Dog Health

What Shots Do Your Dogs Really Need? (Vet’s Recommendation Guide)

The list of recommended and required dog vaccinations.
Written by Richard Jeng

Most owners take the word of their veterinarian on what shots are necessary for their dog without ever questioning their word. However, a growing group of dog owners have been voicing their question: what shots do my puppies need? I mean, really need.

The short answer is, most puppies don’t really need more than just the Rabies, DHLPP and Bordetella vaccine. All the remaining vaccines are categorized as ‘non-core’ because they don’t pose a threat to the long-term health of a dog. However, some dogs do actually need these ‘other’ non-core shots, as determined by the vet. Other factors such as genetics, dog breed and location could influence the necessary shots for a specific dog.

Required Puppy Shots

These vaccines are absolutely required by law in the United States and many other countries around the world. It is considered illegal to skip the listed vaccinations in this section.

Rabies is the only shot required by law.

Rabies Vaccine

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the only vaccine required by law in the United States is the Rabies vaccination. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Most states regulate the administration of the rabies vaccine to other domestic animals, such as cats and ferrets, in addition to dogs. Despite rabies being the sole regulated vaccine for dogs, it doesn’t mean the other vaccinations aren’t important.

Each state regulates the rabies vaccine differently. For example, some states will only allow a licensed vet to administer the shot, while others may allow veterinary techs and other trained individuals to do so.

Different states also have different requirements for the puppy’s shot schedule regarding the rabies shot. For example, the state of California requires all puppies to receive their rabies vaccination within the first 3 months and revaccinated one year after the primary immunization.

On the other hand, a state like Delaware requires a dog to get their rabies vaccination within the first 6 months.

To find out the correct schedule requirements for your specific state, visit the Rabies State Law Chart here.

Learn more about Rabies vaccination here.

Highly Recommended Puppy Shots

Highly recommended vaccinations are not required by law in the United States, but they are either crucial to the long-term health of your dog or common enough to be required by numerous facilities in the country.

The list of highly recommended shots for dogs and puppies.

DHLPP (DHPP) Vaccine

Although not mandated by law, the DHLPP (or DHPP) vaccine is highly recommended for all dogs. This single shot is a 5-in-1 (and 4-in-1 for DHPP) vaccine that contains a mix of both core and non-core vaccinations that prevent your dog from contracting potentially fatal diseases.

DHLPP contains vaccination for Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus and Canine Parainfluenza. DHPP lacks Leptospirosis, which isn’t necessary for 3 sessions in puppies.

Learn more about DHLPP here.

Bordetella Vaccine

Another highly recommended puppy shot is Bordetella, sometimes referred to as the “kennel cough vaccine.” Although this shot protects your dog from a relatively mild illness, it is still required by many facilities that accommodates numerous dogs. For example, dog groomers, doggy day cares, shelters, dog hotels, private dog parks and others require dogs to get the bordetella vaccine before entering premises of the facility.

So although this vaccine is not required by law, such as the rabies vaccine, you’ll be seriously limiting accessibility to help with your dog. In the end, it may prove a huge nuisance to not get your dog its Bordetella vaccine.

Learn more about the Bordetella vaccine here.

Recommended Case by Case

These vaccines are sometimes recommended by your local vets and necessary depending on a variety of factors, such as dog breed, genetics or location. For example, if you’re in an area with high risk for certain dog diseases, your vet may recommend the corresponding shots as a preventative measure.

Sometimes dog vaccines are recommended case by case.

Lyme Vaccine

This vaccine protects your dog against Lyme disease, which stems from the nasty Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This bacteria is typically transmitted through nasty deer ticks located in the Northeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic states of the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that roughly 95% of all cases of Lyme disease come from just 14 different states in those regions.

Unless you and your dog live in a rural area, on a farm or somewhere in those 14 states, it may not be a great idea to get this vaccine for your dog. Those that take their dogs to the mountains and woods for frequent hikes may also take a look at this vaccine. To determine whether your dog needs this vaccine, always consider if you often put your dog in position to encounter deer ticks.

Canine Influenza

Often called the dog flu, Canine Influenza is a contagious disease transmitted from dogs to dogs through respiratory secretions. This means that a dog can contract canine influenza from coughing, sneezing or even barking. Currently, there are only two identified strains of the canine influenza virus – the H3N8 and H3N2 virus.

This virus has been known to survive for up to 48 hours on surfaces of the floor or other objects, making dogs susceptible to the illness in environments where many dogs frequent. In addition, the virus can live for up to 24 hours on our clothing, while living up to 12 hours on human hands.

The Canine Influenza vaccine is generally recommended for dogs that need to attend daycare, grooming or kennel facilities. If a facility requires this vaccine, then it will certainly help protect your dog against this illness. Always check with these facilities and ask questions about their cleaning regimen to prevent such diseases (including Bordetella) from spreading.

If you do decide to protect your dog from this virus, often times your vet may suggest you protect them from both strains of the Canine Influenza. In 2009, the H3N8 influenza vaccine was introduced; however, following an epidemic in Chicago of 2015, the H3N2 vaccine has now become available. It is unpredictable which strain of the virus your dog may contract.

The good news is that just recently in October 2017, the new vaccine that protects against both strains was introduced.

Ask a Vet

Reading about dog shots and other vaccinations on the internet are great for owners that want to have a better understanding of their dogs and the process of protecting their health. However, these guides should never replace the suggestions and advice from a licensed veterinarian.

This guide is not used as medical reference for you or your vet, but rather as a resource to spark conversation with your dog’s medical staff. If you have any questions or concerns, always discuss with your local veterinarian.

It’s relatively cheap enough to get all the shots recommended by your vet. Penny-pinching at the expense of your dog’s health is not something I would suggest.

Further resources:

About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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