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Vaccinations are one of the best things you can get for your dog. Dog vaccinations help keep your dog safe, healthy, and happy. Vaccines are a vital part of your dog’s care routine, but figuring out which ones they need and when can be confusing. We will discuss other vaccines below, but here is a quick and easy chart to show you the essential dog vaccinations.

Core Dog Vaccinations
AgeDog Vaccinations
6-8 WeeksDAP*
10-12 WeeksDAP
14-16 WeeksDAP, Rabies
Annual Rabies

*DAP stands for Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis, Parvovirus and is sometimes labeled DHP (or DHPP is the vaccine also contains parainfluenza.

The dog vaccinations listed above are called the “core” vaccines, meaning they are required instead of others that veterinarians recommend but are not mandatory. Alternatively, the “non-core” vaccinations are as follows:

Non-Core Dog Vaccinations
AgeDog Vaccinations
6-8 WeeksBordetella, Parainfluenza
10-12 WeeksLeptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme
14-16 WeeksLeptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme
Annual Bordetella, Leptospirosis, Canine Influenza, Lyme
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Dog Vaccinations

Now that we’ve covered the absolute basics, let’s delve a little deeper into dog vaccinations. 

Core Vs. Non-Core Dog Vaccinations

Core vaccines are required for all dogs and puppies for their health and often by law, depending on where you live. The core vaccines include DAP (which stands for Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis, and Parvovirus) and canine rabies. Accordingly, these constitute the absolute minimum of vaccinations your dog needs. 

Non-core vaccines are optional, and the vet recommends them based on a variety of factors, such as your lifestyle and where you live. For example, if your dog will spend ample time in a group setting such as a kennel or a playgroup, your veterinarian will often recommend the Bordetella shot. We shouldn’t confuse the term “non-core” with “unnecessary.” Many of the diseases these non-core vaccines protect against can be dangerous and even deadly to your dog. Even so, it’s always a good idea to listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding dog vaccinations. 

white and brown short coated puppy on green grass field

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppies go through several rounds of vaccinations when you first bring them home; indeed, they usually receive rounds of shots at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Until you fully vaccinated your puppy, around four months old, you shouldn’t bring them to dog parks or in contact with many other dogs as they lack protection from potentially harmful diseases. Read more about Puppy Shot Schedules.

Adult Dog Vaccinations

If your puppy already has their shots or you have an adult dog, you’ll only need vaccinations once a year. In some places, you can receive a 3-year rabies vaccination for your dog, thus potentially saving you a couple of trips to the veterinarian’s office. 

Dog Vaccinations and Their Diseases

Still, why do our dogs need vaccinations? To protect them from the following diseases.


Anyone who has seen the movie Old Yeller can tell you why we must keep our dogs’ rabies vaccinations up to date. Rabies is a virus that causes neurological disease in dogs, wildlife, and even people. Though symptoms include incoordination, aggression, foaming at the mouth, and hydrophobia (fear of water), to name a few, rabies can be deadly. Indeed, animals transmit rabies primarily via bites; the virus is in the host animal’s saliva and gets into the bloodstream of a new host through the torn skin. Humans can contract rabies while cleaning an infected bite on their pet. An animal suffering from rabies is called “rabid.” Rabies has a virtually 100% mortality rate in humans and animals alike, making it one of the most deadly diseases your dog can catch. It’s no surprise then that many countries require all dogs to stay up to date on their rabies vaccinations.

DAP (Distemper, Adenovirus/Hepatitis, and Parvovirus)

The DAP, sometimes known as the DHP, vaccine protects against three different very serious canine diseases. 

  • Canine Distemper is a debilitating disease that is highly contagious among unvaccinated dogs. Distemper can cause pneumonia, fever, neurologic issues, encephalitis, and death.
  • Adenovirus is a viral disease also known as Infectious Canine Hepatitis. This disease causes severe upper respiratory infections, fever, liver and kidney failure, and ocular disease.
  • Parvovirus we see predominately in puppies, among whom this disease is very contagious and very deadly in serious cases. Symptoms of parvovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargic behavior, and dehydration.

The DAP vaccine sometimes includes parainfluenza virus, a non-core vaccine. In this case, the vaccine is called DAPP.

white and brown short coated dog on green grass field during daytime

Canine Parainfluenza and Bordetella

Both Parainfluenza and Bordetella are diseases commonly referred to as “kennel cough.” Kennel cough is relatively common among large group settings such as boarding kennels, hence the name. This sickness usually resolves itself on its own but can progress to pneumonia or other respiratory diseases in severe cases. Bordetella is particularly contagious, so most kennels and other boarding facilities require your dog to have a Bordetella vaccination to stay there. 

Lyme Disease

Whereas other diseases on this list are viral in nature, Lyme disease is a bacterial disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted by ticks. It is characterized by lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, leg lameness, and in severe cases, even kidney failure. Like Leptospirosis, some geographic areas have a higher risk of Lyme Disease than others, therefore you should consult with your doctor about whether a Lyme Disease dog vaccination is right for you.


Like Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, colloquially known as “Lepto,” is a bacterial disease. Additionally, like rabies, humans are just as susceptible to Lepto as dogs. The bacteria transmits via infected urine; thus many domestic animals catch this disease by drinking out of puddles or other water sources that infected individuals have urinated in. In addition, we consider this vaccine a “core” vaccine in geographic areas where Lepto is prevalent. 

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Doctor Knows Best

Aside from the essential and mandatory core vaccines, there is no “one size fits all” policy for dog vaccinations. Consequently, if you have questions, always consult with your veterinarian about what is best for you and your dog.

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