What's the Deal With Pet Vaccinations?

We need to get shots in paws!

There’s a lot of excitement and cuddling when you first get a cat or a dog—but all that sweetness comes with a long to-do list for pet parents. And one of the most important things to be on top of are vaccinations for your fur fam.

To get the best advice, we talked with our vet expert, Dr. Liff. We’ll give you the rundown on which pet vaccinations are essential (‘core’) or merely recommended (‘non-core’) for your dogs and cats.

pet vaccines
“Uh…did somebody say…shots??”

We even added helpful tables to show a suggested vaccination schedule and what the costs might be. Who doesn’t love a snazzy table? 

Luckily, pet health insurance can help cover some of the big expenses. When you add a  Preventative or Preventative+ package to Lemonade’s base accident and illness  policy, you get help paying for a bunch of healthcare perks—including three vaccinations per year. We also offer a Puppy/Kitten Preventative package, which covers up to six vaccines a year.

Dog owners, keep reading! Cat parents, skip ahead to the feline specifics

What shots does my dog really need?

While your local area may require certain vaccines, 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 the DHPP, which is essentially the same thing— is considered a core vaccine for all dogs. Dr. Liff explains that puppies need this 3 or 4 times during their puppy vaccine series depending on their age.

She suggests a booster shot be given annually, or every 3 years for healthy dogs who aren’t exposed to other pets. By getting these vaccines, you’re protecting your four-legged friend 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. Doctors can only treat rabies 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, it’s preventable. Save yourself the anxiety and get your pup the rabies vaccination. Dr. Liff recommends taking this vaccine annually for adventurous dogs who spend a lot of time in the woods, and every 3 years for other pups.

Should my dog get any other vaccines? 

That depends on your pup’s lifestyle…  While other vaccines aren’t strictly required, some dogs live in high-risk situations and may need extra protection. Dr. Liff gave us some tips on how to tell if your dog 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 causes severe coughing, vomiting, depression, and can potentially lead to pneumonia by irritating your dog’s windpipe. 

Most vets strongly recommend this vaccine, but consider it to be non-core. But if you want to board your pup or register for training classes, 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 board your pet 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. 

While antibiotics are usually an effective treatment, Dr. Liff strongly suggests this non-core vaccine for dogs who love hiking and swimming in the outdoors, or for pups who live in rural areas with a lot of wildlife.

Lyme disease

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. All states have ticks, but some areas present greater risk. 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.


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. We want your pet to be protected from all of those uncomfortable symptoms. This non-core vaccine is taken annually, after two initial puppy doses.

What about the 7-in-1 vaccine for dogs?

It’s possible to bundle certain vaccinations together. This 7-in-1 shot, in most cases, combines DHPP with protection against Leptospirosis.

“Although usually this 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.”

How much does it cost to get my dog vaccinated?

Prices vary depending on the vaccine, and your provider, plus you’ll need to get certain shots on a regular basis. Don’t forget—pet health insurance can help with some of these costs!

VaccineDoes my dog need this?Cost
DAPP or DHPPAll dogs should get this one at least every 2 years. We recommend it annually for social dogs.$25–$50/dose
RabiesYup. Your dog will appreciate this one. Get the booster annually if your dog is outdoors often, or every 3 years if your dog mostly stays inside.$15–$50/dose
BordetellaYes, if you plan on boarding your pup or registering them for training classes. This booster is given every 6 months. For less social dogs, we recommend annually.$19–$50/dose
LeptospirosisIf your dog is always outside or close to wildlife, yes. Get this vaccine annually.$30–$50/dose
Lyme diseaseThis one’s given annual for dogs in areas with a high risk for tick bites.$30–$50/dose
InfluenzaIf your dog is hanging at the dog park or playing at doggy daycare, this one’s a must. Get this shot annually.$30–$50/dose

What vaccines does my cat need?

Lucky for you, cats are lower maintenance than dogs. That means fewer shots are needed to keep them safe! But Dr. Liff does recommend 3 important cat vaccines that will protect your kitty against unwanted viruses.


Like dogs, your cat can be infected with rabies and pass it on to you. Bummer. Indoor cats may not need this shot. But, in most states, your kitty is required to have this vaccine regardless of whether they ever leave your apartment.


A three-in-one deal! FVRCP consists of three core vaccines: FPV, FHV-1, and FCV. Here’s what that entails, exactly (don’t worry, we’re not going to test you on this later).

  • The FPV vaccine prevents the highly infectious feline parvovirus, which is fatal for many kittens.
  • FHV-1 is the technical term for the feline rhinotracheitis virus. Sadly, this virus can lay dormant in your cat’s nerves and reactivate itself. Vaccinating your kitty will prevent a long battle with FVH-1 and symptoms like sneezing, sore throat, and pneumonia.
  • FCV, the feline calicivirus, also impacts your cat’s respiratory system causing sneezing, inflamed gums, hair loss, and, in some cases, death. Dr. Liff suggests this vaccine be given annually, after the initial kitten doses.

Feline Leukemia

Many cats can live with leukemia. But, it might cause other conditions like lymphoma or anemia.

Feline leukemia is transmitted through bodily fluids, so sharing bowls or grooming other cats can be dangerous without this vaccine. Dr. Liff recommends this shot be given annually for outdoor cats, and at least every two years for indoor cats.

How much does it cost to get my cat vaccinated?

Prices are fairly modest, and cats don’t need a ton of vaccines, compared to dogs.

Rabies3 initial doses when they’re a kitten, then an annual booster$25–$50/dose
FVRCP2 initial doses for kittens, then an annual booster$25–$50/dose
Feline Leukemia1 initial dose for kittens, followed by an annual booster (for outdoor cats) or a shot every 1 or 2 years (indoor cats)$25–$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 pet experiences any post-shot facial swelling or vomiting, it’s a good idea to call your vet.

And just a final reminder that Lemonade’s pet health insurance policy, with our affordable Preventative and Wellness add-on, can help pay for many of these vaccines (plus a whole lot more). We’ve got more details about all of that here.

Lili Cook

Lili Cook is a Content Analyst at Lemonade. She lives with three adorable dogs, including a Frenchie who has her own stroller. Lili is obsessed with numbers, data, and making insurance awesome.


Please note: Lemonade articles and other editorial content are meant for educational purposes only, and should not be relied upon instead of professional legal, insurance or financial advice. The content of these educational articles does not alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. While we regularly review previously published content to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date, there may be instances in which legal conditions or policy details have changed since publication. Any hypothetical examples used in Lemonade editorial content are purely expositional. Hypothetical examples do not alter or bind Lemonade to any application of your insurance policy to the particular facts and circumstances of any actual claim.