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Vaccinations Schedule for Every Lifestage

by Bella Woof

Vaccines are essential to help your dog live a long and happy life. Vaccines protect your dog from serious or even fatal diseases.

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is the only organization in the United States that accredits veterinarians and veterinary hospitals. They set high standards for veterinarians in all aspects of veterinary medicine. As such, every few years, the AAHA evaluates vaccination protocols and makes recommendations to continue providing the highest quality of care for dogs. These recommendations can be found on the organization’s vaccine recommendations page.


Ultimately, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to identify the right and specific dog vaccination schedule for your pet.

Basic Vaccines vs. Non-Basic for Dogs

Pet vaccines fall into two general categories: core vaccines and supplemental vaccines.

basic vaccines

Core vaccinations are required for all dogs and puppies.

The main vaccines include:

  • Canine distemper/adenovirus-2 (hepatitis)/parvovirus/parainfluenza vaccine (given as a vaccine, commonly known as DA2PP, DHPP, or DAPP)
  • rabies virus vaccine

non-core vaccines

Secondary vaccinations (lifestyle vaccinations) are considered optional and are administered based on factors such as your pet’s lifestyle and geographic location. Several supplemental vaccines protect against highly contagious or life-threatening diseases.

To determine which lifestyle vaccinations are appropriate for your pet, your vet will look at a variety of factors, including:

  • Geographic location and disease risk in these areas
  • Whether your pet goes to doggy daycare, dog parks, boarding or grooming facilities
  • If your pet’s lifestyle includes traveling, hiking, or being exposed to nature or bodies of water
  • General health of your pet

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough) vaccine
  • Vaccine against leptospira (leptospirosis)
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (lyme) vaccine
  • H3N2/H3N8 (dog flu) vaccines
  • Crotalux atrox (rattlesnake) vaccine

What vaccinations do puppies need?

Vaccinations in puppies should begin when they are 6 to 8 weeks old, continue every 2 to 4 weeks, and end when they are 16 weeks old. Some dogs in high-risk areas may benefit from receiving the last vaccinations around 18-20 weeks of age.

Dog vaccination schedules for puppies usually look like this:


basic vaccines

non-core vaccines





Parainfluenza (often included in the DAP combination vaccine)






canine influenza



DAP (veterinarians prefer to give the final DAP vaccine at 16 weeks or later)

Rabies vaccine (can be

given before yes

required by law)



canine influenza

*DAP (distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, parvovirus. Sometimes also called DHP or DHPP if parainfluenza is included).

In order for the vaccines to provide the protection puppies need, they are given every two to four weeks until they are at least 16 weeks old.

Your vet will help you determine the best vaccination schedule for your pup.

What vaccinations do adult dogs need?

Adult dogs need their main vaccinations (DAP and rabies) plus any secondary vaccinations decided by you and your veterinarian. A dog vaccination schedule for an adult dog may look like this:


basic vaccines

non-core vaccines

Annual vaccinations for


Rabies (initial vaccine)



canine influenza

Bordetella (sometimes given

every 6 months)

Dog Vaccines Administered

every 3 years


Rabies (after initial vaccination,

given every 3 years)

There are no 3-year supplemental vaccines available at this time.

Ultimately, your vet will determine how long a vaccine will work for your pet.

If they are overdue or this is their first time getting a vaccination, your vet may recommend a booster shot or an annual schedule to ensure adequate protection for your pet.

What diseases do these dog vaccines prevent?

Here’s an explanation of the diseases behind vaccines and the health problems they could cause your pet.


Rabies is a virus that causes a neurological disease that is fatal to household pets, wildlife, and people. It is mainly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal and can also be transmitted to the owner through bite wounds.

The rabies vaccine is required by law in the US, and despite the excellent vaccination system we have, animals and people still get rabies every year.

Due to the fatality and zoonosis associated with rabies (nearly 100%), there are legal ramifications if your pet is not up to date on a rabies vaccine. Therefore, it is very important to keep your pet up to date.

If an unvaccinated or delayed pet is exposed to a potentially rabid animal, or accidentally bites someone, it can lead to health problems, the need to quarantine your pet, or humane euthanasia in certain circumstances.

Distemper/Adenovirus (Hepatitis)/Parvovirus (DAP)

The DAP vaccine protects against a combination of diseases that can spread rapidly among dogs and have serious implications for canines, including serious illness and death.

  • Canine distemper is a devastating disease that is highly contagious in unvaccinated dogs and can cause severe neurological signs, pneumonia, fever, encephalitis, and death.
  • Adenovirus 1 is an infectious viral disease that is also known as infectious canine hepatitis. It causes upper respiratory tract infections, as well as fever, liver failure, kidney failure, and eye disease.
  • Parvovirus in puppies is particularly contagious and can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, and in severe cases, death.

Often the non-core parainfluenza virus is also combined in this vaccine, changing the name to DAPP or DHPP.

Bordetella and canine parainfluenza

Bordetella and canine parainfluenza virus are two agents associated with a highly contagious cough commonly known as kennel cough or canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC).

Illnesses caused by these agents usually resolve on their own, but can sometimes lead to pneumonia or more serious respiratory illness. Because Bordetella is so contagious, boarding facilities and dog kennels in the US require that your pet have this vaccine.

Parainfluenza may or may not be included in a Bordetella or DAP combination vaccine.

canine influenza

Canine influenza in the US is caused by two identified strains of the virus, H3N2 and H3N8. It is highly contagious and causes coughing, runny nose, and low-grade fever in dogs.

Outbreaks in the US draw a lot of attention, as influenza viruses can give rise to new influenza strains that have the potential to affect other species and possibly cause death.

Canine flu vaccines are typically recommended for dogs who attend daycare centers, boarding schools, groomers, or anywhere they will be among other dogs. Talk to your vet about whether this vaccine is recommended for your pet.

leptospirosis disease

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can cause severe kidney or liver failure in both dogs and people. It is transmitted through the urine of infected animals and is found in both rural and urban settings.

This vaccine is considered core in geographic locations where leptospirosis occurs, but it is not universally considered a core vaccine. Dogs can be exposed by licking or coming into contact with a contaminated puddle or body of water where an infected animal has urinated.

Although traditionally, the leptospirosis vaccine was recommended for dogs in rural areas with outdoor lifestyles, leptospirosis has now been found to occur in urban and suburban settings as well.

The city of Boston experienced an outbreak in 2018 likely due to the urine of infected city rats.

Leptospirosis can also be transmitted to people. Talk to your vet about whether they recommend this vaccine for your pet.

The vaccine covers four of the most common leptospirosis serovars, and the initial vaccine should be boosted two to four weeks later.

Lyme’s desease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that can cause fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, limp legs and, in severe cases, kidney failure.

Lyme disease is endemic in several areas of the country, and the vaccine is recommended in these areas or for those who travel to those areas. Talk to your vet about whether this vaccine is recommended for your pet.

Like leptospirosis, the vaccine is given initially as two injections three to four weeks apart, and then once a year.

It is important to discuss your dog’s lifestyle with your vet so that appropriate recommendations can be made about which vaccinations are necessary to protect your dog.

Other than the basic required vaccinations, there is no single protocol for vaccinating your dog. Working together with your veterinarian is the best approach to developing the right dog vaccination schedule for your beloved pet.

Featured image:


Monica Tarantino, DVM


Dr. Monica Tarantino is a small animal veterinarian and pet parent educator. She is on a mission to help senior cats and dogs around the…

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