Core puppy shots start at six to eight weeks old and protect and prevent new pups from high-risk, prevalent, or contagious diseases. Young dogs are most susceptible to rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis and are immunized against these infections in two-week vaccination cycles during their first three months.
Vaccinations are some of the first boxes pet parents tick off a puppy preventative care checklist and will become an important part of routine veterinarian check-ups. Whether you’re adopting an adult dog or a puppy, be sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding which vaccines from the puppy shots schedule below would be appropriate for your pet.
To ensure your dog is safe against harmful tickborne diseases, it is always recommended that you ask a veterinarian questions about the essential inoculations for the region and/or state you live in or travel to frequently. Some diseases are zoonotic, meaning that they can be contagious for people.
Which shots are on a puppy schedule?
Pet parents are generally advised to immunize dogs against potential infections like Lyme, however scientific studies have found that pets can be easily treated for this infection with antibiotics and will make a full recovery. Certain areas require less or specific types of shots by law, such as rabies.
Below is a guide to the vaccination that may be recommended, but always speak to your veterinarian about dog shots; which ones are essential or core vaccinations, and which injections are optional.
|Age||Core Vaccinations||Non-Core Vaccinations|
|10-12 weeks||Parvovirus||Distemper/measles combination|
|Leptospirosis (California only)|
|Leptospirosis (California only)|
|Adopted dogs +16 weeks||Core shots are given twice, 4 weeks apart|
|26 – 52 weeks||Booster shots||Lyme (in prevalent regions)|
|Every 6 months||Bordetella|
|Every 3 years||Revaccination||Influenza|
* Follow-up frequency for the rabies vaccine varies state-by-state
How much do dog vaccinations cost?
Vaccines are recommended by veterinarians based on a pup’s breed, age, health, lifestyle and medical history, as well as whether your dog lives or travels to states known for specific diseases. The price of inoculations will, therefore, depend on which core and non-core shots are required.
Most shelter and rescue groups include vaccinations in their adoption fee so that a newly adopted dog or puppy is ready to get off to a healthy start in their new home. Below is an estimate of dog vaccination costs to give you an idea of what to expect when discussing your puppy shot schedule with your veterinarian.
- Vaccines and routine care – 1st year: $100-$350 | Annual cost: $80-$250
- Heartworm tests – 1st year: $0-$35 | Annual cost: $0-$35
- Heartworm prevention – 1st year: $24-$120 | Annual cost: $36-$132
- Flea and tick prevention – 1st year: $40-$200 | Annual cost: $40-$200
- Distemper vaccination – 1st year: $20-$30 | Annual cost: $40-$60
- Rabies vaccination – 1st year: $15-$25
- Deworming – 1st year: $20-$50 | Annual cost: $80-$200
The recognition that serious medical conditions such as certain sarcomas and auto- immune hemolytic anemia may be vaccination related have forced the veterinary profession to re-exam vaccine safety and reassess recommendations for vaccinating the average pet owner’s companion animal. While the benefits of vaccination still far outweigh the risks, a careful assessment of the risk factors of each individual animal should be undertaken before deciding on a vaccination protocol. Recent investigation into the origins of recommendations for yearly vaccinations for dogs and cats pets have revealed that they may not have been based on any duration of immunity studies or other true scientific data. They are not legal requirements, and have become the subject of the hottest debates in small animal medicine today. The latest studies, although not totally conclusive, provide compelling reasons to believe that many vaccines provide immunity from disease for several years and that annual boosters are not only not necessary but may, in fact, be harmful. Many veterinarians are offering to check vaccination titers in lieu of giving the routine annual booster shot. The days of going to the veterinarian for an annual booster may soon be a thing of the past, to be replaced with an annual physical examination with appropriate vaccinations at specified intervals only.
When deciding on a vaccination schedule for your pet, you and your veterinarian may need to take the following into consideration:
- Is the vaccine necessary?
- Is the disease found in the area, and how dangerous is the disease?
- Is the disease contagious to people?
- How effective is the vaccine?
- How safe is the vaccine?
- What is the animal’s age?
- The very young and very old are more in need of vaccination to protect against infectious diseases than adult animals.
- What is the general overall health?
- Immune-compromised, debilitated, pregnant, sick, and stressed animals all present special circumstances that the veterinarian should take into consideration before vaccination
- What is the animal’s risk of exposure to the disease?
- For example, cats that stay indoors exclusively have very limited, if any, exposure to outside diseases unless the caregiver is working in a shelter or animal hospital, for example, and brings disease home on their hands or clothing. These cats may not require yearly vaccinations, except for rabies if required by local ordinances. Many ordinances require rabies every three years rather than annually.
- What is the prevalence of the disease in general?
- Some areas never experience cases of Lyme disease or corona, so vaccination against these diseases makes little sense unless the owner travels with the pet to areas where these diseases have been found.
- What is your pet’s past vaccination history?
- Animals that have experienced vaccine reactions in the past should be handled with caution when administering booster vaccinations.
- What is the pet’s lifestyle?
- If the pet travels or has frequent close contact with other animals (groomers, kennels, obedience classes, etc), a different vaccination protocol may be necessary.
Many vaccination guidelines divide vaccinations into core and optional vaccines. Core vaccines are usually given against diseases that are high risk, highly dangerous diseases that are widely encountered and may or may not be spread to humans. In general, optional vaccines are given against diseases that may have a regional distribution, do not cause serious illness, maybe encountered infrequently or in certain populations only. Optional vaccines may also be of limited effectiveness.
It is important to understand that vaccines do not make sick animals well, cure disease or prevent animals from becoming infected with the disease organism. They prevent serious illness only if the vaccine is given far enough ahead of the disease exposure for the animal’s own immune system to produce a quick defense before too much damage is done. Concurrent vaccination with or after disease exposure, a problem commonly encountered in shelters, is likely to result in vaccination failure.