Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations


Bryan Huynh

- Updated February 20, 2024

Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations

Welcoming a new puppy into your life is a joyous occasion filled with excitement and boundless energy. As your furry friend explores their new world with an insatiable curiosity, it becomes your responsibility to ensure their health and well-being. One of the most crucial steps in this journey is understanding and administering the right vaccinations during your puppy’s first year.

Just like humans, puppies receive a series of vaccinations that are supposed to protect them from potentially life-threatening diseases. These vaccinations lay the foundation for a strong and resilient immune system, helping your puppy grow into a healthy and active adult dog. If you don't already have, consider getting pet insurance for your pup!

Puppy Vaccination Checklist

Bringing a new puppy into your life is an exciting journey filled with cuddles, playtime, and unforgettable moments. Amidst all of the fun, it’s essential to remember that your puppy’s health is a top priority. One of the most crucial aspects of maintaining their well-being is ensuring they receive the right vaccinations at the right time. Here’s a comprehensive puppy vaccination checklist to help you navigate this task.

Research and Consultation

Research the common diseases and illnesses that vaccinations can protect your puppy from. Consult your veterinarian to understand the specific vaccination requirements based on your puppy’s breed, age, and local disease prevalence.

Core Vaccinations

Core vaccinations are crucial for all puppies, as they protect against highly contagious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including distemper, parvovirus, canine adenovirus, and rabies.

Non-Core Vaccinations

Depending on your puppy’s lifestyle and local risks, your veterinarian may recommend non-core vaccinations, which offer protection against specific diseases, including Bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza.

Vaccine Schedule

Have vaccinations administered by a licensed veterinarian or under their supervision? Ensure proper record-keeping of each vaccine received, including dates and vaccine types.

Monitoring and Post-Vaccination Care

Keep a close eye on your puppy after vaccinations for any adverse reactions. Provide a comfortable and quiet space for your puppy to rest after receiving vaccinations.

Socialization and Exposure

While it’s essential to protect your puppy, also expose them to safe and controlled environments to build immunity and social skills.

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Continue regular veterinary visits to monitor your puppy’s overall health and ensure they’re up-to-date on vaccinations.


What Shots Do Puppies Need?

The first year of a puppy’s life is a period of rapid growth, development, and discovery. Just as parents ensure their human babies receive vaccinations, responsible puppy owners must prioritize their furry companions’ health through a well-planned vaccination schedule. Vaccinations are essential in protecting puppies from diseases that can be debilitating and potentially fatal. Let’s delve into the specific shots puppies need in their first year to ensure they have a strong foundation for a healthy life.

Distemper Vaccine

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that affects a puppy’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Puppies are particularly vulnerable to this disease, leading to severe illness or even death. The distemper vaccine is a core vaccination typically administered through a series of shots during the first few months of a puppy’s life.

Parvovirus Vaccine

Parvovirus is another dangerous and highly contagious virus affecting a puppy’s gastrointestinal tract, causing severe vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. This virus is remarkably resilient and can survive in the environment for months.

Canine Adenovirus Vaccine

The adenovirus vaccine, specifically the CAV-2 strain, protects against both hepatitis and respiratory infections. It’s a vital core vaccination that safeguards puppies from these viral infections that can cause a range of symptoms, from mild respiratory issues to severe liver damage.

Rabies Vaccine

The rabies vaccine is required by law in many regions due to the severe threat this virus poses to dogs and humans. Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the central nervous system and is typically spread through bites from infected animals. Puppies usually receive their first rabies vaccine at around 12 to 16 weeks.

Bordetella Vaccine

Also known as kennel cough, Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection that causes persistent coughing and respiratory discomfort. This vaccine is essential if your puppy will be in contact with other dogs in places like dog parks, boarding facilities, or training classes.

Leptospirosis Vaccine

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted through contact with contaminated water, soil, or urine of infected animals. This disease can lead to kidney and liver damage and, in severe cases, even death. Puppies in high-risk areas or those with outdoor exposure might benefit from this vaccination.

Canine Influenza Vaccine

Canine influenza, or “dog flu,” is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus. It can spread quickly in places where dogs congregate, such as kennels or doggy daycares. Your veterinarian might recommend the canine influenza vaccine, depending on your puppy's exposure.


Puppy Vaccine Schedule

As a loving puppy owner, ensuring your puppy’s well-being is a top priority. A crucial aspect of their care is adhering to a well-planned puppy vaccination schedule. Just like human infants, puppies need vaccinations during their first year to build a robust immune foundation and safeguard them from preventable diseases.

Initial Vaccinations – 6 to 8 Weeks Old

Distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus (first round)

Follow-Up Vaccinations – 10 to 12 Weeks Old

Distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus (second round)

Final Follow-up – 14 to 16 Weeks Old

Distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus (third round)

Rabies Vaccination – 12 to 16 Weeks Old

Optional Vaccinations- As Recommended

Bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza

Booster Shots – Annually, Unless Otherwise Specified

When do Puppies Get Shots?

Puppies begin their vaccination journey around 6 to 8 weeks old. This initial phase includes core vaccinations against diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus. The second round of shots usually takes place between 10 and 12 weeks of age, further boosting their immune response. The final set of core vaccinations is administered around 14 to 16 years old, solidifying their immunity against these potentially life-threatening diseases.

Additionally, rabies vaccination, which is often required by law, is provided at around 12 or 16 weeks old. Non-core vaccines, such as those for kennel cough or leptospirosis, might also be introduced based on your puppy’s needs and lifestyle. Booster shots, which maintain your puppy’s protection, are administered annually or as your veterinarian advises.

When should Puppies have All of their Shots?

Puppies should have completed their initial core vaccination series by the time they are around 16 or 18 weeks old. This timeline ensures they are protected against common and potentially severe diseases during their most vulnerable months. Non-core vaccinations, if recommended, are usually administered alongside the core ones.

When Do Puppies Need Booster Shots?

Once a puppy completes their initial series of vaccinations, the journey to long-lasting immunity continues with their booster shots. Booster shots play a vital role in reinforcing and extending your furry friend’s protection against various diseases. After receiving the initial core vaccinations, puppies typically require booster shots at regular intervals to maintain their immunity. These intervals can vary based on the specific vaccine, your puppy’s age, and your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Commonly, booster shots for core vaccinations are administered approximately one year after the initial puppy series. Subsequent booster shots are usually scheduled annually, although some vaccinations may protect for more extended periods. The rabies vaccination also requires routine booster shots, typically every one to three years, as regulated by local laws.

Booster shots are essential as they help remind the immune system to stay vigilant against potential threats. They enhance the immune response, ensuring your puppy’s defenses remain strong and effective. By staying up-to-date with booster shots and maintaining a consistent vaccination schedule, you’re providing your pup with the best chance at a healthy and disease-free life. Always consult your veterinarian for guidance on when and which booster shots are necessary for your puppy.

How Much Do Puppy Shots Cost?

The cost of puppy shots typically includes the price of each vaccination, administrative fees, and the veterinarian’s consultation time. Core vaccinations, like those of distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus, are essential to form the foundation of your puppy’s immunity. Additional non-core vaccinations, such as those for kennel cough or leptospirosis, might be recommended based on your puppy’s lifestyle and risk factors. The rabies vaccine is also typically recommended by law.

While prices vary, a rough estimate for an initial series of core puppy shots may range from $75 to $150, excluding additional fees. Booster shots, necessary to maintain immunity, can cost around $25 to $50 per shot. It’s important to remember that these figures are approximate and can differ based on your location and specific veterinary clinic.

Remember that the cost of puppy shots is an investment in your furry friend’s health and well-being. Prioritize open communication with your veterinarian to understand the expenses and discuss any potential payment plans or options. Ensuring your puppy receives the necessary vaccinations sets them on the right path toward a healthy and vibrant life by preventing serious diseases that could otherwise lead to significant medical costs and emotional distress.


Does Pet Insurance Cover Puppy Shots?

Pet insurance provides a safety net for unexpected medical expenses, offering peace of mind and financial support when your furry friend needs healthcare. Regarding puppy shots, the coverage offered by pet insurance can vary depending on your specific policy. Understanding how pet insurance interacts with puppy shots is essential for making informed decisions about your puppy’s health and well-being.

Most pet insurance plans do not generally cover routine preventive care, including routine vaccinations like puppy shots. This is because pet insurance typically focuses on unexpected accidents, illnesses, and emergency situations. Puppy shots are considered part of regular wellness care and are an expected expense when bringing a new puppy into your home.

However, some pet insurance companies offer optional wellness or routine care coverage as an add-on to their standard plans. These wellness plans may cover some of the cost of vaccinations, including puppy shots, and other preventive care expenses such as annual check-ups, dental cleanings, and flea prevention. It’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of any wellness coverage and understand the limits and exclusions.

Weigh Your Options

When considering pet insurance, weigh the overall benefits and costs, and read and compare policies from different providers. If routine wellness coverage is important to you, inquire about available options and understand what is covered, the associated costs, and any waiting periods.

While pet insurance may not directly cover the cost of puppy shots, it can still be a valuable investment in your puppy’s long-term health. It can provide financial protection and peace of mind, helping you manage unexpected veterinary expenses that may arise as your puppy grows and matures.


Why do Puppies Need Shots?

Puppies have developing immune systems that need protection against potentially life-threatening diseases. Shots, or vaccinations, stimulate their immune response to build immunity without causing the actual condition. Vaccines provide a shield against illnesses that can be costly to treat and even fatal.

Which Shots Do Puppies Need?

Puppies need core vaccinations like distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. Non-core vaccinations may also be recommended based on your puppy’s lifestyle and environment.

When Should I Start Vaccinating My Puppy?

Puppies usually begin their shots at 6 to 8 weeks old. The initial series comes in multiple rounds, with boosters administered every few weeks until around 16 weeks old.

Do Puppy Shots Hurt?

Puppy shots involve a quick injection that may cause a brief sting. Discomfort is minimal, and your pup’s veterinarian will ensure the process is as gentle as possible.

Can I Give My Puppy Shots at Home?

Licensed veterinarians or trained technicians usually administer vaccinations. Administering shots at home without professional guidance can be risky and might not ensure proper storage or administration.

Can My Puppy Go Outside After Shots?

While your puppy should still avoid areas with potential exposure to dangerous diseases until fully vaccinated, socializing in a controlled, clean environment benefits their development.

Can I Skip or Delay Shots?

Skipping or delaying shots can leave your puppy vulnerable to diseases. It’s crucial to follow the recommended vaccination schedule to ensure optimal protection.

About The Author

Bryan Huynh

Bryan Huynh

Product Tester & Writer

Bryan Huynh is a dedicated Product Tester & Writer. Just as insurance has your back, Bryan works to review and inform you about the wide range of insurance products available, ranging from business, auto, health, home, pet, to life insurance.

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