What Are the Recommended Dog Vaccination Guidelines?

What Are the Recommended Dog Vaccination Guidelines?

When getting a new dog, there is a lot to do- and immunizing is one of the many important things to consider! Vaccines are vital to protect your pets against various microorganisms such as rabies, distemper, kennel cough and parvovirus- all of which can be lethal. Determining what vaccines your dog requires can be challenging, so let’s take a look!

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are injections (some are intra-nasal) that are composed of microorganisms that stimulate an immune response when administered to your pet.

The purpose of this is so that your dog’s immune system remembers and is able to recognize the microorganism should they encounter it. This memory allows them to respond to the microorganism rapidly and aids in defeating and removing it from their body.

Types of Vaccines

Vaccines are categorized into core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those that are recommended in your geographical location. Non-core vaccines are immunizations that are recommended for certain dogs and cats.

Here are the most commonly given vaccines that are important to consider:


This vaccine is commonly referred to as the “distemper” vaccine, but it protects for much more than just that! It is a combo vaccine for distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza and parvovirus. This vaccine is considered a core vaccine.

What is distemper?

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects various animals, including domesticated dogs, ferrets, raccoons, and other wildlife species.

For many canine illnesses, vaccinations are their best chance at combating the disease.
Vaccinations can help prevent your dog from being hospitalized.

Symptoms of distemper typically include respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Neurological symptoms, such as seizures, may also occur in some cases.

There is no specific cure for distemper, and treatment mainly focuses on supportive care to manage the symptoms and prevent secondary infections.

Prevention through vaccination is the best way to protect animals from the disease, and it is recommended that all domestic dogs receive routine distemper vaccinations.

What is canine adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. There are two main types of adenoviruses that affect dogs: canine adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) and canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2).

CAV-1 primarily causes infectious canine hepatitis, which is a viral disease that affects the liver, kidneys, and eyes. This disease can be severe and potentially life-threatening, especially in young puppies.

CAV-2 is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can spread quickly among dogs in close quarters, such as in kennels, dog shows or dog parks.

What is Canine Parainfluenza?

Canine parainfluenza primarily infects the upper respiratory tract of dogs, including the nasal passages, trachea, and bronchi.

Parainfluenza is spread through direct contact with infected dogs, as well as through airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing.

Symptoms of canine parainfluenza infection may include a dry, hacking cough, nasal discharge, and fever. In some cases, dogs may also experience lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.

What is Parvovirus?

Parvovirus, or canine parvovirus (CPV) is a viral disease that is highly resistant in the environment and can survive for long periods of time in contaminated areas.

If you suspect your puppy has parvovirus, call your emergency veterinarian immediately.

CPV primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing severe inflammation and damage to the lining of the intestines. The virus can also affect the heart muscle in young puppies, causing a condition known as myocarditis.

Parvovirus is spread through contact with infected feces, contaminated surfaces, and through direct contact with infected dogs and is particularly dangerous to puppies.


This vaccine protects against rabies. It is a very important vaccine and is not only a core vaccine but is required by law.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans and dogs.

The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through a bite or scratch, as the virus is present in the saliva and nervous tissue of infected animals

Symptoms of rabies in animals can vary but often include behavioral changes such as aggression, confusion, and paralysis. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, and difficulty breathing may occur.


This vaccine protects your pet from leptospirosis. Lepto is spread in the urine of wildlife such as skunks and raccoons. So if your dog is a puddle drinker, is prone to jumping in bodies of water, or you have wildlife in/around your yard- this vaccine is a necessity!

What is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that affects both animals and humans. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira, which can be found in soil and water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, such as rats, cattle, pigs, and dogs.

Dogs can become infected with leptospirosis by drinking or swimming in contaminated water, or by coming into contact with urine or tissues from infected animals.

Once inside the dog's body, the bacteria can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and other organs.

Respiratory distress is a common symptom of kennel cough.

Symptoms of leptospirosis in dogs can vary and may include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, muscle pain, and jaundice. In severe cases, dogs may develop kidney or liver failure, which can be life-threatening.


This vaccine protects against kennel cough. Kennel cough is very common, and is typically spread at dog parks, daycares and grooming facilities. But, even if your pet doesn’t go to these facilities they are still at risk of picking it up from any other dog they may encounter.  This vaccine can be considered to be core or non-core depending on your animal hospital’s protocol. Most commonly it is considered to be non-core.

What is Bordatella?

Bordetella is a type of bacteria that can cause respiratory infections in dogs and is also a common cause of kennel cough.

Bordetella is highly contagious and can be spread through contact with infected dogs or contaminated surfaces, such as food and water bowls, toys, and bedding.

Lyme Vaccine

This vaccine protects against Lyme disease. Ticks transmit this disease! So if you live in an area that has ticks, or your dog goes hiking or walking in tall grass then consider getting this vaccine.

Ticks are becoming increasingly more prevalent, so be sure to check with your veterinarian to see if your geographical area has ticks if you aren’t sure.

What is Lyme Disease?

Canine Lyme disease is transmitted to dogs through the bite of an infected deer tick (Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus).

Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs can vary and may include fever, lethargy, joint pain, limping, and loss of appetite. In some cases, dogs may also experience kidney or neurological problems, although these are less common.

When should you vaccinate your dog?

The timing of vaccines is quite precise when your dog is a puppy, as they require many boosters in a timely fashion.  Depending on the vaccine, adult dogs need to be vaccinated every 1-3 years.

Puppy Vaccine Schedule

Puppies are vaccinated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old. The timing is very important as we want to protect them as young as possible without the maternal antibodies interfering with the vaccines. Doing booster vaccines (at 12 and 16 weeks) is crucial because this allows their immune system to develop memory, allowing their body to produce a stronger and longer lasting immunity.

The typical vaccine protocol for puppies is as follows:

  • At 8 weeks old they need vaccines for: distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza, parvovirus (commonly referred to as da2pp or DHPP) and kennel cough
  • At 12 weeks old they need booster vaccines for: distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza, parvovirus and potentially a booster for kennel cough
  • At 16 weeks old they need a booster vaccine for: distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza and parvovirus and to receive their rabies vaccine

Following their 16-week booster, they will need to be vaccinated approximately one year later. At this appointment they will typically receive all of their previous vaccines again, but at this point the DHPP and rabies will last longer, so they won’t require annual vaccines for those two.

Make your veterinarian your partner in pet care, ask what vaccines are right for your dog.

Adult Vaccine Schedule

As mentioned above, once your puppy is fully vaccinated, they will need an annual appointment with your veterinarian one year after their 16-week-old vaccine set. At this appointment they will receive every vaccine again, such as:

  • Rabies
  • DHPP
  • Lepto
  • Lyme
  • Bordetella

At this age their vaccines do last longer. For instance, rabies and DHPP typically last 3 years. Bordetella, Lyme and Lepto last one year. If your dog is an adult and has never received the Lyme or Lepto vaccine, keep in mind that they will require a booster 4 weeks after their first dose of the vaccine for optimal immunity. Following this, they can get these vaccines annually.

Be sure to reach out to your veterinarian to discuss what vaccines are most suitable for your pet’s lifestyle and your region!

For more information on doggy health, check out these articles:

What You Need to Know About Dog Immunizations and Preventing Disease

When Can I Begin to Walk My Puppy Outside?

12 Things to Ask Your Kennel When Boarding Your Pup

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