Dog and puppy vaccines 101

April 16, 2024 - 7 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
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?

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.

For instance, 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.

Even if your dog does get sick, vaccines help. Which brings us to the next point...

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Vaccines minimize the impact of an illness

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 for dogs 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 dog 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 absolutely necessary?

What vaccines do dogs need? It depends.

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 the 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 core vaccines do puppies need?

Puppies require several core vaccines to protect against common and potentially serious diseases. These typically include:

  • Distemper

  • Parvovirus

  • Canine adenovirus (hepatitis)

  • Rabies

Additionally, depending on factors such as geographic location and lifestyle, puppies may also need vaccines for diseases like leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and Bordetella (kennel cough). It's essential to consult with a veterinarian to develop a vaccination schedule tailored to your puppy's specific needs.

How much do puppy vaccinations cost?

The cost of puppy vaccinations can vary depending on factors such as the specific vaccines administered, the veterinarian's fees, and any additional services provided during the appointment.

On average, the initial round of puppy vaccinations, which typically includes a series of shots given over several weeks, can range from $75 to $200 or more.

Additionally, there may be costs for a wellness exam, consultation fees, or optional vaccinations. It's best to consult with your veterinarian to get an accurate estimate based on your puppy's individual needs.

What is the puppy vaccination schedule?

The puppy vaccination schedule is a crucial aspect of ensuring your young canine companion receives the necessary protection against infectious diseases while their immune system is still developing.

Here's an expanded look at the typical vaccination schedule for puppies:

Initial Vaccines (6–8 Weeks Old):

At around 6–8 weeks of age, puppies receive their first round of vaccinations, which usually include core vaccines such as distemper, parvovirus, and adenovirus (hepatitis). These initial vaccinations help kickstart the puppy's immune response and provide protection against common viral diseases.

Boosters (10–12 weeks old):

Puppies typically receive booster shots for core vaccines at 10–12 weeks of age to reinforce their immunity. Boosters are essential for ensuring adequate protection against diseases and helping to establish long-lasting immunity.

Rabies vaccination (12–16 weeks old):

Between 12 and 16 weeks of age, puppies receive their first rabies vaccination, which is required by law in many regions. Rabies is a fatal disease that can affect both animals and humans, so timely vaccination is crucial for preventing its spread.

Additional boosters (14–16 weeks old):

Additional booster shots for core vaccines may be administered at 14–16 weeks of age to further strengthen the puppy's immune system. These boosters help ensure that the puppy develops robust and lasting immunity against infectious diseases.

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

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 likely need to get re-vaccinated 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.

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.)

The bottom line

Understanding the importance of vaccinations and staying informed about the appropriate vaccine schedule for your dog is essential for their overall health and well-being. By following the recommended vaccination guidelines and working closely with your veterinarian, you can ensure that your furry friend receives the necessary protection against preventable diseases.

Regular veterinary check-ups, including annual wellness exams, provide an opportunity to assess your dog's vaccination status and make any necessary updates based on changes in their lifestyle or exposure risks. Additionally, maintaining accurate vaccination records is crucial for ensuring that your dog remains up-to-date on their immunizations.

Remember that vaccination is not only about protecting your pet but also about contributing to community health by preventing the spread of infectious diseases. By vaccinating your dog, you not only safeguard their health but also help protect other pets in your community.

Ultimately, vaccination is a vital component of responsible pet ownership and plays a significant role in keeping dogs healthy and happy. By prioritizing your dog's vaccinations and staying proactive about their healthcare needs, you can enjoy many years of companionship and cherished memories with your beloved canine companion.

Pet parents wishing to supplement their accident and illness policy with preventative care can consider the ManyPets dog and cat Wellness Plans, which compensate you for preventative care. You won't need to forgo normal care to save money if you have a wellness plan.

*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.