Puppy Shots: The Lowdown on Vaccines For Your New Pup

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / April 30, 2018
puppy shots

A Complete First-Year Guide for Puppy Vaccines

Congratulations! If you’re reading this chances are you’re about to embark on the wild, fulfilling ride of being a new puppy parent. It’s an exciting but sometimes nerve-wracking time, and we hope we can help ease some of the uncertainty in it all! Whether or not that little ball of fluff is already tearing through your carpet, or yo

puppy shots

u’re getting everything set up to adopt in the future, there are some important things you should know about puppy shots.

Puppy Shots – Why Are They So Important?

Getting your puppy vaccinated against dangerous and often life-threatening diseases is one of the most critical responsibilities of a dog owner.

There are an overwhelming amount of vaccinations for a plethora of ailments a dog can face. We’re going to break down the most common of these ailments and explain why veterinarians are so adamant about vaccinating against them.

(This list is in alphabetical order and is not based on severity or necessity)

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella Bronchiseptica is the primary cause of kennel cough in dogs. It is a bacterium that is highly contagious and causes episodes of coughing, whooping, and vomiting. In rare but existing cases, Bordetella Bronchiseptica can cause seizures and even death. There is both an injectable vaccine and nasal spray vaccine available.

Canine Distemper

Distemper is a severe and infectious disease that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous system. A dog with distemper can transmit the disease through airborne exposure such as sneezing or coughing, or through sharing a water or food bowl or toys. Canine distemper causes eye and ear discharge, coughing, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, paralysis, and often, death.

There is no cure for canine distemper, thus making prevention so crucial. A dog with distemper can shed the virus infect others for months.

Canine Hepatitis

Canine hepatitis (unrelated to human hepatitis) is a highly communicable viral infection. It affects the dog’s liver, kidneys, lungs, spleen, and eyes. Symptoms range in severity from a mild fever and congestion to vomiting, stomach enlargement, and sharp pain. While many dogs can overcome the mild symptoms, a severe form of the disease can result in death.

Again, there is not a cure for canine hepatitis. While veterinarians can treat the symptoms, preventing it from occurring is obviously preferable.

Canine Parainfluenza

Canine Parainfluenza is an additional virus that contributes to a dog contracting kennel cough.

Corona Virus

The coronavirus affects the dog’s gastrointestinal systems and can lead to respiratory infections. Clinical signs of the coronavirus affecting a dog’s gastrointestinal systems are loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. While veterinarians can ease the dog’s symptoms, there is not a drug available that will successfully kill the virus itself.

Heartworm Disease

Although there is not a vaccine for preventing heartworm disease, pet owners can start their dog on a heartworm preventative around 12-to-16 weeks old.

Heartworm disease, as its name implies, in that in which parasitic worms invade the dog’s heart and surrounding organs. It’s a disease that can be incredibly painful, tedious, and expensive to cure. Read up more on heartworm disease here. (+link simplewag heartworm article when available)

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is also known as infectious tracheobronchitis. Highly contagious, kennel cough is caused by bacterial or viral infections such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza. The infection usually goes away without the need for antibiotics but can be long lasting with fits of coughing and gagging occurring all day, every day.


Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria found worldwide in soil and water sources. The disease is zoonotic, which means it is transmittable from animals to humans. Antibiotics can be used to treat Leptospirosis, and administering them should be done as soon as the disease is diagnosed.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a dangerous, tick-borne disease. Signs that a dog has been infected by a tick bite include swelling of the lymph nodes, limping, fever, and loss of appetite. Lyme disease can affect a dog’s heart, liver, kidneys, and joints, as well as lead to neurological damage. A quick diagnosis and prompt treatment are necessary in order to rid the body of Lyme disease.


Unvaccinated dogs under the age of four months are most likely to contract parvovirus, although it can affect dogs of any age. Parvo attacks the gastrointestinal systems and can cause extreme dehydration which can lead to death within 48-to-72 hours. With that being said, immediate veterinary intervention is absolutely crucial to keep the dog hydrated and control secondary symptoms.


Rabies is a viral infection that most people are familiar with. It is passed through the saliva of an infected animal and leads to excessive drooling, hallucinations, aggressive behavior, paralysis and ultimately death.

The vast majority of states require the rabies vaccination every one or three years. To learn more about rabies, click here.

Puppy Shot Schedule at a Glance

puppy shot schedule

No two dogs are the same. With that in mind, a number of factors come into play when determining the appropriate vaccination schedule.

Some of these factors include:

  • What part of the country do you live in?
  • What individual risk factors your new puppy may have?
  • Does your puppy need every vaccination?

It is always best to discuss options for the scheduling of vaccinations with your veterinarian before deciding on a particular course of action.

When Should My Puppy Get Its First Vaccine?

Again, pet owners should keep in mind that all puppies are different and this isn’t an exact one-size-fits-all science. With that said, experts from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) believe that your puppy should receive their vaccinations every two to four weeks between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. They believe in this time frame, all puppies should receive the core vaccines of canine distemper, adenovirus 2, canine parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and rabies virus.

Vaccination Schedule

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), here is a general schedule for puppy vaccinations.

Age: 6-8 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: Distemper, measles, parainfluenza
Optional Vaccinations: Bordatella

Age: 10-12 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP – vaccines for distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza, and parvovirus
Optional Vaccinations: Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease

Age: 12-24 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: Rabies vaccine
Optional Vaccinations: None

Age: 14-16 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP
Optional Vaccinations: Coronavirus, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis

Age: 12-16 months
Recommended Vaccinations: Rabies, DHPP
Optional Vaccinations: Coronavirus, Leptotspirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease

Age: Every 1-2 years
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP
Optional Vaccinations: Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease

Age: Every 1-3 years
Recommended Vaccinations: Rabies (legally required)
Optional Vaccinations: None

Multivalent Vaccines for Puppies

Multivalent vaccines contain different vaccine antigens in one dosage. In other words, it vaccinates against more than one microorganism or two or more strains of the same microorganism.

The majority of veterinarians use multivalent vaccines because they are thought to be convenient and reduce the number of times your puppy has to be poked by a needle.

When produced by a manufacturer, multivalent vaccines are considered to be a safe product. However, multiple vaccines should never be combined into one syringe unless they are produced that way.

A commonly recommended multivalent vaccine is the DA2P, which vaccinates for canine distemper, adenovirus 2, and canine parvovirus.

Speaking of acronyms, let’s break down all those letters and find out exactly what they are protecting against.

puppy shots

Breaking Down Vaccines: What Does it All Mean?

We all want what’s best for our dogs, but a lot of the time the terminology can get confusing and it’s easy to agree to things without really knowing what you’re agreeing to.

DHPP vs. DHLPP vs. DHLPPV vs. DA2PP-L vs. DA2PP-C ?!

You trust your veterinarian will do what’s going to be best for your new puppy, but at the end of the day, pet owners should try to be as knowledgeable as possible about these vaccines.

DHPP Vaccine

D – Distemper
H – Hepatitis
P – Parainfluenza
P – Parvovirus

This is the most common combination vaccine that vets administer to dogs.

DHLPP Vaccine

D – Distemper
H – Hepatitis
L – Leptospirosis
P – Parainfluenza
P – Parvovirus

DHLPP is the same as DHPP with an additional vaccine for Leptospirosis.

DAPP Vaccine

D – Distemper
A – Adenovirus
P – Parainfluenza
P – Parvovirus


D – Distemper
A2 – Canine adenovirus-2
P – Parvovirus
P – Parainfluenza
V – Virus

The “C” in “DA2PPV-C” and the “L” in “DA2PPV-L” correlate to:

C – Coronavirus

L – Leptospirosis

Rabies Vaccine for Dogs

The rabies vaccination is considered apart of the “core vaccines” although due to the fact that most states legally mandate it, pet owners don’t have much of a say as to whether they want to vaccine their dog for rabies.


Neopar is a common brand name for the Canine Parvovirus Vaccine that pet owners may hear.

Canine Spectra 5 Vaccine

This vaccine is labeled as a 5-way injectable protection against:

Canine Distemper, Adenovirus Type 2 (CAV-2 cross protection CAV-1), Parainfluenza and Parvovirus Vaccine

Puppy Vaccination Costs

The average cost for the core vaccines (the DLHPP vaccine) is around $75-$100. The DLHPP vaccine is administered in a series of three at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks old.

Additionally, your puppy will need to get the rabies vaccine which costs approximately $15-$20.

Usually, animal shelters will charge less for administering vaccines, often around $20, sometimes even free. If you’re adopting a dog from an animal shelter, chances are, the pup has already received its vaccinations.

Puppy vaccinations cost more in the first year than vaccinations in the rest of adulthood.

Holistic Standpoint on Puppy Vaccines

It goes without saying that vaccinations are certainly not void of potential adverse reactions. Any time a pet owner chooses to vaccinate or administer antibiotics or medications, a large toxicity amount invades the body. Yes, ultimately the end goal of puppy vaccines is to protect, but they also pose a lot of risks.

We wouldn’t be doing our job well if we didn’t also educate our readers on those risks and provide ways to reduce the potential for damage.

The Potential Risks of Puppy Shots

Vaccinations put an enormous amount of stress on the dog’s body. Now, just imagine how much stress they put on a puppy’s body.

Holistic veterinarians continue to conclude not only how many immediate side effects and adverse allergic reactions that vaccinations cause, but also the degree to which these vaccinations can cause chronic problems.

More and more studies are linking chronic diseases such as thyroid disease, persistent infections, arthritis, skin allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver and kidney diseases, as well as cancers, directly back to the vaccinations.

When you start to consider how fragile the immune system of a 6-week old puppy is, you can see how susceptible they are to the harsh adverse reactions.

What many people don’t realize is that the immediate reaction, usually fever or sore joints, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what else could potentially develop.

puppy shots toxins

Maternal Antibodies

Additionally, when a young puppy drinks its mother’s first milk, called colostrum, it is being protected against diseases. The rich milk contains antibodies called maternal antibodies and provides passive immunity which shields the puppy from disease until it is about 6 months old and has a matured immune system.

However, when a puppy still has the maternal antibodies in its system and is then vaccinated, the maternal antibodies can inactivate the vaccine because it reads it as an actual virus.

Furthermore, the maternal antibodies aren’t able to fight off the virus as well as all of the toxicity that comes along with the vaccines. This toxicity includes mercury, MSG, aluminum, and formaldehyde.

The body has an extreme, heightened reaction to this sudden influx of toxicity which is being linked directly to autoimmune disorders in dogs of all ages.

What Shots Do Puppies Need?

We know this is a lot of information and it makes some dog owners not know what to do or what is best.

Here are some ways that pet owners can vaccinate effectively and avoid as many adverse reactions as possible.

Core vs. Non-core Vaccines

First of all, let’s break down the core and non-core vaccines.

As defined by the AAHA guidelines, distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and rabies are the core vaccines.

However, most holistic veterinarians believe that the only necessary vaccinations are for distemper and parvovirus.

Unfortunately, the rabies vaccine is legally mandated in most states making the options of pet owners somewhat limited in that sense.

Non-core vaccines are the Bordetella, Lyme disease, and Leptospirosis vaccines. Non-core vaccines are considered optional or based on the how susceptible your dog is to contracting the disease that the vaccine is protecting against.

Vaccinations Based on Susceptibility

Let’s dive into that a bit deeper.

In order to determine how susceptible your dog may be to contracting a particular disease, pet owners may want to consider a few thoughts on the matter.


The more dogs that your beloved fur baby is around, the greater the risk of contracting a disease. If you frequent dog parks, let your pup off leash to explore, pop into a dog show every now and again, your dog stands a higher chance of getting sick.

However, we aren’t suggesting never to let your dog leave the confines of your house. Exposure to the world and the dog’s surroundings ultimately plays a huge role in strengthening their immune system. What we are highlighting is knowing to what degree your dog’s potential exposure will be and then making an educated decision from there.


Staying informed about your area and what diseases are at large is very important when it comes to deciding what vaccinations are necessary.

For example, parvovirus and distemper do not run rampant all over the world. In fact, some places of the world have no endemic leptospirosis. Additionally, rabies is fairly uncommon in the United States.

Overall Health

Taking into consideration your puppy’s overall health will provide further information as to what vaccines are essential. If your puppy passes all their health evaluations with flying colors, then you may want to reconsider whether certain vaccinations are necessary.

Effectively Vaccinating

Furthermore, recent studies show that there are even more ways to effectively and intelligently vaccinate.

The Magic 12-16 Week Mark

Research shows that vaccinating your puppy between 12 and 16 weeks nearly has a 100% chance of the vaccines working.

The best news is, we don’t mean they will work 100% for one year. The vaccines will work 100% for the dog’s entire life.

Further research is being conducted, but the results are continuing to show that the 12-16 week mark might just be the magic number in limiting the number of vaccinations necessary to protect your pup.

Limiting Dog Vaccinations

Speaking of limiting vaccinations, we cannot stress to do so enough.

Pet owners need to be on top of their dog’s recent shots and make sure that they aren’t unintentionally over vaccinated when it’s not necessary.

Booster Shots – More Harmful Than Good?

Studies now show that yearly boosters (or any booster) are not only ineffective but also quite dangerous.

Additionally, studies continue to show that the vaccines for parvovirus and canine distemper provide extremely efficient protection against the diseases for at least 8 years, potentially even longer.

Booster shots do not increase the dog’s immunity. They also do not ensure the protection of your dog against the disease they are “boosting” protection for.

However, booster shots do increase the risk for harmful, adverse reactions in dogs.

Instead of automatically getting a booster shot each year, first get a titer. A titer is a blood test that shows the dog’s antibody levels for parvovirus or canine distemper and whether they are high enough to fight off infection.

Homeopathic Detox Remedies

puppy shots toxins

If you chose to vaccinate their puppy or adult dog, you should consider speaking to a holistic veterinarian about the benefits of detoxifying the body once given the “ok” from your vet.

Vaccinations flood the body with toxins that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to rid on its own. Homeopathic remedies are available to aid in this process.

Knowledge is Power

Stay informed! New information is constantly coming out regarding pet vaccinations. It’s so important for pet owners to know exactly what is being recommended and why. Ask your vet if something is a requirement, a recommendation, or purely optional.

Furthermore, be cautious of new drugs. Even if it’s been approved as safe, it’s hard to say for certain when veterinarians are unable to see its effects on a dog who has been taking it for say, 10 years if it has only been on the market for 12 months.

Also, make an appointment with a local holistic veterinarian in your area. Knowing that there are holistic alternatives for nearly every conventional medication can be incredibly enlighting and beneficial for your pup.

Lastly, we certainly aren’t saying that there aren’t positive, life-altering benefits of certain vaccines and medications. However, we are highly suggesting that pet owners know the pros and cons and make decisions based on all of the information available. It can truly make a world of difference for your four-legged family member.

puppy shots


Are puppy shots dangerous?

What shots do I need to get my puppy?

When do I give my puppy his or her shots?

Does my dog actually need all the recommended shots?

Are there any tips and tricks I should know about before I take my dog in?



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Puppy Shots: The Guide on Caring for Your First Puppy!

The Puppy Vaccination Dilemma


Behind the Acronyms of Dog Vaccines


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First-Year Puppy Vaccinations; A Complete Guide



Taking The Risk Out Of Puppy Shots

Puppy Shots: The Guide on Caring for Your First Puppy!

The Puppy Vaccination Dilemma


Behind the Acronyms of Dog Vaccines


About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for Honestpaws.com.