What Shots Does My Dog Need

Table of Contents

  1. Types of Vaccinations
  2. Frequency of Vaccinations

There are many vaccines available for dogs that are usually not very expensive by themselves, although often the exam price is merged with the vaccines which makes them appear more expensive. The most important vaccines across the country are the rabies and DHPP (the distemper and parvo combination). Rabies is required by law in most states, so, unless your vet has a specific medical reason not to, you should get this one. If there is a condition preventing your dog from safely getting vaccines, you can run a “titer”. This is a blood test, which evaluates whether your dog is immune to the rabies virus. This test is expensive and has no legal standing, but it can be helpful in dogs that can not be vaccinated.

Distemper and Parvo are viruses that can be carried into your house on your shoes or other items, so all dogs should be protected. There are vaccines that last one or three years. The choice of which to use is between you and your vet. There are many other canine vaccines including leptospirosis, lymes disease, corona, and giardia. These diseases are only prevalent in certain areas or conditions, and the vaccines are not always extremely effective. Your vet should help you evaluate your dog’s risk and the potential benefits of vaccination for these diseases.

Heartworm prevention is very important in the areas where they are endemic. On average, treating a dog for heartworms costs the same as a lifetime of prevention, so, even though it seems expensive, in the long run it has good value.

Types of Vaccinations

Core Vaccinations–These vaccines are generally recommended for all dogs to protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are found throughout North American and are more easily transmitted. AAHA considers these the core vaccinations:

  • Distemper
  • Hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Rabies

Noncore Vaccines–These vaccines are reserved for dogs at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. AAHA considers the following noncore vaccinations:

  • Kennel cough
  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis

Frequency of Vaccinations






Initial puppy series


1 year

Booster shots











Every 1 or 3 years depending on the area and the length of effectiveness of vaccine



Whenever the risk of disease overrides risk of vaccination

Can be administered up to every 6 months for dogs repeatedly kenneled or exposed to groups of dogs in dog parks, salons, dog shows, etc.

i.e. Kennel cough

Note: Some veterinarians recommend yearly vaccination boosters and feel it is imprudent to change from this regimen.

Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your dog. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your dog’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle. Some adult dogs might receive certain vaccines annually, while other vaccines might be given every 3 years or longer.