Vaccinations are an essential part of a dog’s health program. They serve to protect him from many diseases that otherwise could make him very ill or even kill him. Some vaccinations are recommended for all dogs; these are called core vaccinations. Your vet may recommend others depending on your dog's habits and where you live.
Every dog needs a rabies shot. In most areas of the U.S. this is mandated by law, but even if it isn’t it’s important that your dog be vaccinated against this deadly disease. Dogs who aren’t vaccinated are at risk of contracting rabies from animals such as bats, raccoons and foxes, and once your dog is infected he can give rabies to other animals and even to people. Dogs should get their first vaccination when they are between 3 and 7 months of age and then receive a booster every one to three years.
A combination vaccine protects your dog from multiple diseases at once. One commonly used combination vaccine is the DA2PP, a shot that provides protection against distemper, adenovirus type 2, parvovirus and parainfluenza. A dog should get his first shot by the time he is 8 weeks of age, then a booster every two to four weeks until he’s 4 months old. A year later he needs another booster, and then after that he should get a booster every three years. Check with your vet for the best schedule for your dog, since some recommend annual boosters. In some areas annual rabies boosters are required by law.
Depending on which diseases are prevalent in your area and the likelihood of your dog's being exposed to them, your vet may suggest vaccines in addition to rabies and the DA2PP. If you plan on traveling to other areas let your vet know, since your travel plans may affect which shots your dog should have. Some of the more common vaccines that the vet may recommend are those for hepatitis, Lyme disease, coronavirus, Bordatella (also known as kennel cough, because it's often passed among dogs at boarding facilities) and leptospirosis. These are generally administered at the same time as the combination shot.
Make sure your dog always gets his booster shots as scheduled. Vaccinations may not protect puppies who still have some of their mother’s immunity; a series of shots is necessary later to make sure your puppy is protected when he needs it. These shots also make your pup’s immune system stronger, providing him better protection against disease. Booster shots your dog gets as an adult work to maintain a high level of immunity and to further protect him from disease.