Skip to main content

By T. J. Dunn, Jr. DVM

The first few months in a dog’s life are his most formative. He’s meeting his human family for the first time and learning how to interact with the world around him. But just as important are the steps you take to address his physical health through vaccination.

While some vaccines are required by all dogs, others are more specific to your dog’s lifestyle and the area in which you live. Find out which shots your puppy should receive, how much vaccinations cost, what a standard puppy vaccination schedule looks like, and why vaccinations are so important for your dog.

When Should I Vaccinate My Puppy?

It’s best to get your puppy examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. During the examination, your veterinarian will look at your dog’s medical and vaccination history. If the breeder or shelter has recently vaccinated your puppy and your veterinarian is confident that it was done properly, a schedule for follow-up vaccinations will be made based on your pup’s particular needs.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), puppies should be vaccinated every two to four weeks between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks with the final puppy vaccines given no earlier than 16 weeks of age. All puppies should receive the core vaccines of canine distemper, adenovirus 2, canine parvovirus, parainfluenza virus, and rabies virus.

“During this critical time, maternal antibody from the mother can interfere with a long-term immune response, so the idea is to keep boosting until the pet's immune system is capable of creating its own long-term protection,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, San Diego veterinarian and author of All Dogs Go to Kevin.

Other vaccines that are considered to be non-core or optional—for example Bordetella, Lyme disease, and leptospirosis—should be administered based on what you decide with your vet, says Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian in New York City. Important factors include your dog’s lifestyle, breed risk factors, and where you live.

“Kennel cough is good for breeds that have flat faces, who are more at risk for serious infections like pneumonia,” Lippman says, and also for dogs who have a lot of contact with other dogs. “Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection carried in the urine of mammals that dogs contract if they come in contact with standing water that an infected animal has peed in. That, along with Lyme disease, is a vaccination that’s good for dogs who might spend a lot of time outdoors.”

What Are Multivalent Vaccines for Puppies?

A multivalent vaccination contains different vaccine antigens in a single dose, which means it will vaccinate against more than one microorganism or two or more strains of the same microorganism, Vogelsang says.

Multivalent vaccinations are given for convenience, so that your puppy doesn’t need to be poked repeatedly, and are used by a majority of vets. A common multivalent vaccine that is recommended by the AAHA is DA2P, which vaccinates for canine distemper, adenovirus 2 (which also protects against adenovirus 1 that can cause canine hepatitis), and canine parvovirus. This vaccination may also be given as DA2PP, which vaccinates for all of the above in addition to parainfluenza, according to Emmy Award-winning veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber.

Some of these combination-vaccines can include “L” for leptospirosis, which is a non-core vaccine, according to the AAHA, and should be administered based on the risk of exposure in each dog, says AAHA senior communications manager Kate Wessels. Canine coronavirus also used to be part of some combination-vaccines, but veterinarians no longer recommend it. Multivalent products are safe when produced by a manufacturer, but multiple vaccines shouldn’t be mixed in one syringe unless specified on the label, Wessels adds.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule at a Glance

The following is an example of a vaccination schedule that could be a good starting point for many dogs, although you should work with your veterinarian to establish something more specific to your pup’s needs. Keep in mind that other vaccines (e.g., canine influenza or rattlesnake venom) may be recommended for some individuals.



7 weeks      


If needed: Intranasal Bordetella (kennel cough)

10 weeks    


If needed: Lyme disease, leptospirosis

13 weeks


If needed: Lyme disease, leptospirosis

16 weeks    

DA2PP, rabies

1 year later    

DA2PP, rabies

If needed: Bordetella, Lyme disease, leptospirosis


Are Vaccinations Safe for my Puppy?

Core vaccinations like DA2PP and the rabies vaccine are considered safe for the vast majority of puppies, Vogelsang says. For these diseases, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh their risks, and all dogs should have them as they protect against very serious diseases. Noncore vaccines are also very safe, but if your pet has little chance of coming in contact with the disease, there is probably little need for the vaccine.

“Since the original canine vaccines were developed and licensed over 50 years ago, there has been continuing effort to make them safer and more efficacious,” Wessels says. “Today, it is generally agreed that canine vaccines have an excellent safety record.”

However, vaccines are biologic products and can cause adverse reactions and unpredictable side effects in dogs, regardless of age. Most reactions are minor, however, and easily managed, Vogelsang says.

Regardless of his age, if your dog is sick, vaccinations may not be recommended during his veterinary visit, Werber says. The idea of a vaccine is to stimulate antibody production from a healthy immune system, so if that is compromised, the vaccine may not only be ineffective, but harmful as well, he adds.

How Much do Puppy Vaccines Cost?

The cost of shots for your puppy will vary greatly from place to place and what exactly your veterinarian is vaccinating your puppy for. According to Vogelsang, vaccinations can also be combined with other important puppy preventative care, such as a physical examination and deworming, which can impact the cost of your vet visit.

“In our area, vaccine prices can range anywhere from $10 to $25, depending on where, and by whom they are administered,” says Werber. “Some of the specialized vaccines, like Lyme disease, rattlesnake, and the multivalent leptospirosis vaccines may be as high as $35 to $45.”

Can I Skip Any Vaccinations for My Puppy?

Puppy vaccinations should be administered on a veterinarian-recommended schedule and none in the core series should be skipped, Wessels says. The shots give as a part of this series are to prevent diseases that can be deadly to puppies or cause significant illness, which is why it’s important to follow the advice of your veterinarian when it comes to your puppy’s vaccination schedule. Maternal antibodies disappear by the age of 14 to 16 weeks, and the reason for the series is to give the puppy protection for each disease as the maternal antibodies weaken and disappear, she adds.

If you have concerns about the safety of any particular vaccine, or if your puppy has an allergic reaction to a vaccine, you should talk to your veterinarian about the risks and benefits associated with that particular shot for your puppy and decide where to go from there, Vogelsang says.

“People are understandably confused about vaccines, because there are so many out there,” she says. “There are many factors that come into play…and it’s imperative to take each individual into account when making those recommendations. Not all vaccines are created equal, and not all of them are as effective as the core vaccines or protect against diseases that are as widespread and severe.”

For adult dogs, if you have concerns about routine booster shot administration, you can request that your vet complete a titer test to measure for existing antibodies, Weber says. If the level of antibody is protective, that vaccine can be safely skipped. Vaccine titer tests are available for canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus, and rabies virus, although rabies vaccine titers may not be recognized by law in lieu of a current vaccination status.

Additional writing and reporting for this article provided by Jessica Remitz and John Gilpatrick.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?