Dog and puppy vaccines 101

December 16, 2022 - 4 min read
three dogs sitting on a wooden platform and looking sad

Dog flu? Yeah, it’s a thing – and it’s currently on the rise in the US.

While your puppy may seem invincible right now (or at least believe he’s invincible, based on the fact that he just tried to eat a sock), the threat of illness lurks.

There’s no natural way to avoid canine illness forever if you plan on raising a well-balanced and socialized pet. But you can navigate the risk of developing more severe diseases with a straightforward tool: vaccinations.

But which vaccines are the most important, and how do you know those shots are worth the money? Plus, if your dog still gets sick, what’s the point?

So many questions. We’ve got answers.

Are Vaccines for Dogs Important?

Spend More on Vaccines to Spend Less on Treatments

It doesn’t always feel impactful to pay for things that might happen. But if you’re holding off on vaccinating your dog due to the cost, you should know it will likely cost a lot more to treat them after they get sick. And not just financially, sadly. Many unvaccinated pets will lose their lives.

As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, a 2014 study conducted by the University of California, Davis found the following:

  • Dogs who contracted leptospirosis, which attacks the kidneys and liver, were hospitalized for an average of 11 days and racked up a treatment bill of more than $5,000.

  • Treatment of parvovirus can cost up to $2,500. The fatality rate for dogs acquiring parvovirus who are unvaccinated, improperly vaccinated, or have lapsed vaccination is 90% when untreated.

  • Without a rabies vaccination, dogs are susceptible to a viral disease that has no cure, can’t be treated with medication, and is essentially always fatal.

Minimize the Impact of An Illness on Every Dog

Have you ever gotten the flu shot only to get the flu a week later? Not fun. But the impact on your body was likely weaker than it could have been if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

It’s the same for dogs! While there’s a chance your dog could still contract an illness even while fully vaccinated, vaccines can minimize the time and impact of that illness. It could turn a mildly concerning sickness into a treatable outpatient visit rather than a life-threatening event.

It also helps protect other dogs in your community — think of adorable, defenseless puppies who haven’t had their boosters.

In Some Cases, Vaccines Are the Law

Have you ever shown up at a local doggy daycare or groomer and been asked for proof of vaccinations? Well, it may not be the law for your pet to have their DA2PP vaccinations up to date (for now), but it’s the law for your dog to have the rabies vaccine in most parts of the US.

How Much Do Vaccinations Cost?

Again, you’ll likely spend far less on vaccines than on treatments for illnesses. But there’s still an upfront cost to plan for! We have an entire post about the cost of vaccinations — but for a more general overview, we break down average costs below.

Which Dog Vaccines Are Actually Necessary?

What vaccines do dogs need? Well, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) break vaccines into “core” and “non-core” or risk-factor-based vaccines.

What Are Core Dog Vaccines, and How Much Do They Cost?

Core vaccines are either legally required (rabies!) or vaccines that every dog should have to minimize the impact of illness, regardless of location or lifestyle.

This will minimize the impact on everyone — particularly those at-risk puppies — not just your dog.

Core Dog Vaccine Protects Against Potential Cost for Vaccine Only, Excluding Exam Fees**
DA2PP* Vaccine Distemper Hepatitis (Adenovirus Type 1) Kennel Cough (Adenovirus Type 2) Parainfluenza (related to Kennel Cough) Parvovirus $32-$41
Rabies Vaccine Rabies $23-27

What are Non-Core Dog Vaccines and How Much Do They Cost?

Non-core vaccines apply to dogs in specific regions or based on specific lifestyle factors.

Enjoy hiking in the desert? Your dog might need a rattlesnake shot. While core vaccines should 100% apply to every dog regardless of region, the WSAVA emphasizes that non-core vaccines should be given only when necessary.

Non-Core Dog Vaccine Protects Against Potential Cost for Vaccine Only, Excluding Exam Fees**
Leptospira Vaccine Leptospirosis (a bacterial infection that spreads through the bloodstream) $20-$30
Rabies Vaccine Rabies $23-$27
Lyme Disease Vaccine Lyme Disease $36-$45
Bordetella Vaccine Kennel Cough $28-$35
Canine Influenza Vaccine (H3N2 and H3N8) H3N2 and H3N8 strains of canine flu $44-$56
Rattlesnake Toxoid Vaccine Death due to a rattlesnake bite $25-$50

Does Pet Insurance Cover Vaccines?

While virtually no pet insurance company covers the cost of vaccines, some companies (including ManyPets) offer Wellness Plans that will. (Get a quick pet insurance quote to see how much your ManyPets insurance + wellness plan might cost.)

Can I Vaccinate My Dog at Home?

Technically, you could vaccinate your dog at home if you can acquire the vaccines, but…should you?

For one thing, the quality of the vaccine is essential. Even if you receive a vaccine from a trusted source, you may have an expired dose. Additionally, you could easily under or over-vaccinate your dog if you don’t talk to your vet about your lifestyle and illnesses cropping up in your community.

Vaccinations are one thing you’ll want to leave to your vet and vet techs. Everyone loves saving money — but it’s quite a bit safer to do it with a wellness-and-insurance pet health plan.

How Often Do Dogs Need Vaccines?

It depends! After your pup gets their booster series, they’ll need to get revaccinated every 1-3 years based on the type of vaccines given, your lifestyle, and your location.

The AAHA has developed a basic vaccination schedule that many vets turn to. You can download the PDF and read it yourself to impress your vet.

The best course of action, as always, is to talk with your vet to determine the best protection for your pup.

*Instead of DA2PP, you might see “DHPP” or “DAPP” listed on your vet’s bill. All of these are different variations of vaccines that cover the same viruses, with one exception – DHPP and DAPP may not cover Adenovirus Type 2. Talk with your vet to see which one they typically apply.

**Potential costs of dog vaccines are based on a combination of Banfield Price Estimator’s data from the 25 most populated cities in the United States. They are subject to change at any time.


Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.