Complete Guide to First-Year Puppy Vaccinations


Why It’s Important to Vaccinate Your Puppy

Vaccines serve an essential role: They boost your pup’s chances of fighting off dangerous diseases and viruses by introducing them to a small amount of the antigens from those viruses. This introduction is done through vaccines.

For example, when you vaccinate your puppy for rabies, they are introduced to some antigens from the actual rabies disease (though in a minuscule amount). This allows your dog’s immune system can recognize these antigens and know how to fight them off in the future.

It’s essential to introduce vaccines to your dog within the first year of life because viruses and diseases can easily prove fatal to young puppies, especially without proper protection. Puppies loWhat Puppy Shots Are Necessary? ve to chew on things, and combined with having a weaker immune system, the chances of getting sick from exposure are much higher.

So, puppies are normally vaccinated against diseases like parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and rabies.

How Often Does My Dog Need to be Vaccinated?

A dog vaccination schedule consists of annual visits for most core vaccines, while some can be boosted every two or three years. Boosters are essential because, after your puppy receives the vaccine, the antibodies decrease slowly with age and maturity.

You’ll also want to be sure that you comply with your state’s laws. California, for example, requires that any dog receive three rabies vaccines within the first five years of life. Learn more about what your state may need for the rabies vaccine.

What Puppy Shots Are Necessary?

A core vaccine is recommended for all pets, no matter their lifestyle, age, or breed. Your puppy will need two core vaccines: DHPPi and the rabies vaccine.

DHPPi is a combined vaccine against canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus type 1 and type 2 (CAV1 and CAV2), canine parvovirus (CPV), and canine parainfluenza virus (CPi).

Veterinarians recommend a non-core vaccine based on the breed, lifestyle, medical history, and age. While it’s a good idea to ensure your puppy is fully protected, always ask your vet which vaccines are necessary at which age.

The most common non-core vaccines protect against Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, and Bordetella (kennel cough).

Core Vaccines

Non-Core Vaccines

  • DHPPi (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza)
  • Rabies
  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis
  • Bordetella

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the essential core and basic non-core vaccines you should schedule for your puppy within the first year of life.

Distemper (CDV)

Distemper is a virus that attacks the nervous system and causes bodily malfunction like seizures, paralysis, muscle twitches, head tilt, and convulsions. It is spread through airborne exposure and can be transmitted by shared food and water bowls, toys, or other equipment.

Distemper is a risk for all dogs, but unvaccinated puppies under four months old are especially susceptible. There is no cure for distemper, so dogs with this disease will require lifetime supportive care.

Hepatitis (CAV1 and CAV2)

Hepatitis Type 1 is an acute contagious disease caused by the canine adenovirus 1 that targets the spleen, kidneys, lungs, blood vessels, and other organs.

It is spread through the urine, saliva, and feces of an infected dog, meaning that any dog that sniffs, licks, or breathes in the same area as an infected dog may contract the virus within four to seven days. It is usually treatable and curable if caught when the disease is still acute. However, Hepatitis Type 2 is not.

Hepatitis Type 2, also called canine chronic hepatitis, is the same virus as Type 1 but has been present for much longer and is more dangerous because it becomes untreatable.

It’s estimated that dogs with chronic hepatitis can survive between 18 to 36 months. If left untreated, the dog may progress to severe chronic hepatitis which projects a shorter survival time and more severe symptoms.

Parvovirus (CPV)

Parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that attacks the intestines so they can’t absorb essential nutrients anymore. It spreads through direct contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments, people, or even objects like furniture, clothing, floors, or bowls.

There is no cure for parvo, but your dog has a near-zero percent chance of ever contracting it — unless they’re around unvaccinated dogs and they remain unvaccinated as well.

Canine Parainfluenza (CPiV)

Canine parainfluenza is a contagious respiratory virus that causes lung infections, leading to lethargy, coughing, sneezing, and worse symptoms if left untreated. It closely resembles the symptoms of canine influenza, but it’s important to note that these are different viruses and require a different vaccine.

It is airborne and can also spread through saliva, so parainfluenza is common among dogs in kennels, daycares, and shelters. However, it can also spread at everyday places like dog parks, vets, groomers, or playtime with other dogs.


Rabies is a viral infection that affects the specific brain receptors that influence an animal’s behavior, usually causing unusually aggressive and violent behaviors. Rabies is transmittable through saliva and is generally passed through a bite wound from an infected animal, like bats, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and skunks.

There is no cure for rabies, and it is usually fatal within just a few days. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to test for an active rabies infection on a live animal, so your puppy must get their rabies vaccination at 12 weeks old.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmittable to humans, dogs, cats, and other animals by the black-legged or deer tick. It spreads through infectious tick bites that are most common in the Northeastern, Upper Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic states of the United States where the species is most common.

The Lyme disease vaccine is recommended for dogs who spend time outdoors, especially those who live in these hotspots.


Leptospirosis is an infectious disease affecting dogs, humans, and other animals. It is carried by raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, deer, rodents, and marsupials and spread through infected animals’ urine via contaminated water, mud, or warm, wet soil.

Although the lepto vaccine is not a required immunization for dogs, most vets will recommend it for dogs that spend any time outside.


Bordetella, also called kennel cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that inflames the throat and lungs that is especially risky for puppies, elders, and immunocompromised dogs.

The name kennel cough comes from how it’s most commonly spread through proximity to other dogs, like in kennels, dog parks, or daycares. It is easily transmittable through coughs (saliva) or sharing contaminated surfaces.

Fortunately, kennel cough is relatively treatable—but can leave room for uncomfortable symptoms, such as lethargy, fever, sneezing, coughing, and more.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule Chart

Vaccination Schedule for Puppies

Puppy’s Age Core Vaccines Non-Core Vaccines Boosters
6 to 8 weeks Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis Bordetella Annually
10 to 12 weeks DHPPi Bordetella, Lyme, lepto Annually
16 to 18 weeks DHPPi, rabies Bordetella, Lyme, lepto Rabies require a booster after 1 year then every 3 years

During your puppy’s first year with you, they will be administered core vaccines in a series of three visits at 6+, 12+, and 16+ weeks old.
You can also ask your vet to add other non-core vaccines that you feel are appropriate for your puppy. For example, if you plan to board your puppy or sign up for doggy daycare, it’s essential to get the bordetella vaccine to protect against kennel cough.

First Round: The first visit should occur around 8 weeks. At this time, puppies can receive the distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis portion of the DHPPi 4-in-1 vaccine.

Second Round: Two to 4 weeks later, at 10 to 12 weeks old, you’ll go back for the second round of vaccines. That visit will include the whole round of DHPPi, with vaccination against distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and parainfluenza.

Third Round: About 4 to 6 weeks later, when your puppy is 16 to 18 weeks old, you’ll go back for one last round of DHPPi and the first dose of the puppy rabies vaccine. You’ll go back every year to get these core and non-core vaccines—except the rabies booster.

Your pup will need a booster a year after the first dose, but after that, your dog will just need it every three years since its effectiveness lasts that long.

A year after your puppy receives the vaccines, you’ll want to set up a schedule with your vet for an adult dog vaccination schedule. As you can see, your pup will need boosters every year or so depending on which dog vaccines they’re receiving.

Initial Puppy Vaccination Costs

As you might already know, bringing a puppy into your life is not cheap.

Not only will you need to consider everything your puppy needs like adoption fees, toys, food, and cleaning accessories, but the three rounds of vaccines during the first few months of your puppy’s life will add up, too.

Of course, the actual cost of these vaccinations will vary depending on where you go: Many low-cost clinics across the United States may offer lower prices. In contrast, many people prefer going to a veterinary clinic that they can visit routinely and establish a relationship, which may cost more.

Here’s a basic idea of how much puppy vaccinations cost on the low, medium, and high end during his first year.

First Year Puppy Vaccination Costs

Low ($) Medium ($$) High ($$$)
DHPPi $120 $250 $380
Rabies $15 $20 $25
Lyme disease $40 $120 $200
Leptospirosis $15 $25 $35
Bordetella $19 $32 $45

These are estimations, but you may also expect to pay these costs annually:

  • Routine vaccinations (like DHPPi): $80 to $250

  • Lyme disease vaccine: $40 to $200

  • Rabies: $15 to $25 per year (and every 3 years after the first)

The good news is that many vets offer combination discounts when you decide to do several vaccines in one visit.

Another great option is signing up for pet insurance or pet packages that offer copays or discounts for each visit. Chain veterinary clinics like Banfield with Petsmart offer affordable wellness plans, including routine visits, emergency visits, and vaccinations.

You can also apply for equivalents to CareCredit, a credit card used on pet emergencies and human ones. No matter what, shop around for vets and find out each one’s pricing policy before making any decisions.

What Are Side Effects of Vaccines?

Since vaccines are a small dose of antigens from dangerous viruses, it’s only normal to expect some symptoms after receiving a vaccine. The symptoms may present as a minor version of those you might experience from the actual illness, similar to why you feel a little sluggish after a flu shot.

In both puppies and adult dogs, some of the most common symptoms of vaccines are:

  • Lethargy

  • Slight fever

  • Mild discomfort

  • Mild swelling

  • Sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge

  • Loss of appetite

In most cases, you don’t have to worry about minor symptoms or reactions in your puppy. These will likely clear after a couple of days. If you’re still worried, ask your vet if your puppy can hang around a little while longer after your puppy has been given shots to look for any potential allergic reactions.

But in the rare event that your puppy is displaying dangerous symptoms like these, you should bring him to the vet immediately:

  • Fainting

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Severe coughing

  • Hives all over the body

  • Swollen muzzle, face, or eyes

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea

As a pet parent, you should always tell your vet if your puppy has had any previous vaccine reactions or notable medical history. Luckily, when you adopt from a reputable breeder, you’ll have your puppy’s entire health history readily available.

Risk Assessment: Are Vaccines Worth It?

Veterinary scientists conduct vaccine risk assessments to test the safety of both old and new formulas. So far, there has been no evidence to suggest that vaccines are anything but beneficial for puppies and dogs. Even if you’re concerned about your puppy’s reactions, serious side effects are infrequent.

It’s always worth vaccinating your puppy because these routine vaccinations will protect them from life-threatening illnesses for their entire life. In fact, the widespread use of vaccinations has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. So when your puppy isn’t vaccinated, you’re putting him at risk of contracting dangerous and fatal diseases.

Aside from the fact that vaccines are proven to be nearly 100% safe for all dogs, most states require these core vaccinations for legal pet ownership. For example, the rabies vaccine is required for all dogs (and most cats) in the United States.

Many doggy daycares, veterinarian clinics, groomers, and even apartments or other housing will ask for proof that your puppy has received the DHPPi 4-in-1 and rabies vaccines before allowing him inside.

Bottom Line

Vaccines are an essential beginning to your journey as a pet owner: Not only do they help prevent your puppy from getting dangerous diseases, but vaccines can save you money in the long run by avoiding costly treatments.

Plus, vaccines help prevent diseases that can be spread between people and animals, meaning you and your family are never at risk.

Your puppy vaccine schedule is important during the first few months of life. Your pup will need core and non-core vaccines which can be administered over three separate visits between 8 and 16 weeks of age:

  • DHPPi, a 4-in-1 vaccine that covers canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus type 1 and type 2 (CAV1 and CAV2), canine parvovirus (CPV), and canine parainfluenza virus (CPi)

  • Rabies

  • Lyme disease

  • Leptospirosis

  • Bordetella

While it’s normal to be concerned about what’s being put in your puppy’s body, rest easy knowing that vaccines are highly effective and very safe. They are tested for years in laboratories before they’re released to the public, and even then, they are continually assessed as time goes on.

One of the best ways to guarantee your puppy’s health is to get them through a reputable breeder like the expert team at Snowy Pines.

With decades of experience breeding, raising, socializing, and training Labrador Retrievers puppies (and now Golden Retrievers, too), Snowy Pines can provide bloodline histories on the puppy and their parents and complete medical history.

This way, you can buy confidently, knowing that your puppy will be safe and healthy for years to come.