Puppy Vaccinations

Dr. Jacqueline Brister

puppy vaccines

Why does my puppy need shots?

Shots, or vaccines, are injections used to protect puppies from certain diseases or illnesses. Vaccines trigger the puppy’s immune system to make antibodies against a disease, which generally prevents the puppy from getting sick should he or she be exposed to the disease in the future. Most shots will need to be repeated several times to ensure that the puppy’s immune system is fully ready and strong enough to prevent illness. A puppy shot schedule usually involves vaccines first being given between 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by vaccine boosters every 2-4 weeks until the puppy is around 16 weeks of age.

What shots does my puppy need?

Puppy shots include vaccines for many diseases. Usually several diseases are combined together into one vaccine vial to decrease the number of shot injections a puppy needs (“8-in-1 combo vaccine”).

  • Canine Distemper Virus (“Distemper”): Highly-contagious virus spread among dogs and some wildlife. Distemper can cause vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, runny nose or eyes, tremors, or seizures. Distemper can be a deadly disease, especially in puppies. Vaccination generally prevents disease and its spread.
  • Canine Parvovirus (“Parvo”): Highly-contagious virus spread among dogs. Parvovirus can live in the environment for many years. Symptoms such as vomiting and bloody diarrhea are common. This disease is often deadly, especially for puppies. Vaccination generally prevents disease and its spread.
  • Canine Adenovirus: Adenovirus Type 1 can cause deadly liver disease, with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, enlarged stomach, or yellow skin. Adenovirus Type 2 can cause symptoms such as runny nose, cough, and wheezing. Type 2 is not usually deadly, but symptoms can take quite a while to improve. Both types are very contagious. Vaccination generally prevents both diseases and their spread.
  • Rabies Virus: Rabies virus is usually spread by a bite from an infected or “rabid” animal. Many animals are susceptible to rabies, including humans. Neurologic symptoms are common, such as unusual behavior, unexpected aggression, drooling, wobbliness when walking, or inability to walk. Rabies is extremely deadly. Vaccination generally prevents disease and its spread.
  • Canine Parainfluenza Virus: Contagious virus that causes symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, cough, or trouble breathing. Parainfluenza virus is spread between dogs. The virus is usually not deadly, but symptoms may last for long periods of time. Vaccination may not fully prevent the disease from occurring, but the vaccine will help prevent major illness symptoms.
  • Bordatella bronchiseptica (“Kennel Cough”): Contagious bacteria that causes respiratory disease among dogs and sometimes cats. Symptoms include coughing and runny nose. Pets are more likely to be exposed after staying in close contact with large groups of dogs, such as boarding facilities. While Bordatella is rarely deadly, symptoms such as coughing, may last for weeks to months. Vaccination may not fully prevent the disease from occurring, but the vaccine will help prevent major illness symptoms.
  • Canine Influenza Virus (“Dog Flu”): Canine influenza is an extremely contagious respiratory disease virus. Two major strains of influenza virus can infect dogs, H3N2 and H3N8. Symptoms can include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, and trouble breathing. Influenza can be deadly. Dogs are more likely to be exposed after staying in close contact with large groups of other dogs. Vaccination may not fully prevent the disease from occurring, but the vaccine will help prevent major illness symptoms. Influenza vaccination is only recommended for areas with high risk for spread, such as areas that experience outbreaks often.
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (“Lyme Disease”): Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria spread by tick bites. Lyme disease symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes (hard swellings beneath the jaw, in front of the shoulders, in the groin, or on the back of the thighs), lameness, and swollen joints. While the disease is usually not deadly, dogs may experience symptom relapses even after treatment. Vaccination may not fully prevent the disease from occurring, but the vaccine will help prevent major illness symptoms. Vaccination is only recommended for areas that experience outbreaks of Lyme disease frequently.
  • Leptospira (“Lepto”): Bacteria transmitted by dogs and local wildlife such as squirrels, deer, and raccoons. Leptospira can also infect humans. Disease is spread through contact with contagious urine and contaminated water or dirt. Lepto can cause liver or kidney disease and can be deadly. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, yellow skin, and drinking or urinating more than usual. Several strains of Leptospira can cause disease, but a vaccine is not available for all of them. Vaccination may not fully prevent the disease from occurring, but the vaccine will help prevent major illness symptoms. Vaccination is only recommended for areas where outbreaks occur frequently and areas with large wildlife populations (including squirrels).

Puppy Vaccine Chart

This is an example of when each vaccine is given based on your puppy’s age. Manufacturer and type of vaccine your veterinarian uses, local and state laws, and your puppy’s environment may affect how often or when to give each vaccine. If your puppy doesn’t start his or her shots right away, your veterinarian will be able to determine the best adjusted vaccine schedule to ensure the pup will still be well protected.


6-8 Weeks of Age 9-11 Weeks of Age 12-14 Weeks of Age 16-18 Weeks of Age
Distemper True True True True
Parvo True True True True
Adenovirus True True True True
Rabies True*  
Parainfluenza True True True True
Bordatella True**
Influenza True True
Lyme True True
Lepto True True

*Rabies vaccine can be given as early as 12 weeks of age but may be given later, at 16 weeks of age, depending on local and state laws. It is only given once in the puppy vaccine series.

**Kennel cough vaccine can be given as early as 3-4 weeks of age if the puppy is or has been in a high risk environment, such as a shelter. Depending on the type of vaccine, boostering (re-vaccinating) more than once during the puppy shot schedule may or may not be needed.

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