There’s a lot of excitement and cuddling when you get a new puppy—but there’s also a long to-do list for pet parents to be on top of. And one of the most important items on that list is vaccinations, starting as early as 6 weeks of age.
With a little help from our vet expert, Dr. Liff, we’ll give you the rundown on which puppy vaccinations are essential (‘core’) or merely recommended (‘non-core’).
FYI, pet health insurance can help cover some of the big expenses. When you add a preventative care package to Lemonade’s base policy, you can get reimbursed for a bunch of healthcare perks—including three vaccinations per year, or up to six vaccines or boosters if you sign up for the preventative care package for puppies.
Let’s dive in—we promise it won’t hurt a bit…
What shots does my puppy really need?
Depending on where you live, regulations may mandate specific vaccinations. But in general, it’s a safe bet that your vet will probably require these two main dog vaccinations:
We’re glad there’s an acronym for this one, since ‘Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus’ is quite a mouthful. These are all highly contagious infections and viruses.
The DAPP shot—some vets use one called DHPP, essentially the same thing— is considered a core vaccine for all dogs. Dr. Liff explains that puppies need this shot 3 or 4 times during their puppy vaccine series depending on their age. That sounds like a lot of ouch. But by getting these vaccines for your four-legged friend, you’re protecting them from fatal viruses and severe organ damage.
Most states require this core rabies vaccine. Rabies is a life-threatening disease that can be transferred through a small bite from an animal. It may take up to 12 weeks before a dog shows any signs of being infected. Here’s the rub: Doctors can only treat rabies in infected animals before these symptoms occur. After experiencing symptoms, a rabid pup can become belligerent or paralyzed before passing away in as little as two days.
Thankfully, rabies is preventable. Dr. Liff recommends taking the rabies vaccination annually for adventurous puppies who spend a lot of time in the woods, and every 3 years for other pups who don’t roam as much.
Should my puppy get any other vaccines?
That depends on your pup’s lifestyle. While other vaccines aren’t strictly required, some puppies live in high-risk situations and may need extra protection. Dr. Liff gave us some tips on how to tell if your puppy needs additional vaccines.
Bordetella, aka kennel cough, is a highly infectious, airborne bacteria that can be spread through physical exposure or transferred in shared water bowls and cages. This bacteria can lead to severe coughing, vomiting, depression, and can potentially cause pneumonia by irritating your dog’s windpipe.
Most vets strongly recommend this vaccine, but consider it to be non-core. If you want to board your pup or register for training classes, though, proof of the bordetella vaccine is required. It can be taken as an injection, nasal spray, or orally. Dr. Liff typically recommends this vaccination every 12 months. If you are planning to board your puppy often, she suggests a shot every 6 months.
You can find this bacteria carried by wildlife and rodents all over the world. Typically, dogs can expose themselves to it by drinking water that’s contaminated by urine. Your pet can have no symptoms at all… or they might experience fever, vomiting, depression, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and more. Your pup can even expose you to Leptospirosis.
Antibiotics are used to treat dogs with Leptospirosis, but sometimes pets are too ill to respond to medical therapy at the time of diagnosis. That’s even more reason to make sure you vaccinate.
Dr. Liff strongly suggests this non-core vaccine if you plan to take your puppy hiking and swimming outdoors, or for pups who live in rural areas with a lot of wildlife. The shot could also be a good idea for urban dwelling dogs, if rodents are an issue in those urban environments—like in New York, for example.
Both you and your dog companion can be infected by this disease. Signs can include fever, tiredness, limping, and loss of appetite.
Lyme disease is carried by small ticks found in grassy, wooded areas near rivers and lakes. The CDC lists 14 high-risk states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
If you live in one of these states, talk to your vet about the Lyme disease shot. Alongside the vaccine, we recommend checking for ticks and using tick-preventative products. You have the option between oral or topical tick-prevention treatments for your dog. A topical treatment is usually recommended if your puppy has a sensitive stomach.
This one’s a must for all of those social pups! Canine influenza is highly contagious, so those attending doggy daycare and playing at the dog park should be vaccinated.
Infected dogs may have a weakened immune system, severe cough, runny nose, sore throat, loss of appetite, and tiredness. In rare cases, influenza can cause fatal pneumonia. That’s bad news your pup doesn’t need. After two initial puppy doses, this non-core vaccine is taken annually.
Canine coronavirus (CCoV)
Canine coronavirus is often included in the 7-in-1 vaccine—more on that below. (Note that this isn’t the same as the Covid-19 virus, which so far doesn’t appear to be dangerous for dogs.) The symptoms of Canine coronavirus can include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and diarrea.
Canine coronavirus vaccines are available, although this vaccine is not recommended for all dogs and will be administered based on your pup’s lifestyle and risk assessment.
What about the 7-in-1 vaccine for dogs?
It’s possible to bundle certain vaccinations together—the so-called combination vaccine. This 7-in-1 shot, in most cases, combines DHPP with protection against Leptospirosis.
“Although usually this combination vaccine is safe,” Dr. Liff says, “giving so much protection at once can induce a vaccine reaction—such as vomiting and diarrhea, facial swelling, and anaphylactic reactions.”
Puppy Vaccination Schedule + Costs
There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all-paws puppy vaccination schedule. Depending on the dog and the area you live in, your vaccine needs will vary. Make these decisions together with your vet. Having said that, below you can find a schedule that gives a good general idea of the vaccines your puppy will probably need in the first year.
Prices vary depending on the vaccine, and your provider, plus you’ll need to get certain shots on a regular basis.
|Puppy’s age||Vaccine||Does my puppy need this?||Cost|
|6–8 weeks||DAPP or DHPP||A core vaccine. Puppies need this 3 or 4 times during their puppy vaccine series. After that, it’s every other year—or yearly, for very social dogs.||$25–$50/dose|
|10–12 weeks||Influenza||After two initial puppy doses, this vaccine is taken annually—especially if your pup is hanging at the dog park or playing at doggy daycare.||$30–$50/dose|
|10–12 weeks||Bordetella||Required if you plan on boarding your puppy or registering for training classes. Ideally taken every 6 months if you board often, or annually for less social pups.||$19–$50/dose|
|12 weeks||Canine coronavirus||Not recommended for all dogs and will be administered based on lifestyle and risk assessment.||Included in the 7-in-1 vaccine|
|14–16 weeks||Rabies||Another core vaccine. Adventurous adult dogs need it yearly, and other dogs every 3 years.||$15–$50/dose|
|16–18 weeks||Leptospirosis||A good idea if you plan to take your puppy hiking and swimming outdoors. Get this vaccine annually.||$30–$50/dose|
|12–16 months||Lyme disease||Not required, but vaccinating against this disease is a good idea for dogs in areas with a high risk for tick bites. The vaccine is given annually.||$30–$50/dose|
What else should I keep in mind?
Most vaccines shouldn’t provoke many side effects, though keep in mind that some mild discomfort or lethargy is normal. If your puppy experiences any post-shot facial swelling or vomiting, it’s a good idea to call your vet.
And just a final reminder that Lemonade Pet insurance, with our affordable preventative care add-on packages, can help pay for many of these vaccines (plus a whole lot more). We’ve got more details about all of that here, and you can get started by clicking the button below.