Guide to Dog Vaccinations

 Tuesday Jul 02,2019
By  Lancaster Puppies

Things can get hectic once you bring home a brand-new puppy. Between finding all the supplies, making all the introductions, and starting up training, it can be a busy first week! But as soon as possible - your pup should be taken in for a check-up. You'll go over your pup's health, milestones to watch out for, and vaccination details and schedule.

Initial Examination

Golden Retriever puppy lying on floorDuring your puppy's first visit to the veterinarian, they will perform a neurological exam, looking at development, behavioral reflexes, and movement in your dog. The vet may want you to know the health and environmental history of your puppy since a problematic birth, affected littermate, or the health of the parents will affect their medical care.

It's good to know what region and shelter your pup came from and a little about the mother and litter as some regions have a higher incidence of distemper. By informing the vet of your puppy's history, they can intelligently determine the type of vaccines and the best timing to administer them.

A high-risk environment includes dogs living at locations with a high incidence of CDV and/or CPV. This includes puppies with known exposure to other dogs or contaminated environments. High-risk puppies may benefit from an additional vaccine dose at 18-20 weeks (5 months) of age.

It's important to vaccinate your puppy at specific ages to avoid vaccine complications that can be dangerous. Even the CPV vaccine has a failure rate of 3.3% for a variety of reasons, so it's important to maintain regular communication with your vet and follow their instructions to prevent disease in your new pup.

Core Vaccines

In 2017, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) updated its vaccination guidelines for the prevention of infectious diseases. Core vaccines are administered during the initial immunization phase and after completion. They provide protection against disease beyond three years.

Initial immunization begins for your puppy between six and eight weeks of age and is generally finished by ten weeks to be successful at fighting disease. Some core vaccines are combined into one shot and injected below the skin.

Parvovirus (CPV) Provides immunity against any canine parvovirus including CPV-2b and -2c†
Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) Vaccination against a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus attacking the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of puppies.
Canine Adenovirus-2 (CAV2) Protects against an infectious hepatitis virus caused by CAV-1 and respiratory CAV-2.
Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPiV) Provides superior protection against the flu when administered through a nasal spray.
Rabies Virus This vaccine is not administered before 12 weeks of age. The second dose occurs one year later. After that, you may request a one or three-year dose.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough) A nasal spray vaccine that's applied at eight weeks old and again 2-4 weeks later. For puppies at high risk of infection, this vaccine is available to administer as early as 3-4 weeks old.
Leptospira Protects against a bacterial infection spread through urine. Two doses are required. The first application is given as early as 8-9 weeks of age.
Borrelia Burgdorferi (Lyme) Protects against canine Lyme disease. Puppies from non-epidemic areas who travel into Lyme disease regions may be at a higher risk of infection.
Canine Influenza Virus (H3N8 and H3N2) Prevents 2 types of dog flu, a contagious respiratory disease.
Crotalus Atrox (Western Diamondback Rattlesnake) Dosages of this vaccine vary for dogs depending on body weight and exposure risk.

Although rare, post-vaccine reactions do occur. Keep an eye on your puppy for changes in movement and behavior for two weeks following vaccines. Report any changes to your vet. If you believe your dog is overdue for any one of these vaccines, visit the AAHA guidelines for action steps.


As we mentioned in Training Your Puppy Part 4: Socializing, most veterinarians recommend keeping your puppy away from exposure to public parks and potential diseases until after completing the initial immunization shots. Avoid contact with potential sources of infection, like other dogs, until 1-2 weeks after the first set of vaccinations (between six and eight weeks old).

However, attending socialization classes with other puppies after the first round of vaccinations does not put your dog at a higher risk of contracting a disease. In the early 2000s, animal behavioralists began to understand that behavioral problems develop in dogs who have not participated in early socialization. We now know not to wait until a puppy has completed the full series of vaccination shots before introducing them to new dogs. It's safe to arrange weekly playdates with an older calm dog who is up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Vaccination Timetable

6-8 weeks old Begin core vaccines
16 weeks old Initial vaccinations completed by this age
1 year later Booster vaccine within one year of the completed initial vaccination
3 years Booster vaccination every three years   

After your puppy's first year of immunization, you can ask the vet to measure your dog's antibody levels to assess whether their immune system is adequately protected against CDV, CPV, and CAV2.

The diseases that vaccines prevent are always painful and often fatal. There is no reason to withhold health vaccines from your dog. If the cost of vaccination concerns you, ask a community message board where you can find a low-cost clinic in your area.

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