The Low Down on Vaccines for your Dog

When you choose to open your heart and home to a dog (puppy, adult or senior), you are making a life-changing decision for EVERYONE involved. We all like to see our precious pets happy, and take PICTURES.  Dog’s in sweaters, sleeping, chewing, eating, jumping, running, sleeping more, being bad, being awesome, with grandparents and friends or just being the doggo they are! The new doesn’t wear off for a long time and when it does, SURPRISE, the pooch is ingrained as a full fledged member of the family. That’s a long way from man and wolf sitting by a fire, hoping a stray T-Rex didn’t eat them for a snack.

You’ve made the investment, both in capital and in emotional attachment… so PROTECT your fur kids like you would your human kids. Start with the simple things, a trip to your veterinary clinic or hospital for a check-up and the start of a planned wellness routine. It’s just as critical as timely, scheduled checkup or physicals that you might have. The wellness visit is nothing more than looking under the hood to see if the engine is running or if things need to be adjusted or fixed before the warranty runs out!

On the first few visits with your puppy, it is suggested to ensure your fur pal is protected from social, hereditary or “lying dormant” illnesses by starting their vaccine routine. This is a series of core shots and non-core boosters that are bunched and numerous in the beginning but become yearly as your buddy matures. The real question becomes, what do they really need and when?

Let’s handle the WHAT first…

Our friends at describe the vaccines in these terms, “Core” and “Non-Core”.  Core vaccines are requirements for all puppies and dogs. These are the shots that cover the nasty stuff that could ride along in their bodies from Mom & Dad, or that they picked up in the kennel or at the breeder from other dogs. Just like with us skin folks, your dog can pick up things in the air, water, casual contact, even just geographical or regional types of diseases and you won’t know they have them until the illness has taken hold.

When they are still puppies, the routine is spread out over the first few months of their lives… then they start the cycle of wellness visits for boosters and checkups. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same routine you would have for your human kids.

Core Vaccines
Should start somewhere between 6-8 weeks, then continue every 2-4 weeks. The puppy vaccines will normally end at 16 weeks. Some dogs who are high risk or in geographically high risk areas might have an additional round at 18 or 20 weeks. Your trusted veterinarian will take you through a schedule for your individual pup.


Week 6-8
DAP is “a lot in a shot”.  Again, much like the old human “inoculation” shots of the 1950’s-60’s-70’s, DAP carries a 3-in-1 vaccine load. You’ll see DAP repeated in the first shots, this is so the dog slowly builds and maintains the immunity to really awful stuff, early.

Week 10-12
Your core shot is DAP again. As we mentioned before, we are ramping up the shot, building to that immunity level. This will allow runs in the dog park and casual contact with strangers with no fear of bringing home a hidden nightmare!

Week 14-16
DAP,  for one last puppy dose. Many vets will also treat with a rabies vaccine at this point, if it has not been given in one of the earlier sessions.

The ABC’s of DAP are as follows:

Distemper – spread through infected secretions or excretions (coughing, sneezing, drool, leaky eye… as well as urine, blood or stool). If infected your puppy will run a fever, runny nose, snotty eye, sneezing. This will turn for the worse with coughing, difficulty breathing and vomit/diarrhea. A natural loss of appetite and general lethargic behavior will follow. If left untreated or caught to late, it can lead to death.

Adenovirous Type 2 – Almost always spread through coughing. Adenovirious Type 2 is a respiratory disease… it’s more common name is “Kennel Cough”. Once this gets loose in your home, it can spread like the plague that it is.  If left without treatment, this infection can lead to pneumonia in dogs. It’s a long and difficult road back from pneumonia in a puppy, sometimes they don’t make it all the way back.

Parvovirus/Parainfluenza – Mention PARVO in the dog community and watch the faces around you… parvo is a serious health threat, very contagious and very often a death sentence. The virus effects the dogs ability to absorb nutrients, causing the animal to quickly dehydrate and weaken from lack of protein and fluid intake.  You’ll notice your dog is lethargic, they will not want to eat, fever will come on quickly and run high. As it progresses, the pup will develop stomach pains with severe diarrhea and vomiting. Eventually, the dog could collapse, have a high heart rate and difficulty breathing.

Parvo is spread in feces but you might never see that part of it. The illness rides along on paws and fur, it hangs out in kennels and on the ground… you can even unknowingly carry it by petting or handling a dog who is infected.

Again with the WHAT

Non-Core Vaccines
These are more optional and your vet will advise what’s needed based on breed, your lifestyle or the geographical area you live in. The non-core shots also cover against some pretty nasty and potentially life altering illnesses… so don’t take the title lightly.

You’ll see that the non-cores will follow the same appointment schedule as the core vaccines but… again… you may not need all of them. Ask questions, find out what is suggested, why it was offered and which illnesses you are protecting against.

Non-cores are more likely to be repeated on a yearly basis, to assure complete and total coverage through booster shots. Your vet can tell you more on what yearly vs on time vaccines are required.


Week 6-8
Bordetella and Parainfluenza (if not included in the DAP shot)

Week 10-12
Canine Influenza

Week 14-16
Canine Influenza

What are these shots for? Let’s talk it out:

Bordetella is an inflammation in your dogs upper respiratory system.  It will cause coughing and illness, which can lead to more infections. Bordetella can also be linked to Kennel Cough. You’ll see the symptoms of dry cough, gagging, hacking, a runny/watery nose. Dogs can pick up this illness in crowded places like kennels, dog parks, grooming salons, group outings. If somewhere you gather with other dogs is not clean or seems unkempt, it could be breeding ground for Bordetella. The only positive thing about this one… not fatal, just nasty.

Parainfluenza – sounds like the flu but it isn’t. It is often mistaken for kennel cough, as it has very similar symptoms. However, this is more serious. You would see loss of appetite, constant eye irritation, sneezing, runny nose and your pup will not be themselves.  Left untreated it can become a fatal illness. Older dogs have a harder time recovering from Parainfluenza, and it can easily be spread in common areas like a dog park, dog run, grooming salon or doggie hotel.

Leptospirosis is scary and spreading to the United States rapidly from tropical climates. You’ll see infections rise in the fall. It is passed from infected animals leaving it in puddles of common water. An infected animal will mark an area or casually pee and the Leptospirosis bacteria will burrow into your dogs skin and into their bloodstream.

Places like marshes, muddy areas, irrigated pastures, stagnate bodies of water, are where you can come into contact with this virus. Dogs most at risk are hunting dogs, dogs that live near wooded areas, farm dogs or dogs that spend time in a kennel. Oddly enough, people can be infected with young children most at risk.

If your dog has this illness, you could see sudden fever, reluctance to move because they have sore muscles, stiffness in their walking or running, shivering, sudden weakness, depression, lack of appetite, sudden increase in drinking and peeing, vomit and diarrhea (sometimes with blood), yellow skin/yellow whites of eye, coughing, difficulty breathing, runny nose.  If you haven’t guessed, this one is BAD and can lead to death.

Lyme is age old and comes from the bite of an infected tick… gross. After vaccine, having your dog on a monthly tick prevention routine is important! This is a tricky illness, as many dogs will never show any signs of being sick… until they suddenly do. Lyme disease is carried through the bloodstream to many parts of the body but is most likely to impact the joints or kidneys. If it goes untreated, Lyme disease can damage a dogs muscles, eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. If your older dog has sudden kidney failure, this could be the cause.  Obviously, dogs who live on farms, in wooded areas, or are in contact with others who live in these areas, are most at risk. Lyme is treatable if discovered but deadly if not uncovered.

Canine Influenza sounds like the flu and it is. Like so many others on this list, a respiratory disease  with symptoms like coughing (both moist and dry), sneezing, runny nose, runny eyes, fever, difficulty breathing, lethargy. This is easily spread and extremely contagious. Depending on your dogs age, health, immune system and other key factors… your dog could be VERY sick or not show any signs of the illness.

If you hear of an outbreak of Canine Influenza, consider holding back doggy play group activities, trips to the dog park or other mass gather locations until the outbreak subsides. The good news, not likely fatal. Your dog could be mega sick but they should recover.

In the end, why risk it? The vaccines against these diseases will help build that immunity shield and protect, not only your dog, but all dogs they meet.  

The bug-a-boo of all of this is cost, shots can be pricey and having that many in a short time span can be a budget breaker! Be upfront and honest with your veterinarian. Talk to them about what it will run you, ask for an estimate and talk frankly about what you can afford. Is everything they are proposing really needed? Have them explain the why’s to you… it’s your right as the pets parent.

Also, look for a value… do they have a bundle and save, a special for puppies or some other promotion to help lighten your load. Take Freddie’s Place, for instance… we offer our $25-a-shot vaccine clinic to all fur families in the San Diego County area. If your vet is worth a darn, they are more concerned about getting your dog treated than inflating the cost of the medicine they need to be safe!

Your job, as a responsible owner, is to assure the life you’ve taken on to protect and love has just that, protection and love. Be sure you’ve done your homework before you make the investment in time, money and emotion when you choose to bring a fur kid into your life. Vaccines and yearly wellness checkups are just a small price to pay for the unconditional love and joy that furry face and silly personality will bring you!

Well, we hope our cruise down Vaccine Boulevard has helped you see what should prepare for in the first 16 weeks of vet visits and an idea of what you might need in ongoing vaccine care.

From all of us at #FreddieSez, we hope your fur buddies always have the best of health, the brightest of eyes, the deepest of devotion and the most mischievous nature one can bottle in four legs and a tail!

Look for more from the Internets favorite Dog Blogger in upcoming weeks as we deep dive into the issues you need to know and look for interesting tidbits of information you can’t live without. Until we meet again, be safe out there… #FreddieSez!