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Puppy vaccination and vet visit schedule

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

Getting a new puppy is one of the most exciting things that can happen to your family. You'll want to work with your veterinarian to ensure you have a healthy puppy and to put your puppy on the right vaccination schedule for your breed and location. Here's an overview of a generic vaccination schedule that most veterinarians follow.

Puppies are born ("whelped") after about 63 days of gestation. First vaccinations occur about six weeks after their birth. If your puppy received colostrum from it's mother within 12-24 hours of whelping, then your puppy will be protected, at least partially, by it's mothers antibodies for a few weeks.

The problem is that it's very hard to predict when those antibodies stop being effective and when your puppy will need it's first set of protective shots. The immune system of your puppy isn't develop enough until about 6 weeks to start being able to benefit form vaccines. To complicate matters more, it's mothers antibodies (from colostrum) can block a vaccine from providing full or any immunity. That is why your puppy will receive shots ever few weeks until 12-16 weeks of age—this schedule covers the potential "gap" in protection as your puppy's immunity shifts from it's maternal antibodies to it's own immunity generated by vaccines.

Many breeders give the first vaccine set between 6 and 7 weeks of age.

Most puppies go home at about 8 weeks, and responsible breeders don't send a puppy home any earlier. As soon as you get your new puppy, make an appointment with your vet and have a complete exam, including heart, eyes, neurological, etc. You vet should deworm your puppy and microchip your puppy. Your vet may give another round of vaccinations, depending on when (and if) your puppy received its first vaccines.

You should also discuss socialization risks with your vet. Your vet will be most knowledgeable about local dangers and outbreaks and will help you formulate the safest plan for socializing your puppy.

Most vaccines are given every three weeks, until your puppy is old enough to receive its rabies vaccine, between 12 and 16 weeks of age.

After that, you will want to have an annual checkup to get any needed boosters. If possible,e bring in a fecal sample to check for parasites. Some vaccines are now available for 3 years, instead of annually, so ask your vet about those.

Vaccine Reactions

We are supportive of vaccinating your dog, and think vaccinations are in your dog’s best interest, and in the interest of public health in general. Vaccine reactions are not common, but they can happen. Because of this, stay at the vet’s office for 20-30 minutes after a vaccine. If the waiting room is a quiet and suitable environment, you can wait there, or you can wait in your car. Any serious reactions are most likely to show up within 30 minutes, and signs include itching, hives, throat swelling, or vomiting.

Vaccine immunity

It takes up to 10-14 days for your puppy’s immune system to respond to a vaccine, so remember that the vaccine is not protective until that time has passed. Do not go from the vet to the dog park thinking your puppy is immediately protected. He’s not.


Titering measures the antibodies present in your dog’s system and indicates protection. So a sufficient titer for distemper, for example, indicates that your dog likely has immunity to distemper. Depending on state laws and your vet’s philosophy, you may want to check the titers on your dog before annual vaccines once your puppy has completed all of their puppy shots. Discuss this option with your vet if you are interested.

Rabies vaccine

It’s important to ensure your dog is as protected as possible through vaccination and/or titering. Besides health ramifications, if you do not adhere to your state’s required rabies vaccination schedule, you are putting your dog at risk of being impounded if he bites or mouths a person, or even if he is near where a dog bite happened. Please know he need not have bitten anyone to be impounded. Therefore, always ensure your dog’s rabies vaccination is up to date and that your dog wears her rabies tag. It’s also not a bad idea to have a copy of the rabies certificate from your vet stored in your smartphone.

Non-core vaccines

Core vaccines include canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies.

Common non-core vaccines include leptospirosis, canine influenza, lyme disease, and bordetella. Discuss these vaccines and the risk in your area with your vet and give them if there is risk either in your local area or any areas you expect your dog to travel to.

Some boarding and doggie day care facilities require dogs to have non-core vaccines, so also check with those prior to making vaccine decisions. You don’t want to go out of town for an emergency only to find you can’t board your dog overnight because she isn’t properly vaccinated.

Risks in our area, for example, include leptospirosis, canine influenza, and bordetella, so we add those non-core vaccines into our dogs’ preventive medicine plan.

Other non-core vaccines include rattlesnake bite, giardia, and coronavirus. At the date of this writing, we have not seen strong evidence of efficacy and/or safety for these vaccines.

Please discuss this with your vet if they suggest these vaccines and remember nothing is wrong with getting a second opinion if you aren’t sure.

If new vaccines come on the market, always discuss their risks and benefits with your vet prior to administering them.

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