Dog: Vaccinations

Other common/scientific names: immunization, vaccine

General Information

Dogs are susceptible to various infectious diseases, some of which can cause serious health problems. Fortunately, there are vaccinations available to help prevent many of these diseases. Some vaccinations are required by law and others are considered essential to a dog’s health. Additional vaccinations may be recommended by your veterinarian depending on your location, lifestyle and travel.

Infectious diseases are caused by microscopic organisms in the form of viruses, bacteria and protozoa that invade a dog’s body and cause illness. When a dog is under attack by one of these organisms, his immune system produces antibodies and specialized cells to fight the infection. After recovery, the immune system may remember the infection and continue to protect against re-infection.

Vaccination stimulates the immune system by purposely introducing substances that are similar to these disease causing agents. These can be killed, attenuated or modified-live parts of a bacteria, virus or protozoa which activate the immune system to produce those disease fighting antibodies and specialized cells. Because immunity may decline over time, vaccinations must be repeated regularly.


The vaccines that are available in the U.S. include: canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus (infectious hepatitis), parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), canine coronavirus, Leptospira spp (leptospirosis) and rabies. The vaccine for giardiasis has been discontinued in the U.S. Many of these vaccines are manufactured as a combined vaccine to reduce the number of injections needed.

Listed below are the current vaccine recommendations by the AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force. The vaccines are categorized as core, optional and not recommended. Core vaccines are those that all dogs should receive in one form or another. Optional vaccines should be administered based on the animal’s geographic, lifestyle exposure and assessment of the risks versus the benefits.

Core Vaccines

  • Canine distemper
  • Canine parvovirus
  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Rabies


  • Parainfluenza
  • Kennel cough
  • Lyme disease
  • Coronavirus (currently not recommended by the AAHA but commonly included in combination vaccines)
  • Leptospirosis

Vaccination Schedule

Newborn puppies have a naïve immune system because it has not been exposed to any infectious organisms. For protection against disease, the pup receives antibodies through the mother’s milk. This is called maternal or passive immunity. Unfortunately, this immunity is temporary and starts to wane around 5-6 weeks of age. By 20 weeks of age, these maternal antibodies are gone and the pup must rely on its own immune system. Without prior exposure to a disease or vaccination, the pup’s immune system can become overwhelmed. Because of this, pups are given a series (boosters) of core vaccinations starting at 6-8 weeks of age and boostered every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Some optional vaccines are administered on this same schedule while others are given at a later age for only two boosters. Older pups or adult dogs which are not vaccinated before 12 weeks of age should be given an initial two series of vaccinations.

After the initial puppy series, an annual vaccination is recommended the following year. After the first year of a dog’s life, subsequent vaccine boosters are given every 1 to 3 years depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Recommended Vaccination Schedule

  • 8 weeks of age
    • Core: distemper, parvovirus, infectious hepatitis
    • Optional: parainfluenza, kennel cough, coronavirus
  • 12 weeks of age
    • Core: distemper, parvovirus, infectious hepatitis
    • Optional: parainfluenza, kennel cough, Lyme disease, coronavirus, leptospirosis
  • 16 weeks of age
    • Core: distemper, parvovirus, infectious hepatitis, rabies (Most city, county and state ordinances have dog licensing requirements when vaccinating for rabies to ensure that the community’s dogs are vaccinated. Rabies vaccine may be administered at either 12 or 16 weeks of age. Check with your veterinarian for the laws in your area.)
    • Optional: parainfluenza, Lyme disease, coronavirus, leptospirosis

Vaccinations should be administered per the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Update version: 12/13/2012, © Copyright by
Join the discussion!
- This article has no comments yet -

The information offered by enpevet Ltd. is intended solely for information purposes and and does under no circumstances replace a personal consultation, examination or diagnosis through a veterinarian. Thus, the information serves as an addition to the dialogue between pet owner and veterinarian, but can never replace the visit to the veterinarian. enpevet® would like to ask all users, whose animals have health concerns, to see a veterinarian as required. If you have any questions regarding the health of your animal, we recommend that you turn to your trusted veterinarian , instead of starting, changing or breaking off treatments on your own. The content of enpevet® cannot and should not be used for making your own diagnoses or for the selection and application of treatment methods.