What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? (2024)


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Rabies, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, and More


Lianne McLeod, DVM

What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? (1)

Lianne McLeod, DVM

Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a small animal and exotic pet expert with over a decade of experience writing about veterinary care. After caring for animals in her veterinarian practice, Lianne went on to study biology and research water quality and chronic disease at theUniversity of Saskatchewan.

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Updated on 02/02/22

Reviewed by

Alycia Washington

What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? (2)

Reviewed byAlycia Washington

Alycia Washington is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) with nearly a decade of experience as a small animal emergency veterinarian. She currently works as a relief veterinarian for various emergency and specialty hospitals. Dr. Washington recognizes the importance of education and also works as a freelance veterinary writer.

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Fact checked by

Jillian Dara

Fact checked byJillian Dara

Jillian Dara is a fact checker for The Spruce Pets, reviewing articles about pet care and pet products for factual accuracy and consistency. She has more than five years of experience in lifestyle editing and media and has been published in a variety of prestigious outlets.

Learn more about The Spruce Pets'Editorial Process

What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? (4)

Dogs need vaccines as a part of preventative health care to be protected against some or all of certain diseases. Core vaccines should be given to all dogs, whereas non-core vaccines are given where indicated by your dog's lifestyle or the geographic area in which you live. Core vaccines include rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and more, while non-core vaccines include shots such as Bordetella, Lyme, and Giardia.

With the exceptions of legal requirements for rabies or vaccination requirements for kennels or travel, many veterinarians recommend vaccinating adult pets every three years, as per the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) Canine Vaccine Guidelines. It should be noted, however, that an annual examination is still strongly recommended to make sure your pet remains in optimal health.

List of Core Dog Vaccines

  • Rabies: Rabies is a fatal viral disease that attacks the nervous system and that is transmissible to humans.
  • Distemper: Distemper is a viral disease that is often fatal, affecting the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts and often the nervous system.
  • Hepatitis/Adenovirus: A vaccination against adenovirus type 2 protects against both adenovirus types 1 and 2. Adenovirus type 1 causes infectious canine hepatitis, a viral disease that affects the liver and other organ systems, causing serious illness which is sometimes fatal. Adenovirus type 2 causes respiratory illness and may be involved in the development of kennel cough.
  • Parvovirus: Canine parvovirus is a viral disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can be fatal.
  • Parainfluenza: Parainfluenza is a viral disease affecting the respiratory system; may be involved in the development of kennel cough.

List of Non-Core Dog Vaccines

  • Bordetella:Bordetella is a bacterial infection that can cause or contribute to kennel cough.
  • Leptospirosis:Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects several systems including the kidneys and liver; it can be fatal. It's only a risk in certain geographic locations, so it's not used routinely for every dog. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
  • Lyme Disease:Lyme disease is a bacterial disease spread by ticks that can cause arthritis and other problems such as kidney disease. It's only a risk in certain geographic locations, so it's not used routinely for every dog. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
  • Coronavirus:Coronavirus is a viral disease that primarily causes diarrhea. The risks of coronavirus infection are not as great as other viral diseases, sothe AAHA's Canine Vaccine Guidelines advise against routinely vaccinating for coronavirus. Your vet can help you decide if your dog should have this vaccination.
  • Giardia:The AAHA also recommends against vaccinating for giardia because the vaccine can prevent shedding of cysts but doesn't prevent infection.​
  • Canine Influenza H3N8:The canine H3N8 virus, also called the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), is a relatively new influenza virus in dogs. It causes flu-like symptoms in dogs and is very contagious when dogs are in close contact (i.e. kennel). Due to the contagiousness of this virus, some kennels, grooming salons, and similar businesses are now requiring this vaccination to prevent an outbreak. Aside from those situations, the decision to vaccinate your dog (or not) should be discussed with your veterinarian.
  • Rattlesnake vaccine: This vaccine might lessen the severity of the symptoms seen in dogs after a rattlesnake bite. Your vet can help determine your dog's risk for this snake bit based on where you live and your and your dog's lifestyle.

What Are the Letters in Combination Vaccines?

Viruses for which dogs are routinely vaccinated are often combined into a single shot as a combination vaccine (except the rabies vaccine, which is given separately). There are several different types of combinations vaccines available, and the individual components vary; they usually contain the core group of vaccines or the core with one or two other vaccines. Combination vaccines are often just called distemper or distemper/parvo vaccines, though there are more components than these. Each component is typically represented by an initial. What do all the initials mean?

  • D = Distemper
  • H or A2 = Adenovirus type 2; also protects against hepatitis (caused by Adenovirus type 1)
  • P = Parainfluenza (sometimes Pi)
  • PV = Parvovirus (sometimes simply abbreviated as P)
  • L = Leptospirosis
  • C = Coronavirus

For example, your dog's certificate might state that along with its rabies vaccine, it received a DA2PPV vaccine. This means it was vaccinated for distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parvovirus, and parainfluenza viruses.

Other common abbreviations for combination vaccines include DHPPV and DHLPPV, among others.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Vaccination Recommendations For General Practice.American Animal Hospital Association, 2020

  2. Rabies In Dogs.Veterinary Manual

  3. Canine Parvovirus.American Veterinary Medical Association, 2020

  4. Lyme Disease (Lyme Borreliosis) In Dogs.Veterinary Manual

What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? (2024)


What Vaccinations Does Your Dog Really Need? ›

The main core vaccines your puppy will need are for rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis) and parvovirus. Find out more about the viruses they protect against below.

Which vaccines do dogs really need? ›

The main core vaccines your puppy will need are for rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis) and parvovirus. Find out more about the viruses they protect against below.

Does my dog really need a leptospirosis vaccine? ›

Any dog that regularly goes outside is potentially at risk of contracting this disease. While the leptospirosis vaccine is not currently a required immunization for dogs, it is highly recommended for any dog that commonly goes outside, even just to go to the bathroom in the backyard.

At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog? ›

At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog? Senior dogs do not generally stop requiring vaccinations, but it will depend on your dog's lifestyle and overall health. Once a dog reaches seven years of age, its senior status requires some special considerations to keep them healthy and happy.

Do dogs really need the DHPP vaccine every year? ›

The DHPP 5-in-1 vaccine is a single shot that is given to puppies in a series of injections starting at about 6 weeks of age and given every 2 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 16 weeks old. All adult dogs should receive a booster shot of the DHPP vaccine either yearly or every 3 years based on your vet's recommendation.

Is it OK if I don't vaccinate my dog? ›

The American Animal Hospital Association calls vaccinations “a cornerstone of canine preventive healthcare” and recommends that all dogs (barring specific medical reasons), receive a core set of vaccines for rabies, distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza, and advises that many dogs receive additional “non ...

What are the top 3 vaccines for dogs? ›

What Are The 6 Most Important Dog Vaccinations?
  • Rabies. First and foremost, the rabies vaccination is required by law throughout the United States and in many other countries, too. ...
  • Bordetella. ...
  • Canine Influenza. ...
  • Distemper. ...
  • Parvovirus. ...
  • Lyme Disease. ...
  • Keep Your Dog Up to Date on Their Vaccinations in Bolingbrook, IL.

Why do breeders say no lepto vaccine? ›

Your breeder's concern is the fact that the leptospirosis vaccine has historically been associated with a higher risk of vaccine reactions, especially in tiny breed dogs.

What dog breeds are sensitive to the lepto vaccine? ›

In the past, the leptospirosis vaccine anecdotally was associated with a higher incidence of adverse vaccine reactions including vomiting, fever, malaise, and local swelling. These reactions were most seen in smaller dogs, including Dachshund and Chihuahua.

Does my dog need a Bordetella vaccine? ›

Symptoms of kennel cough include lethargy, decreased appetite, fever and a distinct, honking cough. The Bordetella vaccine for dogs is considered a core vaccine, which means it's recommended for all dogs unless there is a specific medical reason not to vaccinate.

What is the 5-in-1 shot for dogs? ›

The 5-in-1 vaccine, or DHPP vaccine, protects against five viruses: Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus 1 and 2, Canine Parainfluenza, and Canine Parvovirus. Puppies should receive the 5-in-1 vaccine starting at 6-8 weeks of age, with shots given every 3-4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks old.

Are dog booster shots really necessary? ›

There is no evidence that annual booster vaccination is anything but beneficial to most dogs. Published research has shown conclusively that abstaining from some boosters can put your dog at risk.

Is it possible to over vaccinate a dog? ›

But Schulz is also very much in agreement with those who say pets are being over vaccinated, calling it a “serious problem.” Often, he says, pets are vaccinated by vets who just want to keep clients coming in. But too many vaccines, especially when given in “combo shots,” can “assault” immune systems.

What happens if dog doesn't get yearly shots? ›

Your Pet Will Be Susceptible to Detrimental and Fatal Diseases. Whether you like it or not, your pet will be more vulnerable to various viruses. It doesn't matter if they are indoor pets. These microscopic assassins enter your home and find their way to your pets.

Do dogs really need a distemper shot? ›

Because this disease can be fatal, prevention of infection in the first place is key. Distemper vaccination should be part of the standard puppy series of immunizations and boosters. Into adulthood, dogs should be vaccinated annually or every three years, depending on the veterinarian's recommendations as dogs age.

What vaccines do dogs need every year? ›

After the puppy series, we re-vaccinate the patient when a year has passed. For rabies and distemper, we would go for an every-three-year protocol after the one-year booster. The Leptospirosis, Bordatella, influenza, and Lyme are done annually.

Do dogs really need annual vaccinations? ›

If you regularly board your dog or if he is exposed to other dogs, some vaccines, especially those for infectious bacterial diseases such as kennel cough (Bordetella), may be needed annually. Before vaccine administration, your veterinarian will perform a health examination.

Is a Bordetella vaccine necessary? ›

Does my dog need the Bordetella vaccine? The Bordetella vaccine can prevent kennel cough. It is administered by vets as a squirt in the nose. Not all dogs need this vaccine, but we recommend it for social dogs and any dogs who will be boarded (most boarding facilities require proof of a recent Bordetella vaccine).

What happens if a dog's vaccination is delayed? ›

Missing a vaccination or booster

The action taken by your vet will primarily depend on how late you are with the appointment. If this is more than 3 or 4 weeks, your furbaby may be given two vaccinations just 2 or 3 weeks apart to boost their immunity against the disease.


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