Every dog will need vaccines to protect them from disease and ensure they live a long, healthy life. Starting from puppyhood and continuing into their adult years, your dog will depend on you to provide them with necessary vaccinations to keep them safe and happy.
This guide is not meant to replace your vet’s professional advice. That being said, the DOGPWND recommends that every dog owner be familiar with their doggy’s vaccine needs, including which vaccines are necessary and which are optional.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines are actually small doses of a micro-organism (virus or bacteria) that are given to elicit an immune response from the recipient, in this case, your dog. The ‘immune response’ is the production of an antibody that will protect your dog from a specific disease for a variable amount of time, from 1 year up to 15 years.
- Read more about diseases in dogs
Common side effects of vaccines include fever, fatigue, a general ill feeling, joint pain or some pain at the injection site. These effects begin within hours after the vaccine is given, and last up to 2 days. They usually resolve without any long-term effects. Less common side effects include an allergic reaction or autoimmune diseases. (We will be writing more on allergies and autoimmune diseases in the future, and will update this article with links once available).
What diseases do vaccines protect my dog from?
Canine vaccines are divided into ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ groups. Vaccines in the ‘core’ group are recommended for all dogs, as all dogs are at risk; these include Rabies, Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus vaccines.
- Rabies – a life-threatening viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Transmitted by bite (saliva) from a rabid animal. Most US states require Rabies vaccination for all dogs once every 3 years.
- Distemper – a serious viral disease with no known cure. Symptoms include high fever, eye & nose discharge, fatigue, poor appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, often leading to death.
- Adenovirus – a virus that causes hepatitis in dogs. Infection may resolve in 10-14 days (more common) or may progress to fatal liver disease (less common).
- Parvovirus – a virus that attacks the stomach (vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration) or the heart. May be fatal in up to 30% of affected dogs.
Vaccines in the ‘non-core’ group are optional, as not all dogs are at risk. These include Bordetella, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Coronavirus. If your vet recommends any of these vaccines, or your dog has any of the risk factors detailed below, then he should receive the corresponding vaccine.
- Bordetella & Parainfluenza – 2 most common causes of a respiratory infection known as Kennel Cough. Easily spreads among dogs in close contact, such as dogs who are boarded, visit doggy day care or participate in dog shows. This disease is usually mild, but there are uncommon, severe forms. We recommend these 2 vaccines for your dog if he frequently comes into contact with a large group of dogs.
- Lyme disease – a bacterial infection that is transmitted by tick bites. Treatable with a prolonged course of antibiotics. Can occur anywhere in the US, but much more common in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and Pacific Coast states. We recommend this vaccine for any dog that regularly goes to wooded or tall, grassy areas, especially if located in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia or Wisconsin.
- Leptospirosis – bacterial infection that is treatable with prompt antibiotics, but may progress to more serious kidney and liver disease. Spread from contact with water containing infected animal urine (floods, ponds, muddy areas, unsanitary kennels), and can also spread to humans. We recommend this vaccine for dogs that frequently come into contact with any outdoor, stagnant water or rodents.
- Coronavirus – highly contagious viral infection of the stomach, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Disease is usually mild, except in puppies (less than 6 weeks of age) because they are more susceptible to dehydration and secondary infections. We recommend this vaccine only in dogs that have poor immune function, such as show dogs.
Not included in the ‘core’ or ‘non-core’ vaccine groups is the Heartworm. The reason it’s not in these groups is because there is no vaccine for Heartworm infections, but there is preventive treatment. A lot of dogs are at risk for Heartworm infection and should receive preventive treatment as necessary.
Complete vaccine guide for puppies
Puppies will need frequent vaccinations during the first 4 months because their underdeveloped immune systems put them at significant risk for disease. Puppyhood technically ends at 9-12 months of age (depending on the dog’s breed), so we’ve included all shots recommended (‘core’) and optional (‘non-core’) in the first year. This information is based on the America Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) vaccination guidelines.
Important note: the Rabies vaccine is required by law in most US states.
Complete vaccine guide for adult dogs
After the first year of life, all dogs are considered adults and their vaccination needs will be less frequent due to their stronger immune systems.
Some professionals recommend doing an antibody titer for adult dogs before giving yearly shots, as some vaccines are thought to confer lifelong immunity (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus). A positive titer means your dog is protected and may not need the vaccine in question, at least until the titer falls. However this is not the case for the Rabies vaccine, which is required by law at least once every 3 years in most US states despite a positive titer.
For adult dogs that did not receive Bordetella, Leptospirosis and Lyme disease vaccines as puppies, an initial & booster dose should be given 2-4 weeks apart, and then yearly as described in the table above.
On the other hand, senior dogs (7-10 years old & above) also have compromised immune systems due to their age, and may not tolerate vaccine shots quite so well. Your local vet will be able to give you better guidance for vaccines once your dog reaches his senior years.