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Puppy Vaccines By Age: ALL You Need To Know

Knowing what vaccines your puppy needs, at what age, is probably one of your first thoughts after bringing them home.

As well as them being treated for parasites and getting microchipped, we need to ensure they are vaccinated in the first few months of life.

Specific timing and what vaccines are required will vary slightly depending on your dog’s history and where you are in the world. For the information most relevant to you, call up your local vet clinic to have a chat.


When Do Puppies Need Their First Vaccine?

Generally, we will vaccinate a puppy at 8 weeks and then again at 10 weeks. Although timing will vary depending on the brand of vaccine used and what country you are in. In total, puppies receive 2 vaccines (around 2 weeks apart).

This is separate from any worming treatment they might be on.

Why is it best to vaccinate a puppy from 8 weeks old?

We vaccinate puppies from about 8 weeks old because most are fully weaned from their mother at this age. As a result, the maternal antibodies they have gotten from her milk start to decrease, and they are at risk of an infection from the outside world.

Can puppies be vaccinated before 8 weeks?

Although you can, vaccinating before this time can mean the vaccine is ineffective as the puppy still has maternal antibodies. On the other hand, vaccinating too late after weaning leaves your pup wide open to infection.

What if my puppy is older than 8 weeks and hasn’t been vaccinated?

If you have taken on a puppy and they are older than 8 weeks but unvaccinated, have their jabs booked in ASAP. They could become unwell while the vaccine takes effect, so take extra caution when out and about during this time.

When are the vaccines effective?

After the final vaccine at 10 weeks, it usually takes a full week for a puppy to mount a good immune response. It’s important to keep your pup indoors and only allow them in your private yard under supervision at this point. Avoid taking your puppy into public parks until at least 2 weeks after their last vaccine.

Related article: Can unvaccinated puppies be around/play with vaccinated adult dogs?

What Vaccines Do Puppies Need?

What vaccines your puppy needs will depend on your dog’s expected risks which vary according to lifestyle and environment. There are, however, a range of vaccines that are the most commonly given.

Most puppies are vaccinated against the following:

1. Distemper
This virus attacks the central nervous system, gastrointestinal system, and respiratory system. This virus was once referred to as “Hardpad Disease” as it would cause paws to thicken. However, due to vaccines, it is now rare in the developed world.

2. Hepatitis
As well as causing inflammation in the liver, hepatitis can affect the spleen, eyes, and lungs. Jaundice and vomiting are common signs.

3. Parvovirus
One of the better-known diseases, Parvovirus, is still a common cause of mortality in young dogs. They can develop severe vomiting and diarrhea. They will require hospitalization and extensive care if they are to pull through.

4. Leptospirosis
There are several strains of Leptospirosis and it can be passed on to humans, making them very unwell.

5. Parainfluenza
Causing a respiratory disease and severe cough, affected dogs are highly contagious.

6. Kennel Cough
The kennel cough vaccine is not part of the ‘core group of vaccines but is recommended. It is an excellent investment for those spending lots of time around other young dogs, such as those in kennels or doggy daycare.

7. Rabies
In some countries, such as the UK, this is not required as Rabies has now been eradicated. However, in the USA, it is mandatory for all pet dogs.

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When Do Puppies Need Their First Booster?

Unfortunately, a puppy’s initial vaccines do not last a lifetime. Puppies need to have their first booster vaccine after 12 months and then every 1-3 years. During these booster visits, your vet also has the opportunity to give your dog a good nose-to-tail check-over.

Do Different Breeds Need Different Vaccines?

Not really, no. The only real exception is the black and tan breeds, such as the Doberman and Rottweiler. They are thought to be more prone to Parvovirus so may benefit from an extra dose of the vaccine at 16 weeks.

Do Puppies Experience Side Effects From Vaccines?

Yes. It is important to say that some puppies will experience side effects in the day or two after their jab. These are usually very mild and resolve without treatment. They can be so subtle that an owner may not notice anything is amiss. Signs can include:

  • Mild diarrhea
  • Mild lethargy
  • A fever
  • Discomfort in the region of the injection
  • A small lump where the injection was given. This lump can last up to 3 weeks.

More serious side effects, such as an allergic reaction, are very rare. Report any serious side effects to your vet.

Do Puppies Have To Be Vaccinated?

While it is your decision whether your pup is vaccinated, It is strongly recommended that they DO receive all necessary vaccinations. Ultimately, this is to keep them safe and well. Vaccines are a safe and effective way of preventing some diseases which can be fatal.

While there may be a misconception that vets “promote” vaccines to make money, this is untrue. Indeed, if a vet’s motivation were purely financial, they would make a lot more money from a poorly pup who develops a disease such as Parvovirus or Leptospirosis.

You might want to consider researching the risk of infectious diseases in your area and the signs they can cause. And determine how at risk your dog will be. For example, those who hunt in bodies of water are much more at risk of Leptospirosis. 

Understand that certain diseases can be fatal, even if treated promptly. For most owners, the risk is simply not worth taking.

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Who Can Vaccinate My Puppy?

Importantly, only a licensed veterinarian (or a technician under their supervision) can vaccinate your puppy. A breeder cannot be the one to issue the jabs. This is important as a puppy should always have a health check before their injection. Vaccinating an unhealthy puppy can render the injections ineffective.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Your Puppy Vaccinated?

Cost varies widely from clinic to clinic. Low-cost and charity clinics may charge in the region of $50-80, while private clinics may charge a little more. 

Some shelters include the cost of vaccines in the adoption donation.

Many clinics will offer “lifetime loyalty plans.” These include things like routine parasite prevention, claw clip, health checks, and all vaccines. Over time, these plans may save you quite a bit of money.

What If You Aren’t Sure Of Your Puppies Vaccine History

Not uncommonly, someone buys or adopts a pup and is unsure if they have been vaccinated. In this case, the safest thing to do is treat them as if they have not had their vaccines. This is because it is much safer for them to have an extra vaccine course than to be left unvaccinated. 

What Is An Antibody Titer Test?

When a dog has antibodies against infection, they have some level of protection against it. Dogs can get antibodies after fighting off an infection or after receiving a vaccine. When they have a certain level of antibodies, they are unlikely to become unwell if exposed to the infection. Some vets will check these blood levels and only vaccinate dogs with low or no antibodies. 

The issue with doing this for all pets is that it is costly for the owner. This blood test can actually be more expensive than the vaccines themselves.

Be aware that a titer test is NOT an option when it comes to the Rabies vaccine. This is a compulsory vaccine within the United States, regardless of antibody levels.

Thank you for reading!
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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.