A complete guide to puppy vaccinations in the UK

12 December 2023 - 6 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS on 12 December 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Puppy getting an injection

Becoming a puppy parent is a joyful experience but it also comes with a list of essential pet care duties, including getting your furry friend vaccinated to protect their health. Vaccinations are a key part of proactive pet care, and critical to safeguarding against a range of infectious diseases that could severely affect your puppy and other animals. 

To help you get to grips with your puppy’s vaccination requirements, we’ve put together a simple guide, including which vaccinations you might need to get, and what your puppy’s vaccination schedule might look like. 

Why do puppies need vaccines?

Vaccinations are designed to protect against specific diseases, and are administered as part of a preventative care strategy

It’s important to remember that vaccinations do not prevent exposure to an infectious disease.

In administering a vaccine, the hope is to help your puppy fight off infection. For example, if your pup’s immune system were to be challenged by one of these invading diseases, a vaccine would potentially help them mount an immune response sufficient to protect them from developing a serious illness or symptoms. Vaccine effectiveness wanes over time which is why it’s important to get your puppy’s vaccines boosted as it grows into a dog.

Vaccines are intended to protect against disease, but they’re also a way to give yourself peace of mind that your dog is happy and healthy, and can play and explore the world safely. In short, not only does vaccination help protect your own pup, but it helps protect other dogs as well.

What vaccines do puppies need? (Core vs non-core)

Your vet will help you decide what vaccinations are appropriate for your puppy based on things like its age, lifestyle, and risk factors. That being said, there are a few common vaccinations that most puppies will receive because of the highly infectious nature of the disease and the severity of symptoms caused. These include:

CORE VACCINES:

Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

Parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that can lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms in addition to impacting the immune system. The virus is especially severe for puppies and can be fatal without prompt treatment. Vaccination is the best defence against parvovirus.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

Distemper is a serious disease that affects dogs’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The disease is often fatal but many dogs that survive do so with permanent neurological damage. There is no cure for distemper, making vaccination (and boosters) critical.

Canine Adenovirus Type 1 and Type 2 (CAV-1, CAV-2)

CAV-1 is the virus responsible for infectious canine hepatitis, which can cause liver failure. CAV-2 is associated with respiratory infections and is one of the causes of kennel cough. Adenovirus vaccines often cover both variants of the virus due to their similarities and it’s important to have your dog vaccinated regularly to prevent infection. 

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects both dogs and humans. Spread through the urine of infected animals, leptospirosis bacteria can lead to kidney and liver damage. Dogs may be at higher risk of leptospirosis if they are regularly exposed to a variety of mammals (like wildlife) or to standing water, or if they live on a farm. Several vaccinations are available to protect against different leptospirosis bacteria and boosters are given annually.. 

NON CORE VACCINES (may be offered or recommended based on risk level)

Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPiV)

Parainfluenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease and a common cause of kennel cough. While CPiV isn’t typically life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable for dogs, and can lead to more severe complications, especially for puppies. You can protect your dog or puppy against CPiV with an annual vaccination. 

Rabies

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system. All mammals, including humans, are at risk of contracting rabies if bitten by an infected animal. Vaccination is the best way to protect your dog or puppy against rabies, and rabies vaccination is often required by law. For those living in the UK which is still considered rabies “free”, rabies vaccinations are only required for pets travelling to and from other countries. By contrast, in places like the US, rabies vaccination may be compulsory by law due to the fatal nature of the virus.

Kennel Cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica)

Kennel cough is a term for infectious tracheobronchitis, a highly contagious respiratory disease that affects dogs. The best way to prevent kennel cough is by getting your dog vaccinated every 12 months. Vaccination is especially important for dogs that socialise a lot, including those that attend daycare, boarding, training classes, groomers, or dog parks. 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease in dogs causes fever, loss of appetite, lameness, stiffness, and joint swelling, and can eventually lead to kidney failure. Spread by ticks, Lyme disease only causes symptoms in 5% to 10% of infected dogs - so you might not realise your dog has it. In areas where Lyme disease is abundant, you should explore with your vet how appropriate it would be to give you dog a Lyme vaccine: while they can be helpful in certain cases, Lyme vaccines do have a higher incidence of vaccine reactions, and do not appear to be as effective as other commonly-given core vaccinations (such as parvovirus). Effective and appropriate tick prevention strategies are the best way to decrease the chance that your pup acquires Lyme disease.

Leishmania

Leishmania is a parasite that can cause the disease Leishmaniasis in dogs - with symptoms that include weight loss, lethargy, skin lesions, and kidney failure. The parasite is spread by sandflies, which are not native to the UK but that are a danger to dogs that travel overseas. The best ways to decrease the likelihood of acquiring the disease is to get the Leishmania vaccine for your dog before you travel, and to use pet safe sandfly repellent (to hopefully avoid a bite in the first place). This is something your vet can provide guidance on.

How much are puppy vaccinations?

The cost of your puppy’s vaccination will vary depending on a number of factors, including your puppy’s vaccine schedule (including booster shots), and the category of vaccination they are getting. There are two types of puppy vaccine: 

  • Core vaccines: Recommended for all puppies

  • Non-core vaccines: Recommended based on a puppy’s risk of disease

First 12 months puppy vaccination schedule: core and non-core

Always consult a vet to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your puppy. Your vet will be able to make recommendations based on your puppy's specific needs and risks. You should also be aware of when to get vaccine booster shots for your puppy in order to maintain their immunity over the course of their life:

Vaccine Core/non-core Initial vaccination age Booster schedule Average vaccine cost*
Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus (DAP) Core First dose: 6 - 8 weeks Second dose: 4 weeks later First booster 1 year after initial series, then every 3 years £30 - £60
Kennel Cough (bordetella) +/- parainfluenza Non-core From 6 - 8 weeks Annual, although can be given every 6 months for high risk pets £30 - £60
Leptospirosis Core From 6 - 8 weeks for first dose Booster 2 - 4 weeks later depending on vaccine type (ideally 2nd booster given from10 weeks of age, but varies by product type) Annual £40 - £60
Rabies Non-core for UK pets (core outside the UK) From 12 weeks First booster given 1 year after initial vaccination, then every 1-3 years based on product type £40 - £80
Lyme Disease Non-core From12 weeks Booster 2 weeks later Annual £30 - £60
Leishmania Non-core From 24 weeks Annual £80 - £90

*Costs may vary significantly between different veterinary practices, based on a range of factors. 

Investing in your puppy's health

While they come at a financial cost, vaccinations are a critical investment in your puppy's health and future, and are far less expensive than treating the diseases they prevent. Many veterinary practices offer packages that include a series of essential vaccinations and health checks, which can offer collective savings.

Giving your puppy the best start

Vaccinations lay the groundwork for your puppy's health, enabling them to play, socialise, and explore the world safely. By following the recommended vaccination schedule, and keeping up with annual boosters, you’ll be able to give your puppy the best possible start in life, and ensure that it grows into a joyful, thriving member of your family. 

And for other medical issues, why not consider puppy insurance? A puppy insurance plan can help you manage the cost of any unexpected trips to the vet, and offers peace of mind that your pup will get the treatment it needs for accidents, injuries, and illnesses, when it needs it.


Lewis Martins
Communities marketer

Lewis has worked in pet health since 2017. Before joining ManyPets in 2021, he led content production at VetForum and PetsApp. Lewis has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest vet groups and suppliers to write educational articles for vets and pet parents. His Instagram feed is 60% dogs, 40% cats.