Bringing home a new puppy can include a whirlwind of activities. Between potty training, familiarizing your puppy with your routine, and loving on your new bundle of fluff, you have your hands pretty full. Your puppy’s shot schedule might not be at the forefront of your mind. Getting your dog vaccinated is one of the most important tasks you have as a new puppy parent. Keeping your new puppy on a shot schedule is vital to their health and therefore your happiness.

What Shots Do Puppies Need?

Going to the vet every few weeks during your dog’s puppyhood might not be the most convenient, but these vaccinations keep your new dog safe from diseases that are dangerous and even deadly. Most veterinarians recommend you keep your puppy away from other dogs until they receive all of their puppy shots, which is usually around 4 to 5 months old. Here are the vaccinations puppies need:

Bordetella

Bordetella Bonchiseptica is an infectious bacterium that causes severe cough, vomiting, and seizures, and is potentially fatal for puppies. This bacterium is the primary cause of kennel cough. Vaccinations are available in either a shot or nasal spray form. Most dog kennels, dog daycare, and puppy classes require proof of a Bordetella vaccination in order for your puppy to participate. Canine parainfluenza is another virus that can cause kennel cough.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus in humans wasn’t very common until the emergence of COVID-19. On the other hand, canine coronavirus has been around a long time (and isn’t a threat to humans). Canine coronavirus usually affects your puppy’s gastrointestinal system, though it sometimes causes respiratory infections. Signs of canine coronavirus include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. There may be no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is a vaccination to protect your puppy from canine coronavirus.

(Canine) Distemper

Distemper is a highly-contagious disease caused by a virus. It attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals. Distemper spreads through the air or from shared food and water bowls that come into contact with an infected individual. Signs of distemper include discharge from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, diarrhea, seizures, vomiting, paralysis, and eventually death.

(Canine) Hepatitis

Canine Hepatitis is also a highly contagious viral infection. It affects the spleen, liver, kidneys, lungs, and eyes of infected dogs. Symptoms of canine hepatitis include fever, congestion, vomiting, stomach enlargement, pain near the liver, and jaundice. Many dogs can overcome mild forms of hepatitis, but the severe form could kill your puppy.

Heartworm

Though not technically a vaccination, every dog should be on a heartworm preventative medicine starting at around 12 to 16 weeks of age. Heartworms lodge into the right side of the heart and pulmonary arteries. They can also travel throughout the body, especially into the liver and kidneys. These worms can grow over a foot long. They will eventually block organs if they are allowed to multiply unchecked. Early-stage heartworm infections rarely have any symptoms at all. Once the parasitic infection grows, however, dogs may cough, become lethargic, lose their appetite, or even have difficulty breathing. Mosquitos transmit heartworms to your dog. Proper diagnosis is made via a blood test.

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Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is a common term for inflammation in your puppy’s upper airways. This disease can be caused by either bacterial or viral infections. The disease is usually mild, causing a harsh, dry cough, but it can be severe enough to cause vomiting and loss of appetite. In very rare cases, kennel cough can be deadly. The real harm of kennel cough is how quickly it spreads to and from dogs in a close-contact setting, such as a kennel; this is where kennel cough gets its name. 

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis, or Lepto for short, is caused by bacteria. The infection is zoonotic, which means that it can be spread from animals to people. Your puppy may show no symptoms at all. Possible symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weakness, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, kidney failure, or infertility.  

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Lyme Disease

While people get an obvious “bulls-eye” rash when exposed to Lyme disease, dogs do not have such clear symptoms. Lyme disease is an infectious disease that comes from tick bites. It is caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. Infected dogs may begin to limp, their lymph nodes will swell, their temperature will rise, and your puppy will likely stop eating as well. The disease can affect their heart, joints, and kidneys. It can also lead to neurological disorders if left untreated. 

Parvovirus

Parvo is a highly-contagious virus that can affect all dogs but has more drastic affects on unvaccinated dogs and young puppies. This virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and severe, bloody diarrhea. The extreme dehydration that results could kill a young puppy in less than 72 hours.

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Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that can affect all mammals. It invades the central nervous system causing headaches, anxiety, excessive drooling, hallucinations, fear of water, paralysis, and death. The most common way to get rabies is from the bite of an infected individual. If an infected animal isn’t treated within a few hours of exposure, their death is likely. The fatality rate and zoonotic nature of this disease have led many governments to require yearly rabies vaccinations. 

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Puppy visits to the veterinarian are very important.

Puppy Shot Schedule

There is no one set schedule for puppy shots. What country you live in, your puppy’s individual needs, and your lifestyle all affect your puppy’s shot schedule. Consult your veterinarian and follow their recommendations. An example of a puppy shot schedule is provided in the chart below:

Puppy’s AgeRecommended VaccinationsOptional Vaccinations
6-8 weeksDistemper, parvovirusBordetella
10-12 weeksDHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus)Influenza, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease
16-18 weeksDHPP, rabiesInfluenza, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease
12-16 monthsDHPP, rabiesCoronavirus, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 to 2 yearsDHPPInfluenza, coronavirus, leptospirosis, bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 to 3 yearsRabies (required by law)
An example of a puppy’s shot schedule.

Puppy Shots Are Worth It

Your puppy’s shot schedule may seem daunting. That’s a lot of trips to the veterinarian and a lot of discomfort for your new furbaby. However, the alternative of not getting your puppy vaccinated may lead to a lot more discomfort in the long run. These shots are engineered to keep your puppy safe and give you peace of mind. By following a proper shot schedule for your puppy you can ensure he or she lives a long and healthy life with you.

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