting to purchase a wellness plan for your dog can also help cover those routine, preventative care needs, like puppy shots! Plus, combining an accident and injury plan for your dog can really give you the peace of mind so you don’t have to worry about the cost of veterinary care while you’re busy raising your puppy.