PET CARE

Your Puppy’s Vaccine Schedule: A Quick Guide

3 min read Nov 21, 2022

As a pet owner, it’s important to follow the recommended puppy vaccine schedule. Dogs get the majority of their vaccines while they’re puppies between 6 and 8 weeks old. Then, they receive more doses every few weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks of age. That’s a lot of trips to the veterinarian!

This may seem overwhelming at first, so it’s important to keep healthy communication with your vet to protect your dog’s health and quality of life. Let’s start with general recommendations to plan for your dog's vaccines.

What Is the Best Vaccine Schedule for Puppies?

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends the following vaccination schedule for puppies and dogs.³

AAHA Recommended Dog and Puppy Vaccination Schedule

Age

Core

Noncore (optional)

6 to 8 weeks

DAP/DHP combination vaccine 

- Bordetella

- Parainfluenza

10 to 12 Weeks

- DAP/DHP combination vaccine

- Rabies

- Canine influenza

- Leptospirosis

- Lyme disease

14 to 16 weeks

- DAP/DHP combination vaccine

- Rabies

- Canine influenza

- Leptospirosis

- Lyme disease

 

One year, annually

- Rabies

- Bordetella

- Canine influenza

- Leptospirosis

- Lyme

Every 3 years

- DAP/DHP combination vaccine

- Recommended by vet

Core Vaccines for Dogs

Vaccines essential for your pets' health are called “core vaccines.” These vaccines protect animals from diseases that are highly contagious and/or transmissible to humans. According to the ASPCA, the core vaccines that are vital for a dog’s health include:⁴

  1. Parvovirus: This virus causes upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting; this can be transferred to humans who are immunocompromised.
  2. Distemper: This is an airborne virus that can severely infect a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
  3. Adenovirus: Known as canine hepatitis, this virus causes inflammation of the liver.
  4. Rabies: This fatal disease is transmitted through animal bites that can cause paralysis in the limbs, face distortions, and difficulty swallowing. Rabies vaccinations are usually required by states to protect humans against infections, and dogs will get rabies tags that pet owners can attach to their collars to show proof of vaccination.

Most of these illnesses can be mild in adult dogs because their immune systems are more developed. However, these viruses can be very severe for puppies, which is why the doses are administered so close together.

What Are Noncore Vaccines for Dogs?

Noncore vaccines are medicines designed to protect your puppy from other infectious diseases. Typically, vets will offer these vaccines depending on your dog’s exposure risk and lifestyle. These vaccines are:³

  • Bordetella (also known as kennel cough): the bordetella vaccine protects against infections common in doggy daycares, dog parks, and group training classes.
  • Canine influenza: Similar to human flu, dogs can contract the flu by breathing in the droplets from sneezes, coughs, and wheezing of other animals.
  • Lyme disease: This is a deadly disease that is spread by ticks that live in and around North American yards. Dogs often show no symptoms, but this disease can spread to their human companions.
  • Leptospira bacteria: This is a serious bacterial infection that can spread to humans through contact with urine or contaminated surfaces. Infections can cause damage to the kidneys and liver.⁵

Why Keeping Your Puppy’s Vaccination Schedule Is Important

Vaccinations are an important step to helping your puppy grow up happy, healthy, and safe. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) explains that vaccinations prevent many infectious diseases after puppies and kittens lose the antibodies they get from their mother’s milk.⁶

Keeping up with your puppy’s shots can help you avoid paying a lot of money to treat preventable diseases later in their life. Many local or state ordinances also require household pets to be vaccinated. Luckily for puppy parents, pet insurance may cover vaccination costs and the illnesses they protect against.²

What Are the Risks of Vaccinating Puppies?

There are very few downsides to vaccinating your puppy, compared to the illnesses they could get. Most puppies experience mild, short-term symptoms after getting vaccines. Improvements in vaccine technology have reduced the rate of serious reactions.

If you are a nervous pet parent, the best way to prepare your puppy for their vaccines is to talk with your vet.

Vaccinations for Adult Dogs

After their initial vaccines, your adult dog will need booster shots annually. This will ensure that their immunity stays strong against infectious respiratory diseases and viral diseases. A good way to test your pup's immunity is to ask your vet for titer testing.⁷ This test can measure how many antibodies your dog has, which can guide your vet’s vaccination decisions.⁷

Based on your dog’s lifestyle, you may opt for a non-core vaccine. These sorts of options can ensure you can worry less about catching the flu or cough at your favorite doggy daycare or dog park.

How Much Do Dog Vaccines Cost?

The average cost of core vaccines is $75 to $100 for three rounds of shots. Rabies vaccinations cost about $15 to $20, though some facilities may charge closer to $50. If you adopt your dog, most animal shelters include the cost of core vaccines in their adoption fee. Some will waive the cost of the vaccines altogether.

Keeping Up With Your Puppy’s Vaccination Schedule

Keeping track of your puppy’s vaccinations doesn’t have to be painful. When you adopt or purchase your pet, ask for a copy of the dog’s vaccination records to keep on hand. Use it to mark your calendars when it’s time to get your best friend their booster shots. Your vet will also likely have a system in place set up to remind you of yearly shots and appointments.

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider getting a MetLife dog insurance policy while they’re young to potentially save thousands of dollars over their lifetime.¹,² Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance, winner of the “Pet Insurance of the Year” Award in the 2022 Pet Independent Innovation Awards Program.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

Vaccinations, American Veterinary Medical Association

Vaccinations for Your Pet, ASPCA

Your Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations, American Kennel Club, September 2021

Dog and Puppy Vaccinations: Schedule and Costs, PetFinder

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