Everything You Should Know About Dog Shots

The vast amount of things your dog may need can be overwhelming. You have shots, vitamins, toys, crate, water bowls, food, and a bunch of other things you probably bought to spoil them. One of the most detrimental things for your pups health is their shots, but it can be difficult to understand why they are so important.

If you’re anything like me, you just go to the vet and hope everything gets done accordingly. I received some materials on what to do when I adopted my pooch, but I never truly felt educated on it. Perhaps it was because I literally got a folder full of flyers and a massive to- do list. While I would go through them, it was just too much to absorb! Because of my experience, I’ve outlined below a brief and simple reference for all dog owners on what to expect, including when to get what shots and a brief description of why you should get them. This list does not include other medications you should

Discuss frequency of shots with your veterinarian. While many of these that I have researched are common, there are different combinations of shots. Some veterinarians prefer to do annual boosters, while others believe that every three years is more appropriate. Additionally, depending on your breed or demographic, you may need to consider more ‘optional’ or ‘non core’ shots for your dogs safety.

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Keep track of your dog’s vaccinations and medications. Certain medications or antibiotics have strict schedules and may cause more trouble if missed. If you aren’t sure when a vaccine took place or if your pup is due for one, call your veterinarian office and ask for his records.

Many times these are broken up into non core and core vaccinations, which just means they are mandatory (core) or optional (non core). Those that are considered non core are marked with an asterisk. Let’s begin!


Distemper :

  • Usually your dog will receive a combined smorgasbord shot known at DA2P, which include Distemper, Adenovirus, and Parvovirus OR DHPP which is Distemper, Hepatitis/ Adenovirus, Parvovirus and Parainfluenza. These shots come in a two-part series as a puppy. One year later they will get a booster, and then once every approximate three years. I’ve seen many different versions of this combined shot, so make sure to listen to the mixology your vet has so nothing gets missed.
  • Distemper is airborne and also affects wild animals such as skunks or racoons. There is an increased risk of getting it after four months of age, which is why it’s a good idea to have your pup get it early.


  • This is your hepatitis shot. Hep is spread through fluids and from one dog to another. After the initial shot, your dog should get a booster shot after one year, and then you should only need a booster every three years.

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If you find your dog sick, be sure to take them to the vet immediately for the right vaccination or medication. Shown above is one of our dogs monthly medications, as well as antibiotics he had to take after getting ill.

Parvovirus :

  • Also called “Parvo”.  Similar traits to the stomach flu in humans, a lot of gastro symptoms you don’t want to have to clean up. This one is spread rapidly and easily,through both indirect and direct contact. It’s a hardy virus that will linger.

Parainfluenza :

  • Exactly what it sounds like, the flu! Although many virus’ can be spread from dog-to-human, oddly enough, this is not one of them. The way the virus is transmitted is similar to the “human flu”, which is through respiratory fluids (yuck). It should be received annually, however it is optional, just like it is for most of us. This is technically a non core shot, but it is often combined with your other core shots like Distemper.

Bordetella :

  • The main source of kennel cough. It’s called kennel cough for a reason- it’s spread easily through respiratory fluids, which you can imagine is unavoidable in doggy day cares or similar facilities.  I experienced this one firsthand. We had our dog boarded while we were on a trip and came back to him coughing and gagging. It is spread similar to the flu and while you can get the vaccination, it does not guarantee they won’t still get ill.. This is another optional, although encouraged, vaccination. If I had to describe it, I would say it sounds similar to bronchitis. Again, this is annual.


  • Found in dirt and water. Particularly important for areas with bodies of water or hotter climates. The first shots are done as a 2-part series, then received annually afterwards. It is a “non core” shot. Transferred through bodily fluids. Symptoms are flu-like in nature but can dramatically affect kidney, liver, and respiratory functions.

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Wildlife such as foxes, skunks, squirrels can carry communicable virus’ to your pet, especially those who are investigative or inquisitive in nature. Dogs with a ‘high prey’ drive will also scurry to quickly moving wildlife, making them a target for disease.


  • Should be completed annually. Rabies is a detrimental shot for your pup to get since there is no course of action to cure it. Again, this is spread from infected wildlife. The owner can also be infected through saliva of an animal (including your own-no kisses today, pup).

Lyme Disease:

  • Dogs get infected from this the same way we do- ticks! If you like to go outdoors a lot this is especially detrimental (but is still a core vaccine). If you do a lot of outdoor exploring with your dog, there are ways to check to see if they have any ticks visible on their fur. There are also products available to easily remove them if found.
  • While this is technically considered a core vaccination, there does seem to be some controversy around its effectiveness. Speak to your vet about what is the best option for your animal. There are also products you can purchase to prevent fleas and ticks during the months they are most common- my vet recommends giving our blue heeler the medications, rather than the vaccination, and we haven’t had an issue yet.

While this list gives you some fundamental understanding of vaccinations, please be aware that there are also a multitude of other things needed to protect your dog. This list is exclusive to common vaccinations and does not include other items you may need to purchase for your pet, such as worm protection.

Always discuss the most appropriate shots and booster timelines with your veterinarian. Just like with our family doctors they all work a bit differently, as does each dog. See a list of credible sources below for additional information as well as an easy reference guide.



http://www.avma.org or https://vcahospital.com .