Many pet owners are afraid of over-vaccinating their dogs today. The truth is that in the past some dogs have been over-vaccinated. It was often easy to simply take your dog to the vet every year and get “the works.” Some vaccines come in combo vials so the vet or vet tech can give a dog one big shot of all the vaccines at once. However, not all dogs react well to this approach. Some dogs have bad reactions. Plus your dog doesn’t need to have every kind of vaccine every year. Many vaccines will protect your dog for several years or even throughout his lifetime.

How do you know which vaccines your dog needs?

You can talk to your veterinarian about vaccines and let him or her know that you don’t want your dog to be vaccinated for everything every year. Many vets are also aware of these issues and your vet should be willing to discuss the matter with you. In most states the only vaccination that is required is for rabies. The duration of the rabies vaccination is currently being researched but in many states a rabies shot is good for three years. However, different states have different state laws regarding how often a rabies vaccination has to be given to pets. In some states a rabies shot has to be given annually. Talk to your vet or a state health official such as someone with your state department of agriculture or state department of health to find out what the law requires in your state.

Other vaccines for dogs have different durations. Manufacturers have tested the vaccines before they are approved for use and they recommend how often the vaccines should be given. In reality, some dogs usually remain immune for longer periods but with other dogs the immunity can wear off earlier. If you wanted to know for sure if your dog was still immune to something like parvo or distemper instead of having your dog vaccinated again, you would need to have your vet perform a titre on your dog. This means testing your dog’s blood for an immune reaction to the disease to see if he can still mount an immune response. Then you would know if he needs to be re-vaccinated. Titring your dog is more expensive than getting a vaccination but some people like to do it instead of getting an unnecessary vaccination.

Puppies and vaccinations

Puppies should always be vaccinated. If the mother of the puppies is up to date on her vaccinations she will pass along some temporary immunity to them when they are born but this immunity begins to wear off when they are five or six weeks old. The exact age their immunity wears off can vary from one puppy to another in the litter. This is why one puppy might get sick with a disease and others don’t. But by the time the puppies are eight or nine weeks old, all of their immunity will be gone. If they are exposed to diseases, they will get sick at this time. That’s why it’s important to begin giving puppies their vaccinations when they are six or seven weeks old (approximately). The puppies should continue to get their shots approximately every 10 days or two weeks until they are 12 to 14 weeks old. This will cover them from the time they are immune until they are fully covered by the vaccinations. After this time, when they are between four and six months, most puppies get their rabies shot.

Finally, a year later, puppies should have a booster shot for their vaccinations. After this, they will be on the same schedule as other adult dogs.


Vaccines for puppies will include some things that adult dogs won’t need later, such as coronavirus. Puppy vaccinations include these core vaccines:

  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Hepatitis
  • Rabies

There are also some non-core vaccines that your vet may recommend, depending on where you live:

  • Measles
  • Canine Adnovirus 2 (CAV 2)
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordetella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Coronavirus
  • Lyme

Most core vaccines can be given to adult dogs every three years but, again, you should talk to your veterinarian for more advice.

Don’t forget that you also need to take your dog to the vet to have him tested for heartworm annually. Your dog should have a good physical every year, too. Dogs over the age of six or seven will also benefit from having some annual bloodwork for senior dogs so your vet can keep an eye on any health problems that might develop as your dog ages.