July 28, 2022
Based on an article that first appeared at

August is National Pet Immunization Month, offering us a chance to address a critical opportunity for optimal wellness. We all want our four-legged family members to live the longest, healthiest life possible, and one of the best ways to ensure that is to vaccinate them against common diseases. While you should discuss the pros and cons of every vaccine with your veterinarian, they offer the best protection by helping your dog's immune system fight diseases that could otherwise impact their health and longevity. Following are the core and non-core vaccines recommended for dogs for discussion with your veterinarian.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines for dogs are vital to their health based on their exposure risk, the disease's severity, and if it is transmissible to humans. Some core vaccines, such as rabies, are mandated by law, and individual municipalities must receive proof of vaccination to license a dog.

Core vaccines include:

Distemper

The canine distemper dog shot protects against a debilitating virus affecting the lymphoid tissues and the dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Early symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, discharge from the nose and eyes, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, with additional symptoms of twitching, seizures, blindness, and paralysis appearing as it progresses. Distemper spreads through aerosol droplets, bodily fluids, and feces. Puppies should have an initial vaccine series, then a booster after one year, followed by boosters every three years for the duration of the dog’s life.

The distemper vaccine is often abbreviated as DA2PP because it protects against four diseases—Distemper (D), Hepatitis (A2), Parainfluenza (P), and Parvovirus (P). Read on for additional details about these canine diseases and learn more about canine distemper from the AVMA.

Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is highly contagious, with unvaccinated dogs and puppies under four months old at the most significant risk. Parvovirus affects a dog's intestinal tract, leading to lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and hypothermia. It's spread from dog-to-dog contact and contaminated surfaces. The parvovirus vaccine is given to puppies at 8-16 weeks, followed by boosters at one year and then every three years.

Hepatitis

Canine hepatitis, caused by an adenovirus, is a highly contagious virus that can lead to liver inflammation and impact multiple organs, including the lungs, gastrointestinal system, kidneys, and central nervous system. It spreads through exposure to the bodily fluids of infected animals, such as urine, saliva, and feces. Symptoms include fever, nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, eye redness, difficulty breathing, lethargy, loss of appetite, bruising, yellowing skin, and seizures. Puppies should receive their first hepatitis vaccination at 6-8 weeks old, followed by booster vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until they are four months old. Adult dogs need a booster at one year and then every three years.

Rabies

Rabies is a serious and fatal virus that attacks the central nervous system, leading to headaches, hallucinations, excessive drooling, and paralysis. Many U.S. states require rabies vaccinations due to the severity and transmission of the disease. Puppies should be vaccinated against rabies at approximately 14-16 weeks, then again at one year, and re-vaccinated every 1-3 years for life.

Non-Core Vaccines

We administer non-core vaccines for dogs depending on your dog's exposure risk. For example, if they are often around other dogs, attend dog daycare, or you board them frequently, your veterinarian will recommend specific non-core vaccines to protect your dog against transmissible diseases from other dogs.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella – Administered every 6-12 months based on your dog's exposure risk to kennel cough
  • Borrelia Burgdorferi – An option for dogs eight weeks of age and older to protect against Lyme disease
  • Leptospira Bacteria – Administered by 12 weeks, with a booster 2-4 weeks later and annually after that to protect against Leptospirosis bacterial disease
  • Canine Influenza – Administered around 6 months with a booster in 2 weeks and then annually after that to protect against dog flu

For first-time puppy owners, the American Kennel Club provides a detailed schedule of vaccinations and the protection each one offers. While the vaccination schedule might seem inconvenient or excessive, these immunizations provide lasting protection against diseases that could lead to unnecessary suffering for your dog. Be sure to also check with your state regarding required vaccinations for your dog.

Although the upcoming National Pet Immunization Month is an excellent opportunity to remind you of the importance of pet vaccinations, there's never a wrong time to discuss this critical preventive care component with your veterinarian. Contact us to learn more about core and non-core vaccinations.