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When Do Puppies Get Shots? Essential Timeline and Tips - PawSafe

When Do Puppies Get Shots? Essential Timeline and Tips

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

when do puppies get shots

One important aspect of caring for a young canine is knowing when puppies need to get shots. This simple medical procedure ensures your young one has a fighting chance when they’re at their most vulnerable, and it’s also your legal duty to immunize. But when exactly should these be administered? 

We’re here to give you the basic rundown on the puppy immunization schedule so you can make sure your little buddy stays happy and healthy. Both RSPCA and AAHA recommend giving pups their first shots at 6 to 8 weeks (sometimes as early as four weeks). Our consultant vets also work on and approve the same timeline for nearly all their outpatient mini doggos.

Bear in mind that this is just a general guideline, and it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian for a tailored routine suitable for your puppy’s specific needs. So go ahead, grab that adorable little furball, and let’s get started on ensuring they stay safe and sound!

Inoculation is pivotal to a pooch’s survival during their crucial first months. Think of immunity as an armor that mama dogs pass on to their pups temporarily, and then jabs pick up from where they left off. Our article on how often dogs need rabies shots really highlights the scary truth of failing to give your new canines these vital injections. 

Remember, it’s also vital to know when to deworm your puppy along with their vaccination schedule.

Growing research shows that dogs below 12 months had the highest disease prevalence (89.5%). Moreover, lack of primary immunization was a leading factor in a majority of these cases. This means that the main cause of death in puppies is them not getting the necessary shots they need to protect them from deadly diseases.

Remember, these timelines are general guidelines and may vary based on your puppy’s specific needs. We recommend discussing your pup’s individual timeline with your trusted veterinarian to ensure their overall health and well-being.

Understanding Puppy Immunization Schedule

8-week-old French Bulldog puppy getting its second set of shots

As puppy parents, we want to make sure our canine babies are healthy, so one of the first things we need to do is get them inoculated. Here is what you can expect at your vet.

A Puppy’s First Shots

The initial round usually includes injections for Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus (DHPP), also known as the “core” vaccines. Sometimes, vets administer “DAPP” for Distemper, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza. 

A PMC study on ten DHPP vaccinates showed that getting vaccinations keeps 90% of dogs protected from clinical disease for at least four years.

In addition to the core injections, your puppy might also receive a Bordetella dose to protect against kennel cough and a Leptospirosis dose, depending on their environment and lifestyle. Make sure to consult your veterinarian to decide the most appropriate plan for your pup.

Here’s a brief rundown of the initial vaccines and their schedule:

6-8 weeks: At this young age, our puppies are due for their first round of jabs. These include:

  • DHPP: This is a combination vaccine that protects against four common diseases: Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza.
  • Bordetella: This vaccine guards against Kennel Cough, an infectious respiratory disease. (optional)

10-12 weeks: At this stage, our puppies should receive the following vaccines:

  • DHPP: This is the second dose of the combination vaccine.
  • Leptospirosis: This vaccine is essential for protecting our pups from a bacterial infection that can be potentially fatal if left untreated. (optional)
  • Canine Influenza: Some vets might recommend prevention against Canine Influenza to protect against dog flu. (optional)

14-16 weeks: Our puppies should now receive their final round:

  • DHPP: This is the third and final dose of the combination vaccine.
  • Rabies: The rabies vaccine is essential as it’s a fatal disease and is usually required by law.

12-16 months: Our pups need boosters to reinforce their immunity:

  • DHPP: This booster vaccine is given around one year after the last dose.
  • Rabies: A Rabies booster shot is normally required within a year of the initial vaccine.

Note: The timing and specific jab given may vary slightly based on your veterinarian’s recommendations and your local regulations.


Booster vaccinations are crucial for maintaining your puppy’s immunity throughout their life. In fact, a dog isn’t considered fully vaccinated until they receive all 3 to 4 injections. This is at approximately 6, 8, and 12 weeks (final at 14) or 10, 12, and 14 weeks (final at 16).

Here’s a simplified schedule of the boosters:

  • 14-16 weeks: Some puppies might require a fourth DAPP or DHPP around this time, based on their veterinarian’s advice.
  • 1 year: After the initial injections, our pups need a booster for the DHPP and Rabies.
  • Every 1-3 years: We must follow up with additional boosters for DHPP and Rabies to keep immunity levels high.

So here’s a summary of all the boosters:

15-16 weeksDHPP and Rabies
1 yearDHPP and Rabies
Every 1-3 years, depending on local lawsDHPP and Rabies

Remember, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian for a tailored schedule and to stay up-to-date with your puppy’s shots.

Puppy Vaccination Chart by Age

Puppies are as fun as they are delicate; hence the need for constant vet trips and why following an inoculation routine is crucial. Let’s break down the timeline into different age brackets for easy understanding.

6-8 weeks

10 to 12 weeks
DAP (Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus-2) + Optional vaccines (Parainfluenza, Leptospirosis)
DHPP (Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Parainfluenza) and Rabies between 12 to 16 weeks +optional non-core
14 to 16 weeks
DHPP and Rabies + vet recommended non-core

Parvo, Distemper, Rabies boosters

Remember, this chart is a general guideline, and individual circumstances may vary based on your puppy’s health and the recommendations of your veterinarian. 

We should always consult with our vet to determine the best immunization schedule for our puppies. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential in ensuring our new canines receive proper care and protection.

Can I overvaccinate my dog? Why Puppies Get So Many Vaccinations

Beagle puppies in a crate getting their shots by vet at 8 weeks old

Looking at the puppy vaccination schedule, it’s clear that puppies need a lot inoculations. Many people have a growing concern that vaccinations can cause health issues in dogs, so let’s address these concerns.

Firstly, Booster inoculation studies indicate that as more people become suspicious of vaccinations and become scared of complications from “over immunization,” fewer people are sticking to their puppy vaccination schedules. 

The major concern is that when puppies get the same vaccine over and over again, it can cause their immune system to become overactive and cause autoimmune issues and hypersensitivity reactions.  So let’s look at why puppies need these boosters.

Why Puppy’s Need Booster Shots

Alright, let’s chat about why puppies need multiple vaccinations. Imagine a newborn puppy like a little furry sponge, soaking up protection from its mom. When puppies nurse, they get special milk at first, called colostrum, loaded with antibodies. These antibodies are like tiny bodyguards, protecting the pups from diseases. It’s even better if the mom is vaccinated because her milk will have even stronger antibodies.

Now, as puppies grow, they start to eat solid food, usually around 6 weeks old. This is when they’re weaned off their mom’s milk, and those borrowed antibodies start to fade away. This timing is crucial because it’s when they get their first vaccinations. But here’s the catch: those lingering mom-antibodies can be overprotective. They might attack and destroy the vaccine, thinking it’s a threat. It’s like having an overzealous security guard who doesn’t recognize the good guys.

This is why the first vaccine might not fully “stick” – the puppy’s immune system hasn’t really learned to fight off diseases on its own yet. That’s where booster shots come in. Think of them like a training course for the puppy’s immune system. A month after the first shot, when those mom-antibodies have calmed down, the boosters give the immune system another chance to learn and build its own defense.

It’s super important because one round of shots isn’t enough for a strong, lasting immunity. Without these boosters, the puppy might not be fully protected. So, while some people worry about over-vaccination, in puppies, it’s all about timing and training their immune system properly. Those extra shots are like extra lessons, ensuring the pup grows up strong and healthy, ready to tackle whatever germs come their way!

A Warning to Those Worried About Overvaccinating Young Dogs

It’s completely understandable to be nervous about your pup getting so many injections. But allow me to explain why overvaccination is simply not a good reason to skip shots.

Anybody who has seen a puppy die from parvo should know that is a horrific and traumatic way to a lose a dog. In my many years of working in rescue, I have sadly seen many dogs die of parvo because they were not vaccinated. Having dealt with this first hand so often, I can assure all pet owners that I would rather over vaccinate my puppy’s than risk the horrendous ordeal that is parvo. 

As a puppy’s immune system is constantly developing, one set of shots just doesn’t cover it. I have seen puppies vaccinated at 6 weeks die of parvo when they did not get the rest of their boosters. On the other hand, after 15 years of working with dogs professionally, I have never witnessed severe complications from vaccinations. 

In the article on why how to treat Parvo at home, I outlined how I have pulled puppies through parvo before. But I must stress that when my puppy Arthur got parvo, he already had his boosters. So his case was very mild and cleared up quickly within a few days. I credit the fact that he had his vaccinations for how mild his case was.

Importance of Regular Vaccinations

A Golden Retriever puppy with two vets about to get its shots at four months old

Knowing that your dog is up-to-date on their jabs provides peace of mind for pet owners. Besides that, there are other benefits to this procedure to have in mind as follows:

Disease Prevention (Including Zoonotic illnesses)

One of the main reasons we get our puppies vaccinated is to prevent the spread of zootic diseases (spread between different species). Common illnesses like parvovirus, distemper, and rabies can have serious consequences for our canines. Regular shots can:

  • Protect our puppies from these diseases;
  • Reduce the chance of spreading infections to other animals; and
  • Ensure a healthier community for all of our pets.

Cost-Effective Health Care

Preventing diseases through jabs is more cost-effective than treating them once they occur. Veterinary treatments for diseases like parvovirus or distemper can be expensive, requiring thousands of dollars, and may not guarantee a full recovery. This makes vax prevention a wise investment in a dog’s long-term health.

Community Immunity

Achieving a high level of immunization within a community contributes to “herd immunity,” reducing the overall prevalence of infectious diseases. This helps protect not only individual dogs but also vulnerable populations, such as puppies, elderly dogs, or those with compromised immune systems.

Long-Term Health

These injections contribute to a dog’s overall well-being and quality of life by preventing illnesses that can lead to chronic health issues, long-term discomfort, and diminished quality of life. A healthy dog is more likely to lead an active, happy life with its human companions.

Legal Requirements

Many regions have legal requirements for certain dog vaccines, such as rabies. Adhering to these regulations is not only a way to ensure your pet’s safety but is also a legal responsibility with consequences. 

Regular inoculation is a cornerstone of responsible pet ownership and being a caring neighbor and community member. 

Things to Remember Before and After Vaccination

A puppy getting a vaccination

We need to be aware that, like humans, puppies might experience some side effects after receiving their shots. The good news is that most side effects are mild and temporary. Our article on dog shaking after shots will give you the knowledge to settle your mind on potential side effects. 

Potential Side Effects

To help you keep an eye on your pup, here are some of the most common side effects:

  • Lethargy: Your puppy may be more tired than usual for a day or two.
  • Loss of appetite: Don’t be too concerned if your pup skips a meal, it should return to normal soon.
  • Mild fever: A slight increase in body temperature can happen, but it should subside after a day.

Keep in mind, though, that some rare but severe side effects can occur. Luckily, surveys show that these adverse effects are pretty rare. For example, one survey of 3,439,576 vaccine doses recorded only 4,678 adverse events.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your vet immediately:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Swelling around the face, neck, or eyes;
  • Difficulty breathing; and
  • Seizures.

Post-Vaccine Care

After your puppy receives its shots, there is some vital care to keep in mind. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure your pup’s well-being:

  1. Rest: Give your puppy plenty of time to rest after their injections. Keep playtime low-key and minimize stress.
  2. Monitor: Watch for side effects and notify your vet if you observe anything concerning.
  3. Feed and hydrate: Provide fresh water and offer smaller, more frequent meals. This can help if your puppy experiences a decreased appetite.
  4. Temperature and comfort: Keep your puppy’s environment comfortable and consistent in temperature.

Remember to keep these points in mind both before and after your puppy’s vaccination, and your fur baby will be healthy and happy in no time!

Wrapping Up

So, we’ve learned quite a bit about when puppies need their inoculations. Let’s quickly recap the essential points to remember:

  • Puppies should start receiving their initial set of shots at 6 to 8 weeks of age.
  • The shots should continue every 3 to 4 weeks until they are around 16 weeks old.
  • Core vaccines include DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus) and Rabies.

Don’t forget the importance of non-core vaccines. Based on the specific risk factors of our puppies, the veterinarian may recommend additional vaccines, like:

  1. Bordetella (kennel cough);
  2. Leptospirosis; and
  3. Lyme Disease.

It’s always important to keep in mind that we must consult our trusted veterinarian for the best program specific to our puppy’s needs. They will be our go-to source for advice based on factors such as our pup’s breed, age, health condition, and environment.

Finally, let us all remember to keep an eye on our growing puppies and schedule regular check-ups to make sure they stay in tip-top shape! Following an immunization schedule is just one aspect of ensuring a happy and healthy life for our canines.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the recommended timeline for puppy vaccinations?

The typical timeline for puppy vaccines starts at 6-8 weeks old, with boosters given at 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks. Rabies vaccines are usually given around 12-16 weeks. It’s important to follow your vet’s advice on the specific schedule for your puppy, as it can vary based on breed, size, and overall health.

Which vaccines are essential for my puppy?

Essential vaccines for puppies include distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus, and rabies. These are considered core vaccines necessary to protect your puppy from common, life-threatening diseases. Depending on your geographical location and your puppy’s lifestyle, your vet may also recommend other vaccines, such as leptospirosis, Lyme disease, or Bordetella.

Can I give my puppy vaccinations at home?

While some pet owners may decide to administer vaccines at home, we strongly recommend having your puppy inoculated by a licensed veterinarian. Vaccines require proper handling, storage, and administration to be effective. Additionally, your vet can assess your puppy’s overall health, provide guidance on caring for your puppy, and monitor for potential vaccine reactions.

How often should my dog get vaccinated after they’re a puppy?

After the initial series of puppy vaccines, dogs will typically receive boosters every 1-3 years, depending on the specific vaccine. Rabies vaccinations are often given every 1-3 years in accordance with local laws. Regular vet visits can help determine the optimal schedule for your dog’s specific needs.

Are free vaccination clinics available for puppies?

Some communities do offer free or low-cost shot clinics for pets, including puppies. These clinics can help provide essential vaccines at a lower cost. You can check with local shelters, animal rescue organizations, or your city’s animal services department to find out if there are any such clinics in your area.

What is the 6-in-1 vaccine for dogs, and when should it be given?

The 6-in-1 vaccine, also known as the Canine DHPP+L4, is a combination vaccine that protects against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and four types of leptospirosis. It’s typically given during the initial series of puppy vaccinations (at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks), with booster shots every 1-3 years. Your vet can provide more information on this vaccine and if it’s right for your puppy.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to our puppies’ health, we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping up with their shots. In fact, it’s crucial in helping them grow into healthy, happy adult dogs.

Don’t forget that veterinarians are our best resources, as they can guide us on the appropriate shots for our puppies based on their breed, age, and specific needs. It’s essential to have those conversations, especially since some might be optional or based on our location and lifestyle.

While the idea of shots might initially make us a little nervous, it’s crucial to remember that these are in our puppies’ best interests. We hope this information helps you feel more prepared to take care of your little doggo’s health.


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.