What Kind of Shots Does My Puppy Need?

Puppy vaccinations protect against a number of communicable diseases.
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Protecting your pup against disease is as important as nourishing his body with quality food and training him for good behavior. Newborns enter the world with some immunity passed along from Mom, but this brief bridge of protection then segues into the standard set of vaccines recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force.

Core Vaccines

Whether transmitted by air or contact, canine diseases that have a higher exposure risk, are more life-threatening or can be contracted by people are prevented by the core vaccines. Distemper, canine parvovirus, canine hepatitis and rabies are the four primary diseases protected against by this series of core shots; in most areas of the U.S., rabies shots are required by law.

Non-Core Vaccines

If your pup accompanies you on errands, spends time at the dog park, stays at a boarding kennel, swims in stagnant water or visits with neighborhood canine buddies, his exposure risk to other diseases increases exponentially. Depending on your dog's habits and the risk where you live, he may also need some non-core vaccines to protect against such diseases as Bordetella (kennel cough), Lyme disease and Leptospira infection.

Single versus Separate Dose

Veterinarians typically administer puppy shots by combining several vaccines into a single injection. Because immune system strength varies from one dog to the next, you may choose to have your vet administer one vaccination at a time so as not to overtax your pup's system. Adverse reaction such as respiratory distress, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, seizure or irritation at the shot site are indications his body may need time between shots.


After your dog gets the puppy series at 6, 9 and 12 weeks, standard protocol has historically been to maintain immunity with annual boosters. This practice has come under considerable scrutiny, however, by laypersons and industry experts alike who argue that such over-vaccination is not only unwarranted but actually harmful to dogs' health. Vaccine serum levels that remain in the body after a year's time vary from dog to dog and, according to "The Whole Dog Journal," call for titer blood tests to determine if booster shots are even necessary. This approach reflects revised protocol guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which recommends booster shots no sooner than every three years in most cases.