What Vaccines Do Dogs Really Need? Ultimate Guide To Canine Vaccines

June 17th, 2020

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A dog examining a shot of dewormer, setting the stage for the common question, "what vaccines do dogs really need?"

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One of the easiest ways to help your dog live a long and healthy life is by vaccinating them.

Vaccines can be quickly and easily administered during a routine vet trip. They immediately go to work in your pup’s body, building up their immunity to various canine diseases.

In addition to protecting your dog, they also protect the doggy community at large by limiting disease spread and achieving herd immunity. In many cases, they also prevent dog to human transmission of diseases as well (like rabies).

Thus, getting your dog vaccinated is a MUST for every responsible dog owner!

However, there are a lot of diseases and related vaccines out there. If you’re a new dog owner, you may be unfamiliar with them and their weird-sounding names (bordetella?).

Add on the fact that there are different types and combinations of vaccines, and it can be really hard to figure out which ones are right for your dog.

At the time of this post, we’ve just refreshed a bunch of Yuna’s vaccines. So today, we’ll dive in and answer this common question from dog owners.

A closeup of a yellow Lab and her long snout.

What Vaccines Do Dogs Really Need? Core Vaccines vs. Non-Core Vaccines

In the world of dog vaccines, there are core vaccines and non-core vaccines.

Core vaccines are designated as such because they protect against some of the more lethal diseases, and against dog to human transmission.

So it’s simple, right? Give your dog the core vaccines, and hold off on the non-core ones?

Uhh, not quite. Given your dog’s health history, as well as factors like where you live, certain non-core vaccines can be just as vital to your dog as a core vaccine.

Canine Vaccination Guidelines (2017) By The AAHA

Who gets to decide which vaccines are core versus non-core?

Firstly, note that there’s the legal aspect of it. In the US, specific state laws mandate necessary vaccinations for pets.

However, the core versus non-core distinction is based on science and animal health.

The AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) published their official Canine Vaccination Guidelines in 2017. Veterinary practices across the country are heavily encouraged to follow the AAHA’s recommendations for vaccinating dogs.

It’s a concise but comprehensive resource outlining core and non-core vaccines. It also provides a recommended vaccination schedule for puppies and adult dogs.

You can find it here. Since this is an official source, we’ll also be referencing it a lot throughout this article.

Ultimate Canine Diseases and Vaccines Checklist

Now for the meat and potatoes of this article.

The information provided by the AAHA is super useful, but it’s also full of big words and vet jargon–so we’ll break it all down in this section.

We’ll be giving the ultimate list of common canine diseases and their associated vaccines.

What vaccines do dogs need? An infographic describing core vs. non-core dog vaccines and which ones fit under each category.

For each one, we’ll note if they’re core or non-core based on AAHA standards, as well as suggested revaccination (booster) times during your dog’s adult years.

Of course, we’ll go in detail on the disease itself, and also go over the recommended vaccination schedule during the critical first year of your dog’s life.

Rabies

Designation: Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 12-16 wks.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; every 3 years thereafter

The Rabies Virus

The Rabies virus affects the brain and spinal cords of all animals (yes, including dogs and humans). A dog infected with rabies may show initial signs of restlessness, apprehension, and aggression.

As symptoms worsen, your dog will act less and less like themselves. The throat and jaw muscles can become paralyzed, and they’ll start foaming at the mouth.

Getting rabies is like a death sentence for a dog–it’s got a near 100% case fatality rate.

Dogs get the disease primarily through a bite from an infected animal. Most commonly, raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes are the main carriers of rabies according to the CDC.

In humans, rabies is also nearly always fatal once symptoms appear.

The CDC also reports that rabies kills more than 59,000 people annually worldwide.

The good news is, rabies is entirely preventable.

We have vaccines to thank for that! Because of animal control and vaccination programs, rabies deaths are highly uncommon in the United States.

Does My Dog Need A Rabies Shot?

Absolutely yes. Help protect your dog and prevent the spread of rabies by making sure your dog is vaccinated against the rabies virus.

Rabies Vaccination Schedule

Note on 1 Year vs. 3 Year Labeled Rabies Vaccines

Rabies vaccines come in 1 year and 3 year labels. This may lead many dog owners to believe that they provide different levels of immunity.

However, the unintuitive truth is that there is no difference between the two. There is no additional volume or disease agent given to your dog. Both vaccines offer the same immunity. It’s only the label that is different.

Wait, what? Which one should you use then?

It has to do with state laws in the US. While most states typically require a rabies vaccination every 3 years, some states, like Delaware, require that you comply with the label of the vaccine used.

In the following vaccination schedule, either a 1 year or 3 year label for the initial vaccination works.

For boosters, dog owners in the US will have to comply with their local state laws. Worldwide, it’s generally accepted that dogs should get a rabies booster 1 year after their initial shot, and every 3 years thereafter.

Rabies Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

Give a single dose to your dog not earlier than 12 weeks of age. Many sources suggest doing this between 12 to 16 weeks of age of age.

Rabies Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s initial vaccination, you’re required to administer another single dose of the rabies vaccine.

After that, make sure you give your dog a rabies booster every three years thereafter, unless your local laws dictate otherwise.

Distemper

Designation: Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 6-8 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; every 3 years (or longer) thereafter

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV)

The canine distemper virus (CDV) attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems.

A dog infected with distemper may have pus-like discharge (or heavy mucus) from their eyes.

As symptoms worsen, your dog may develop a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and reduced appetite.

When the virus reaches the central nervous system, you may see involuntary muscle twitches, awkward movements and head tilting, chewing gum fits, paralysis, and seizures.

The disease is often nicknamed the “hard pad disease” because it causes the paw pads and nose to thicken and harden.

A yellow Lab raising her paw in front of the Seattle Space Needle.

There is no cure for canine distemper. Sources report that it has about a 50% mortality rate in adult dogs (80% in puppies). Survivors usually have permanent, irreparable nervous system damage.

Distemper is highly contagious and spreads through contaminated air particles (sneezing and coughing). It can also be spread through direct contact with urine, blood, or saliva.

Does My Dog Need A Distemper Shot?

Yes. Because of the high transmissibility and serious health risks, the distemper shot is designated as a core vaccine.

Distemper Vaccination Schedule

Note on Vaccine Combinations

You may have heard of vaccines such as DHPP, DAPPV, DAPPVL2, etc. What vaccine is that exactly, and what do the letters mean?

These are called combination vaccines, in which a single shot will give your dog immunity to a variety of canine diseases.

The distemper shot is frequently administered in such a combination. In fact, the letter “D” in all of the combinations refers to the distemper vaccine.

Distemper Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

AAHA guidelines recommend that your dog gets their first dose (of a combination vaccine containing the distemper shot) as early as 6 weeks old, and continue boosting every 2 to 4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old.

For dogs who are already 16 weeks old and have not yet gotten the distemper shot, they need one ASAP, and another booster 2 to 4 weeks later.

If your dog is over 16 weeks old and you live in a high-risk environment, one or two additional boosters between 16 and 20 weeks old may be recommended for your dog.

Distemper Booster (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last booster as a puppy, make sure they get another dose of a combination vaccine containing the distemper shot.

After that, AAHA recommends boosters at intervals of 3 years or longer.

If you want complete peace of mind as to whether your dog needs a booster or not, consider giving them a titer test. It looks for antibodies in your dog’s blood and assesses their immunity against CDV.

Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis - CAV-1, CAV-2)

Designation: Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 6-8 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; every 3 years (or longer) thereafter

The adenovirus causes canine hepatitis–inflammation of the liver. It’s also known to cause upper respiratory infections.

Adenovirus 1 (CAV-1) vs. Adenovirus 2 (CAV-2)

There are actually two strains of adenovirus, adenovirus 1 (CAV-1) and adenovirus 2 (CAV-2).

CAV-1 is considered the more dangerous of the adenoviruses, because it tends to attack more organs and is the primary cause of hepatitis. Up to 30% of dogs find hepatitis fatal.

CAV-2 distinguishes from CAV-1 in that infections usually result in localized respiratory diseases only. It is a potential cause of kennel cough.

Initial symptoms will be just like many of the other viral diseases. Your dog may develop a fever, and show signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

In dogs with only a partial neutralizing immune response, chronic hepatitis develops. One sign of this is the “hepatitis blue eye,” where inflammation and death of cells in the eye cause it to have a slightly blue tinge.

The adenoviruses can spread through saliva, urine, or feces. It is also present in the nose and eye discharge of infected animals.

Does My Dog Need An Adenovirus Shot?

Yes. Vaccinations have been paramount in reducing spread of the adenoviruses. As such, AAHA designates this as another core vaccine.

Adenovirus Vaccination Schedule

Note on Vaccine Combinations: Interchangeable "H" and "A"

Like with distemper, the adenovirus vaccine is administered in a combination vaccine.

In many vaccines such as these by Merck, the letter “A” denotes the adenovirus vaccine.

In other combinations, such as the common DHPP vaccine, the “H” also refers to the adenovirus vaccine. The A and H are interchangeable, as they both refer to the same disease: Canine Adenovirus/Infection Canine Hepatitis.

Note on Adenovirus 1 vs. Adenovirus 2 Protection

You may be wondering whether one adenovirus vaccine will protect your dog from both CAV-1 and CAV-2.

In most vaccine combinations today, the adenovirus portion of the vaccine covers both CAV-1 and CAV-2. You can ask your vet to be sure.

Per the AAHA, CAV-2 vaccines are primarily intended to protect against canine infectious hepatitis virus caused by CAV-1, but also offers protection against respiratory infections caused by CAV-2.

Adenovirus Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

The guidelines here by the AAHA are the same as for distemper, since they assume your dog is getting this shot from a combination vaccine.

Your dog should get their first dose as early as 6 weeks old, and continue boosting every 2 to 4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old.

For dogs who are already 16 weeks old and have not yet gotten the adenovirus shot, they need one ASAP, and another booster 2 to 4 weeks later.

If your dog is over 16 weeks old and your vet suggests that you live in a high-risk environment, one or two additional boosters between 16 and 20 weeks old may be required for your dog.

Adenovirus Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last booster as a puppy, make sure they get another dose of a combination vaccine containing the adenovirus shot.

After that, AAHA recommends boosters at intervals of 3 years or longer.

As with our section on distemper, consider a titer test to better assess your dog’s immunity to the adenoviruses, and whether they really need that booster.

Parainfluenza

Designation: Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 6-8 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; every 3 years (or longer) thereafter

Canine Parainfluenza Virus (CPiV)

The canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV) targets the upper respiratory tract. While infections are typically mild, it is highly contagious.

It is one of many viruses that can cause the dreaded kennel cough in dogs.

Dogs with CPiV infections will usually develop a low-grade fever, dry hacking cough, and pharyngitis (sore throat).

Parainfluenza is primarily spread through aerosols. In an environment like daycare or a dog park, note that it’s highly possible for one dog to spread the disease to others.

A dog in a heroic pose, standing on a log looking out toward the ocean.

To treat parainfluenza symptoms, a vet may prescribe specific medication for your dog.

Does My Dog Need A Parainfluenza Shot?

Yes. While a parainfluenza infection is non-life-threatening, it is highly transmissible among dogs. In fact, outbreaks can happen in kennels, shelters, and daycare centers because dogs are in such close proximity to each other.

Because of this, the parainfluenza vaccine is designated as a core vaccine.

Parainfluenza Vaccination Schedule

Note on Vaccine Combinations

As with distemper and adenovirus, the parainfluenza vaccine is commonly given as part of a combination vaccine.

The letter “P” in vaccine combinations denotes parainfluenza. In DHPP, this is the first P.

In the DAPPV Nobivac vaccine combination by Merck, the first P also denotes parainfluenza.

Parainfluenza Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

AAHA guidelines recommend that your dog gets their first dose (of a combination vaccine containing the parainfluenza shot) as early as 6 weeks old, and continue boosting every 2 to 4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old.

For dogs who are already 16 weeks old and have not yet gotten the parainfluenza shot, they need one ASAP, and another booster 2 to 4 weeks later.

If your dog is over 16 weeks old and your vet suggests that you live in a high-risk environment, one or two additional boosters between 16 and 20 weeks old may be required for your dog.

Parainfluenza Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last booster as a puppy, make sure they get another dose of a combination vaccine containing the parainfluenza shot.

After that, AAHA recommends boosters at intervals of 3 years or longer.

As with our section on distemper, consider a titer test to better assess your dog’s immunity to the adenoviruses, and whether they really need that booster.

Parvovirus

Designation: Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 6-8 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; every 3 years (or longer) thereafter

Canine Parvovirus (CPV)

The canine parvovirus (CPV), or parvo for short, affects the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, it quickly destroys cells in the small intestine and stomach.

It can be spread through direct contact with another dog, or indirectly through feces, a shared water bowl, or any contaminated object.

Initial signs of parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and fever.

It’s important that you immediately seek out your vet when you notice any of these signs! If parvo is confirmed, most deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours following the first clinical signs. Most puppies that survive the first 3 to 4 days make a complete recovery.

While no specific cure exists for parvo, intensive supportive care can be given to your dog to help prevent further infection.

And parvo treatment can get very expensive. All the more reason to vaccinate your dog against it!

Does My Dog Need A Parvovirus Shot?

As we discussed, yes. This is another core vaccine as designated by the AAHA.

Parvovirus Vaccination Schedule

Note on Vaccine Combinations

As with distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza, the parvovirus is given in a combination vaccine.

We finally now have the full picture for the popular combo vaccine DHPP:

  • D: Distemper
  • H: Hepatitis (Adenovirus)
  • P: Parainfluenza
  • P: Parvovirus

Just one DHPP shot will vaccinate your dog against all four of these canine diseases.

This is also present in Merck’s base Nobivac vaccine, DAPPV:

  • D: Distemper
  • A: Adenovirus
  • P: Parainfluenza
  • PV: Parvovirus

Parvovirus Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

The guidelines here by the AAHA are the same as for distemper, since they assume your dog is getting this shot from a combination vaccine.

Your dog should get their first dose as early as 6 weeks old, and continue boosting every 2 to 4 weeks until they’re 16 weeks old.

For dogs who are already 16 weeks old and have not yet gotten the parvovirus shot, they need one ASAP, and another booster 2 to 4 weeks later.

If your dog is over 16 weeks old and your vet suggests that you live in a high-risk environment, one or two additional boosters between 16 and 20 weeks old may be required for your dog.

Parvovirus Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last booster as a puppy, make sure they get another dose of a combination vaccine containing the parvovirus shot.

After that, AAHA recommends boosters at intervals of 3 years or longer.

As with our section on distemper, consider a titer test to better assess your dog’s immunity to parvovirus, and whether they really need that booster.

Bordetella

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Assuming administering via injection under dog's skin (parenteral):
Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 8 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose at 16 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; annual thereafter; every six months for at-risk dogs)

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella Bronchiseptica. What a mouthful!

Bordetella causes tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) in dogs. It causes inflammation of the trachea and bronchi, and in more serious cases can result in pneumonia.

Kennel cough for dogs is probably the closest analogy to the common cold for humans.

A dog caught in the middle of a funky looking smile, wearing a green Yoda-themed bandana.
I feel a sneeze comin' hooman!

And just like the common cold, kennel cough is highly contagious. It can spread through aerosols, direct contact, and indirect contact through shared water bowls or toys.

Getting kennel cough is no fun for your dog. And you’ll be suffering too, having to endure the nasty honking sounds that characterize kennel cough.

Does My Dog Need A Bordetella Shot?

Alright, so here’s our first non-core vaccine as designated by AAHA. Does this suggest that you don’t need to give your dog a bordetella shot?

It primarily depends on where you live.

Are you living in a high dog density area? Do you frequently come across other dogs on walks? Do you take to dog parks, doggy daycare, and other canine socialization events often?

If so, it is highly recommended your dog gets the bordetella shot.

This means that pretty much any dog living in a major city should be vaccinated against bordetella.

Dogs that primarily stay at home, or do not have frequent contact with other dogs, may be exempt from having to get a bordetella shot.

We still recommend that all dogs get a bordetella vaccine regardless, just because it’s so highly contagious.

The last thing on your dog’s mind is avoiding contagions while they’re out sniffing, exploring, and socializing. Vaccinating them can put you at ease knowing they’re better protected against kennel cough.

Bordetella Vaccination Schedule

Note on Bordetella Vaccine Combinations

The AAHA notes that the bordetella vaccine can come in two varieties.

It can be administered as a standalone vaccine (i.e. bordetella only), or it is also sometimes paired with the parainfluenza (CPiV) vaccine.

We’ll assume that your dog has been vaccinated against canine parainfluenza already, since we’ve established it as a core vaccine. Thus, we’re only considering the bordetella-only vaccine schedule here.

Bordetella Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

The vaccination schedule here will depend on how the vaccine is administered. The AAHA notes several common options:

  • Parenteral (SQ: Subcutaneous, or under the skin). This is your typical shot injection.
  • Intranasal. Into your dog’s nose.
  • Intraoral. Into your dog’s mouth.

Before agreeing to vaccinate your dog for bordetella, be 100% sure how your vet plans to administer it to your dog.

Let’s walk through each case here.

Parenteral (Injection)

If you choose the injection route, your dog needs their first dose at 8 weeks old, and another between 10 to 12 weeks old.

For dogs that are already 16 weeks old and have yet to get a bordetella shot, administer one dose. Follow that up with another dose between 18 to 20 weeks old.

Intranasal

If you choose the intranasal route, your dog can get their first dose as early as 3 to 4 weeks of age.

If your dog is already 16 weeks old and has yet to get a bordetella shot, administer one dose.

Intraoral

If you choose the intraoral route, your dog can get their first dose at 8 weeks old.

If your dog is already 16 weeks old and has yet to get a bordetella shot, administer one dose.

Why The Discrepancy In Doses?

You may have noticed that intranasal and intraoral require fewer doses than the parenteral method. Why is this?

It’s been shown that mucosal and systemic immunity are induced very quickly when administered through the nose or mouth.

In fact, immunity can develop in as quickly as 3 days.

On the other hand, through parenteral vaccination, immunity takes a lot longer to develop: 2 to 3 weeks is the norm.

Isn’t Intranasal/Intraoral Always Better Then?

On the surface, it seems like nonsense to administer the vaccine parenterally.

Indeed, since many vets would also like to conserve their supply of bordetella vaccines, it seems like intranasal or intraoral is always the way to go.

However, it can depend on your dog’s temperament. As you can probably imagine, getting a restless dog to stay still for an intranasal shot can be extremely difficult.

A dog zooming on the beach, looking wild and crazy.

Not only that, but sources note this can be dangerous too: if your dog is too fidgety, a lot of the vaccine may not reach its target destination.

For the dog, parenteral may be a safer option, both for the dog and the handler.

Bordetella Boosters (Adult Years)

Per AAHA guidelines, your dog should get their bordetella vaccine refreshed every year after their last shot.

However, many sources will tell you that it’s strongly recommended to get a bordetella booster every six months instead of one year.

We wholly agree with this. Living in Seattle, it’s extremely easy for one dog at a dog park or daycare to infect others.

In fact, many daycares in Seattle require your dog’s bordetella vaccine to be refreshed every six months in order for them to be eligible for boarding.

Yuna herself had a fit of kennel cough not long after I adopted her. Once we kept her on consistent bordetella boosters, she has not had kennel cough since!

Leptospirosis

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 8-10 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; annually thereafter.

Leptospira (Lepto)

Leptospirosis (lepto for short), is caused by a bacterial infection, and affects both humans and animals.

In mild cases, lepto infections cause flu-like symptoms.

Lepto can target many organs. In serious cases, it can lead to heart, kidney or liver failure, respiratory distress, and meningitis, and eventually cause death.

According to the CDC, lepto has been diagnosed more frequently in the past few years.

The bacteria that causes lepto lives in the urine of affected animals.

Note that it is possible for an infected pet to spread lepto to humans. Human cases of lepto arise most commonly from swimming and other activities involving water.

Does My Dog Need A Lepto Shot?

The lepto vaccine is non-core, so it’s not necessary for your dog to get a lepto shot.

However, depending on your situation, you should still seriously consider it.

We know that lepto tends to be more common in warmer, more humid climates. If you live in one of these high-risk areas, consider getting a lepto vaccine.

Also, if you know your dog will be engaging in lots of water activities, get the lepto vaccine.

Our vet recommended to us that larger (and perhaps more curious?) dogs are more recommended to get the lepto shot, since they’ve got more snout power and are likely to spend more time sniffing out urine puddles.

Lepto Vaccination Schedule

The lepto virus is administered via injection under your dog’s skin (parenterally, or SQ route, as in our bordetella vaccination schedule discussion).

Lepto Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

Give your dog one dose at 8 to 10 weeks of age, and another dose 2 to 4 weeks later.

For dogs above 16 weeks and have yet to get a lepto shot, give your dog one dose, and then another dose 2 to 4 weeks later.

Lepto Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last dose, administer another single dose of the lepto vaccine.

After that, give your dog a lepto booster annually.

Lyme Disease

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 8-9 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose ASAP. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; annually thereafter.

Canine Lyme Disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi)

One of the main reasons to protect your dogs from ticks is to prevent canine lyme disease.

At least 4 known species of ticks can transmit Lyme disease to your dog through a single bite. The most common carrier is the black-legged tick.

It’s important to know that it takes time for an attached tick to infect your dog with Lyme disease–about 1-2 days. Thus, if you notice a tick, there’s still a small window of time for you to remove it pronto.

Even after a tick transmits the Lyme disease bacteria to your dog, they may not show outward symptoms for weeks or months (or even at all).

If you know your dog has suffered a tick bite recently, be on the lookout for typical symptoms like fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.

In serious cases, lyme disease can cause kidney failure, and affect the heart and brain.

Does My Dog Need A Lyme Disease Shot?

The Lyme disease vaccine is designated as non-core, so getting the shot isn’t necessary.

However, note that in the US, the northeast, upper Midwest, and Pacific coast are areas where bacteria-carrying ticks are more widespread. If you live in one of these areas, seriously consider getting the Lyme vaccine.

What If My Dog Is Already Protected Against Ticks?

If your dog is already on a tick preventative such as NexGard, you might think you won’t need that Lyme vaccine.

However, your vet may still recommend you get the Lyme vaccine if you live in a high-risk area.

A tick preventative and Lyme vaccine are most powerful when working in conjunction to ensure protection against Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Vaccination Schedule

The AAHA notes that four vaccines types are currently available. Each of them require the same amount of dosage, and are administered via injection under your dog’s skin.

Lyme Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

Give your dog one dose at 8 to 9 weeks of age, and another dose 2 to 4 weeks later.

For a 16 week-old dog who has yet to get a Lyme shot, give your dog one dose, and then another dose 2 to 4 weeks later.

A footnote here: dogs traveling into a high-risk area as a puppy (i.e. less than 1 year old), may need to time their vaccines such that the last dose is administered about 2 to 4 weeks before the trip.

A dog peering out the window of a car.

Lyme Boosters (Adult Years)

One year after your dog’s last dose, administer another single dose of the Lyme vaccine.

After that, give your dog a Lyme booster annually.

Coronavirus (CCoV)

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): Use vet discretion.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): Use vet discretion.
Boosters: Annually, or at vet's discretion.

Important: Canine coronavirus has no relation to COVID-19. Use of the CCoV vaccine will not help protect against COVID-19.

Enteric Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) vs. Respiratory Canine Coronavirus (CRCoV)

When we talk about canine coronavirus, there are two forms: Enteric Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) and Respiratory Canine Coronavirus (CRCoV).

As of this post, there’s no vaccine to prevent CRCoV.

So in this section, when we say coronavirus, we mean Enteric Canine Coronavirus (CCoV), for which vaccines do exist.

Note that vaccines that protect against CCoV are not effective against CRCoV.

The most common symptom from CCoV is diarrhea. Dogs get the coronavirus through oral contact with infected feces.

Does My Dog Need A Coronavirus Shot?

The coronavirus is not even listed in the AAHA’s official guidelines. We added it here because we felt it was justified given its prevalence among dogs.

The coronavirus vaccine should be considered a non-core vaccine.

However, you may still choose to protect your dog against coronavirus, particularly if they like poking around other dog’s poop (pick up after your dog, people!!).

This can be a big problem in crowded, unsanitary conditions.

Your vet can help you identify if you live in a high-risk enough area to warrant the coronavirus vaccine.

Coronavirus Vaccination Schedule

Because there are no official guidelines from the AAHA, we’ll let your vet recommend dosage and frequency of vaccination.

Do note that for most non-core vaccinations to be effective, the standard guideline is that they should be refreshed annually, though this can be different for every dog.

For that reason, we maintain that you should get a yearly booster for coronavirus if your vet deems it necessary.

H3N8 & H3N2 (Canine Influenza, "Dog Flu")

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): 1 dose at 6-10 wks. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): 1 dose. Another dose 2-4 wks. later.
Boosters: 1 year after initial vaccination; annually thereafter.

Canine Influenza Virus, H3N8

The H3N8 virus originated in horses, and made its way to the dog population in 2004.

It causes all the typical flu symptoms you’d expect from an influenza: cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite.

Also, as you’d expect, it spreads very easily in kennels, daycares, dog parks, and anywhere with direct contact between dogs.

The good news is, few pets die annually from the H3N8 virus. Cases across the board usually only result in mild symptoms.

Canine Influenza Virus, H3N2

The H3N2 virus originated in birds, and was first spread to dogs in South Korea in 2007. The first known cases in the US sprang up in 2015.

Like H3N8, symptoms are typical of a flu, and it’s spread through droplets and contact in places with many dogs.

Most dogs who contract H3N2 recover in 2-3 weeks. Like H3N8, cases are relatively mild and fatality rate is low (less than 10%).

Does My Dog Need An H3N8 or H3N2 Shot?

The H3N8 and H3N2 vaccines are designated as non-core by the AAHA, due to their low mortality rate.

In specific circumstances, such as if you anticipate sending your dog to boarding kennels or daycare facilities frequently, consider getting both vaccines.

In fact, the AAHA specifically notes this in their guidelines: “Any dog deemed at risk for exposure to influenza virus should be vaccinated against both H3N2 and H3N8 strains.”

Let your vet know during your next checkup whether the H3N8 and H3N2 shots make sense given your dog’s lifestyle.

H3N8 and H3N2 Vaccination Schedule

The H3N8 and H3N2 vaccines are administered via injection under your dog’s skin (parenterally).

H3N8 and H3N2 Initial Vaccination (1st Year)

Give your dog one dose of the vaccine at around 8 weeks of age, and another dose 2 to 4 weeks after.

For dogs that are at least 16 weeks old and have yet to get this vaccine, give your dog one dose, and another dose 2 to 4 weeks after.

Note that if you intend to bring your puppy (less than 1 year old) to a boarding facility or daycare, it’s recommended that they begin the initial vaccination 4 weeks before entry.

H3N8 and H3N2 Boosters (Adult Years)

If your vet continues to recommend H3N8 and H3N2 boosters to your dog, they should come in annually to receive another single dose.

Crotalus Atrox (Rattlesnake Vaccine)

Designation: Non-Core Vaccine

Initial Vaccination (≤ 16 wk.): Use vet discretion.
Initial Vaccination (> 16 wk.): Use vet discretion.
Boosters: Use vet discretion.

Crotalus Atrox Toxin

Live in an area with rattlesnakes (specifically, western diamondback rattlesnakes)? Your vet may recommend the crotalus atrox toxoid, or rattlesnake vaccine.

This vaccine can help reduce morbidity and mortality of poisons in a rattlesnake bite.

Does My Dog Need A Rattlesnake Vaccine?

This is a pretty specific circumstance that only applies to select dogs.

If you believe your dog is at risk, bring this up with your vet.

Crotalius Atrox Vaccination Schedule

The AAHA avoids giving specific guidelines for administering this vaccine. It will depend on the manufacturer’s label and your vet’s recommendations.

First Year Vaccination Schedule For Puppies

We all know the first few months of a new puppy’s life is super hectic.

Well, let’s make it a tad bit easier by producing a detailed infographic that summarizes the initial vaccination schedules we’ve covered in this article.

What vaccines do puppy dogs need? Here's a sample 1st year puppy vaccination schedule that complies with AAHA standards.

Is It Possible To Over-Vaccinate Your Dog?

Finally, we’ll have a discussion about over-vaccination.

A bunch of questions from worried and doubtful pet owners arise. Is over-vaccination possible? Should you trust all these vaccines? Annual boosters? That sounds like way too much.

Indeed, with how many shots your dog needs in the initial months, it’s natural to wonder if they could harm your pet.

Let’s begin with the basics. The science of vaccines is sound.

Science has proven again and again that vaccines have led to the overall reduction of all major canine diseases we’ve introduced in this article.

Most pet owners agree with this, and are diligent in getting their dogs shots for the core vaccines, and some of the non-core vaccines where necessary.

Does My Dog Really Need That Vaccine Booster Every Single Year?

Where many sources tend to disagree is the frequency of boosters.

For most of the vaccines we’ve covered in this article, the AAHA recommends that your dog get annual boosters.

Take this source, which examines a study into core vaccines on 1,000 dogs and discovered that some develop lifelong immunity for distemper.

This is directly at odds with AAHA recommendations. What gives?

The truth is, the AAHA’s recommendations take the most conservative approach to vaccines. They consider the worst case, where if a dog is continually at risk for any of the canine diseases, refreshing that vaccine annually makes sense, similar to how humans should get their flu shots annually.

However, it’s important to note that you need to tailor your dog’s vaccination schedule to their needs.

You don’t have to just blindly follow the AAHA recommendations. As we’ve mentioned multiple times in this post, titer tests exist that can help scan your dog’s body for sufficient antibodies.

This can help you definitively decide whether to take a booster or not.

A dog examining a shot of dewormer, setting the stage for the common question, "what vaccines do dogs really need?"

Conclusion

In this post, we’ve covered a lot. 12 common canine diseases and their associated vaccines, to be exact.

It’s important to remember that vaccinating your dog doesn’t just protect you and your dog from these diseases. They also contribute to herd immunity and protect those dogs whose immune systems are too weak to receive a vaccine.

So be sure to do your research on these vaccines and consult your vet on them. A healthy dog is a happy dog!

Be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram and Pinterest for more daily updates and useful dog tips!

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