Puppy Shots 101: The Complete Guide to Your New Dog's First-Year Vaccinations

Puppy Shots 101: The Complete Guide to Your New Dog's First-Year Vaccinations

Because there are so many different dog diseases, it is hard to know which vaccinations our puppies need and which ones are optional. In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we give an overview of common canine diseases. We also provide a first-year puppy shot schedule and discuss the prices of core and non-core vaccinations.

When Mike and I (Steph) brought our adorable 4.5 lb dachshund puppy home in late 2015, we knew he would depend on us for everything. We gave him the best fresh dog food, puppy obedience training, high-quality toys, early socialization, and essential puppy shots.

Because there are so many different dog diseases, it is hard to know which vaccinations our puppies need and which ones are optional. In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we give an overview of common canine diseases. We also provide a first-year puppy shot schedule and discuss the prices of core and non-core vaccinations. 




There are four core vaccines for dogs: canine distemper, canine hepatitis, canine parvovirus, and rabies. Here is a detailed overview of each of the four canine diseases.


Canine distemper is an incurable viral disease that attacks the central nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems of dogs and other animals like foxes and skunks. It can be spread through direct contact (coughing, licking, sneezing, etc.) or indirect contact (food bowls, pet travel carriers, toys, etc.). Pregnant dogs can also pass it to their unborn puppies through their placentas.

Canine distemper can cause pus-like nasal and eye discharge, coughing and sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea, and a lack of appetite and energy. In severe cases, it causes muscle twitching, chewing gum fits, partial paralysis, and seizures. Because canine distemper causes dogs’ paw pads to thicken and harden, it is also known as “hard pad disease”. Treatment includes intensive nursing care, IV fluids, antibiotics, and anti-seizure meds. With a mortality rate of 80% in puppies and 50% in adult dogs, infected dogs can shed the distemper virus for 4 months. It can be killed by most disinfectants and cannot live for more than 3 hours at room temperature.


Canine hepatitis is not related to hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C that causes liver failure in humans. It is an incurable viral infection that targets the eyes, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and blood vessels of the infected dog. Symptoms range from abdominal pain and a periodic fever to brain inflammation, abdominal fluid, blood vessel collapse, and corneal ulceration. There is no cure, but more than 70% of dogs with mild hepatitis recover within 10-14 days. Though canine hepatitis remains in the kidneys and is shed in urine for 6-9 months.


Canine Parvovirus is an infectious disease that affects all dogs. It is caused by three different types of canine parvovirus (i.e., CPV-2a, CPV-2b, and CPV-2c). CPV-2b is the most common strain of parvovirus in the U.S., and it has been linked to the worst forms of the disease. Unneutered male adult dogs and puppies less than 4 months old are most susceptible to canine parvovirus. The virus breaks down tiny, fingerlike projections called villi in the small intestine that help absorbs nutrients. That lets gut bacteria leak into the bloodstream and creates abdominal pain, poor appetite, vomiting, and often explosive sickly-sweet-smelling diarrhea.

Infected dogs may also have a heart attack, heart failure, or blood poisoning. Most parvovirus deaths occur within 48-72 hours and are caused by extreme dehydration. Like canine distemper and canine hepatitis, there is no cure. But nearly 87% of dogs that have round-the-clock nursing care survive. 


Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch and changes in temperament. Aggressive dogs become friendlier while shy dogs become agitated and hyperactive. Infected dogs may eat stones, earth, and trash before their jaw and throat muscles are completely paralyzed. Dogs can get rabies if they are bitten by a rabid wild animal. They can also contract the deadly virus if infected spit touches their mouth, nose, and eyes, or broken skin. In the United States, bats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies. Like most of the conditions listed here, there is no cure. It has a mortality rate of 86%. According to a 2019 study, an up-to-date rabies vaccination increases the survival rate to 99.9%.

All states (except for Hawaii) require regular rabies boosters to be given every 1-3 years. Learn about your state’s rabies vaccination laws and requirements here.


Non-core vaccines include canine leptospirosis, kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica), Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), dog flu (canine influenza), canine parainfluenza, canine coronavirus, and rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox toxoid). 

The DHPP vaccine is a core vaccine and includes the parainfluenza vaccine (see our puppy vaccination schedule below). Keep in mind that there is not a vaccine for canine heartworms.


Unlike most of the common canine diseases listed here, leptospirosis is caused by spiral-shaped bacteria called Leptospira.  Dogs can get leptospirosis when contaminated soil, water, or animal urine gets into their mouth, nose, eyes, or broken skin.  Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can jump from dogs to humans.

Hunting and sporting dogs that live near wooded areas or farms are most commonly affected. Dogs that spend time in pet boarding kennels are also much more at risk of leptospirosis. Symptoms include sudden fever, spontaneous coughing, bloody vomiting and diarrhea, stiff and sore muscles, and yellowing skin and/or whites of eyes. Infected dogs may have increased thirst and urination (with or without kidney or failure). Antibiotics like penicillin are very effective in treating leptospirosis, and the sooner they are started, the better.


This highly infectious, rod-shaped bacteria causes kennel cough in dogs. Common clinical signs include a dry, honking cough, retching and gagging, runny nose and eyes, swollen lymph nodes, a loss of appetite, and depressed behavior.  Kennel cough is transmitted when an infected dog barks, sneezes, coughs, or sheds skin. It can also be passed on by sharing bedding, food and water bowls, dog apparel, pet carriers, and toys.

Rescue dogs, senior dogs, adult dogs with weakened immune systems, and puppies under 6 months old have an increased risk of infection. Brachycephalic dog breeds are also at greater risk of kennel cough because they have extra tissue at the back of their mouths that traps viruses. Boarding kennels, doggy daycare, dog shows, dog parks, and dog training classes usually require dogs to have the Bordetella vaccine. Injectable, nasal, and oral Bordetella vaccines are available. 


Unlike the trademark “bull’s-eye” rash that develops in 80% of people who are bitten by deer ticks, no such telltale sign occurs in dogs. Lyme disease is caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that live in the guts of Western and Eastern black-legged ticks. Infected dogs often walk with an arched back and have lameness that shifts from one leg to another. Other symptoms include a high fever, swollen joints and lymph nodes, reduced energy, and a loss of appetite. In rare cases, Lyme disease can damage the brain, spinal cord, kidneys, and heart. If diagnosed quickly, it can be treated with a four-week course of antibiotics. Though Lyme disease can flare up months or even years later when a dog is stressed or sick. 


Canine influenza, or dog flu, causes human-like flu symptoms like fever, runny nose and eyes, and coughing. It is caused by two different flu strains: H3N2 and H3N8. H3N2 came from Asian birds while H3N8 originated in horses. In 2004, H3N8 jumped from horses to racing Greyhounds in Florida. Just like the human flu, canine influenza is airborne and can stick to objects like food bowls and dog harnesses for up to 72 hours.  Senior dogs and snub-nosed breeds (such as Boxers, Pomeranians, and Lhasa Apsos) are most at risk. While doctors can feed dogs a high-quality diet and keep them hydrated, no drug kills dog flu.


Canine influenza and canine parainfluenza are not the same diseases. Canine parainfluenza is one of seven viruses that give rise to kennel cough. It is frequently paired with adenovirus, bordetella, and pneumonia. Canine parainfluenza suppresses the immune system. It also destroys hair-like structures called cilia that sweep dust and microbes out of the lungs. 

Puppies, immunosuppressed adult dogs, and small dog breeds have a higher chance of contracting the virus. Infected dogs have a dry, harsh cough, a low-grade fever, and runny nose. They may also become lethargic and refuse to eat. Like distemper and bordetella, canine parainfluenza rapidly spreads in environments where large groups of dogs are in close contact. This includes animal shelters, breeders, doggy daycare, groomers, dog parks, and dog shows. 


Canine coronavirus is different from SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 in humans. While a small number of puppies and adult dogs have been infected with COVID-19, they do not transmit the virus to people or other household pets, according to The World Organization for Animal Health. New research suggests that unvaccinated people can give COVID-19 to their dogs. Dogs with COVID-19 often have no symptoms, but in a few cases, they have a high fever, a runny nose, and a mild cough that lasts for more than 7 days.

Canine coronavirus can cause respiratory infections, but it usually attacks dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts. The most common symptoms associated with canine coronavirus are projective white slimy or bloody vomit and explosive yellow-green or orangish diarrhea. While there is not a cure for canine coronavirus, adult dogs generally recover without any medical intervention. Puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems may have prolonged diarrhea and dehydration. They have a higher chance of developing severe inflammation of the small intestine (or canine enteritis).


Unlike other common canine health problems we have covered on DJANGO Dog Blog, heartworm disease does not have a vaccine, but it is preventable with regularly administered heartworm prevention medications like Advantage Multi for Dogs and Heartgard Plus. Puppies can start taking heartworm medications at 6 weeks of age. Puppies that are over 7 months old will need a negative blood test before being put on heartworm prevention medications.

Heartworm disease is caused by blood-borne parasitic roundworms called Dirofilaria immitis. Transmitted by 70 different species of mosquito, heartworms clog the right side of the heart, lungs, pulmonary arteries (that carry blood to the lungs), and surrounding blood vessels. When they clump together and block the eyes and brain, they can also cause blindness, seizures, and lameness. Heartworms are between 4 and 12 inches long and can survive for 5-7 years. 

Puppies under 6 months may not have any symptoms in the early stages of heartworm disease. As heartworm disease progresses, they may develop a soft and dry cough, lose all of their energy, or have no interest in food. Infected dogs also have nosebleeds, frothy blood-streaked mucus, or coffee-colored urine.


According to DVM 360, 150,000 dogs and cats are bitten by venomous snakes each year in the United States. Florida, Georgia, and Texas account for 44% of venomous snakebites. Arizona also has 13 species of rattlesnake, which is more than any other U.S. state. Puppies over 4 months old and adult dogs that camp, hunt, or hike are 20 times more likely to be bitten by poisonous snakes than humans. They are also two times more likely to die if bitten because their blood clots faster.

The rattlesnake vaccine produces antibodies against the venom of copperheads, sidewinders, timber rattlesnakes, and Western diamondback rattlesnakes. But it does not work for coral snakes, cottonmouths, or water moccasins. Vaccinated dogs still need emergency care (such as antivenin, antibiotics, and pain medications) if they are bitten by a poisonous snake.


There is not a universal puppy vaccination schedule that applies to every dog. Factors like what part of the United States you live in and your dog’s lifestyle are important. Most dogs do not need every vaccine on our list. Work with your vet to decide which shots your puppy needs based on his individual risk factors. 

With that in mind, here is a generally accepted schedule for your puppy’s first-year vaccinations.


Puppy Vaccination Schedule (Update/DJANGO Dog Blog)


Vaccination costs will vary depending on demand, where you live, and even the size of your dog. In general, the rabies vaccine costs $15-$20 per shot. The DHPP vaccine costs $20-$40 per shot plus a $40 to $60 exam fee. Non-core vaccines like Lyme and Rattlesnake cost $20-$40. Animal shelters often host free vaccination clinics or charge $10-$15 per shot.  Select veterinary clinics also have a Vaccine for Life Program. Dogs are given free core vaccines boosters for their entire life and a 10% discount on non-core vaccinations.


We hope you found this DJANGO Dog Blog article useful! Have any questions about puppy shot schedules or adult dog vaccinations? Please leave us a comment below because we would love to hear from you!


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