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.

Learn more about The Spruce Pets'Veterinary Review Board

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)


Which vaccines do dogs really need? ›

Vaccination helps protect your pet against these and other highly contagious or deadly diseases.
  • Canine distemper.
  • Canine influenza.
  • Canine parvovirus.
  • Feline panleukopenia.
  • Leptospirosis.
  • Rabies.

Do dogs really need yearly 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.

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.

What happens if you don't vaccinate your dog? ›

If dogs aren't vaccinated at a young age, they will be vulnerable to diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, hepatitis, canine parvovirus, Lyme disease, canine influenza, leptospirosis, and kennel cough.

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.

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.

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

Sadly, a lot of the diseases your pet can catch if they aren't vaccinated are fatal in most cases. Even if your pet catches one and is able to recover, they will often be left with long-term problems which can put them through a lot of pain and distress and leave you with some costly vet bills.

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.

Do dogs live longer without shots? ›

A vaccinated dog is typically going to be healthier and potentially live longer than an unvaccinated dog and is also less likely to risk spreading disease to others.

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

Missing a vaccination or booster

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. Please note that this doesn't apply to rabies vaccinations.

Does my old dog still need vaccinations? ›

Typically, senior pets will receive most vaccines every three years. Some vaccines with shorter duration of immunity, such as kennel cough, leptospirosis, or Lyme disease vaccines, may be given more frequently (every six to twelve months). Have blood and urine tests evaluated at least once a year.

Do dogs need rabies shots every year? ›

Rabies vaccine - Rabies vaccines for dogs are required by law in the U.S. All dogs should be vaccinated for rabies at approximately 14 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age. Depending on your local regulations, re-vaccination should happen every one to three years.

What is the 7 in 1 vaccine for dogs? ›

What is the 7 in 1 vaccine for dogs? Answer: Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Corona Viral Enteritis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and Leptospirosis are all protected by the 7-in-1 vaccine for dogs. Vaccinating your dog is a crucial part of responsible pet parenting.

Do dogs really need all those vaccinations? ›

AAHA recommends all pets receive core vaccines—those deemed medically or legally necessary to meet minimum health standards—along with additional vaccines based on lifestyle.

How long can a dog go without their shots? ›

Revaccination (booster) with core vaccines, including rabies, is recommended for all dogs and cats 1 year following completion of initial (juvenile) series. Revaccination is generally recommended at 3-year intervals thereafter.

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.

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).

Do dogs need 3 or 4 Dhpp shots? ›

Depending on your puppy's age, this may require 3-4 vaccinations for the Distemper/Parvo series until your puppy is 16-20 weeks of age. If your dog is over 16 weeks of age and isn't up-to-date on shots, or if you're not sure, your veterinarian may recommend a shorter series.

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