Dog Vaccinations

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Vaccination is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and recommendations depend on a dog's age, lifestyle and overall health. The best person to determine which vaccines are necessary is a veterinarian who is familiar with your dog and the incidence of canine diseases in your part of the country.

"Determining when to vaccinate a dog is almost as confusing as deciding what to vaccinate him against, but some general rules do apply."

That said, American Animal Hospital Association guidelines are available to help make sure that dogs get the vaccines they need but are not over-vaccinated. The following is a summary of which canine diseases have commonly available vaccines and the dogs that should routinely receive them. If your pet has had a severe adverse reaction to a particular vaccine, is ill or very aged, or has an out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle your veterinarian may alter his or her recommendations accordingly.

All dogs should be vaccinated against:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus (also called hepatitis)
  • Parvovirus

All dogs except those that have virtually no contact with other dogs should also receive vaccines for:

  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (a common cause of Kennel Cough)

If you live in or are planning to travel to an area where these diseases are a problem, your vet may recommend vaccinating against:

Other vaccines are available but should only be considered under special circumstances.

Often, protection against several diseases is offered in a single inoculation. For example, a DAPP vaccine protects against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and parainfluenza. Some of these combination vaccines can be referred to in a confusing manner. For example, when someone talks about the "distemper" vaccine he or she might actually be referring to a DAPP combo vaccine, and a "kennel cough" vaccine could include Bordetella bronchiseptica with or without parainfluenza.

Dog Vaccination Schedules


Determining when to vaccinate a dog is almost as confusing as deciding what to vaccinate him against, but some general rules do apply. Puppies usually need their first vaccines at about seven to eight weeks of age and then should return to the veterinarian's office for boosters every three weeks for a total of three or four visits. Most puppies need at least three DAPP vaccines, two Bordetella vaccines, and one rabies vaccine during these visits to be protected for a full year.

The next vaccine visit should occur approximately one year after the last puppy shots were given. During this appointment your dog will usually receive boosters for all the vaccines that he received as a puppy, unless his risk factors have changed. From this point on, some vaccines can be boosted every three years (e.g., rabies and DAPP in many parts of the country) while others like Bordetella may require annual revaccination. In fact, dogs at extremely high risk for Bordetella may even need to be revaccinated every 6 months.

If you adopt an adult dog with an unknown vaccination history, he should see the veterinarian two times, three to four weeks apart for his initial vaccines and boosters. Then, he can continue with the regular adult dog revaccination schedule. Regardless of their vaccine needs, all dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year.

Vaccine titers are an option for some adult dogs in lieu of routine booster vaccines. Your veterinarian can draw a small blood sample and send it to the lab to evaluate your dog's antibody levels against a particular disease. If your dog's levels are high enough, he probably has enough immunity to protect him from the disease in question, and revaccination may not be necessary.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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