Puppy Shots and Vaccinations

Frequently Asked Questions

When you get a puppy, please factor in the cost of puppy shots. Without the complete round of vaccinations and follow-up boosters, your dog is at risk. Your vet will give you all the information about puppy shots that this FAQ doesn’t.

What Are Puppy Shots For?
What Do Puppy Vaccinations Do?

Dogs are beautiful, loyal and generally great friends – but on a more basic level, they’re kinda dirty! They play in mud, sniff and lick things they shouldn’t, etc. The problem is that your puppy’s immune system doesn’t know how to fight every disease in the book.

Puppy vaccination shots basically give your dog a harmless version of various diseases. His immune system responds by developing antibodies against those diseases, so that if and when the harmful, natural version of those germs enters his body, he’ll be ready.


Which puppy vaccination shots should my puppy have?

Here are the typical puppy shots every dog should get:

  • Canine adenovirus
  • Coronavirus
  • Distemper
  • Kennel cough
  • Leptospirosis (depending on where you live)
  • Lyme disease (depending on where you live)
  • Parvo
  • Rabies

Medical knowledge grows daily, so this list may not include everything that veterinarians will suggest.

How many puppy shots does it take to vaccinate against all that?


Not as many as it looks. You’ll go to the vet three times, between five weeks and four months of age. One of the shots will take care of most of the vaccinations; see below.

At what age should puppy shots be given?

This varies based on the specific vaccine. Parvovirus vaccine can be given when your puppy is only five weeks old. A five-way shot will immunize your puppy against a list of diseases around two months of age, and another seven-way serum will wrap-up your puppy shots when they’re three or four months old. Booster shots should be given anywhere between once a year, to once every three years.

My puppy is a hardy breed with few health risks.
Do all puppies need shots?


Do smaller breeds get smaller doses of puppy shots?

No, the dose of puppy vaccinations is not relative to the size or breed. The standard dose is the bare minimum to give the immune system the information it needs to get the job done. Any less, would not be enough.

Do puppy shots have side effects?

Yes, but they’re rarely dangerous. With that being said, watch your puppy carefully for about half a day after the shots. I’ll cover the side-effects from most common and least severe, to least common but most severe.

It’s very normal for the vaccines to stimulate your dog’s immune system into short-term overdrive. As I said above, your puppy’s immune system will use these shots as a chance to learn new antibodies. While that’s happening, your puppy will probably have a mild fever, reduced appetite for food, and tiredness. The area of the injection will be tender or sore as his immune system focuses on deploying the antibodies. These symptoms pass quickly, usually within a day.

There are two dangerous side effects that happen in only a few cases:

Urticaria: This is an allergic reaction to the vaccine. A puppy with urticaria will experience swelling, hives, and redness around the face and neck. These rashes will be very itchy. Urticaria is fairly rare, but it’s the more-common of the two dangerous reactions to puppy shots. Urticaria will kick-in quickly after your puppy’s shots, if at all. If this happens, bring your pup back to the veterinarian for a treatment. There is a risk this will progress to anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening.

Anaphylaxis: This is a case where the allergic reaction to puppy shots is so severe, that the entire body starts freaking out, system by system. The throat swells up and prevents breathing, intestines begin rejecting food from both ends (diarrhea and vomiting), the nervous system can become jittery and lead to

seizures, and the heart can stop or collapse. As I said above – if your dog seems to be having any allergic reaction, turn the car around and go back to the vet.

How do puppy shots affect my puppy socialization schedule?

Your puppy should not make new canine friends until after the third and final vaccination, at three or four months of age.

I adopted a pound puppy. The pound
doesn’t know what shots the puppy already had.
What do I do?

Your veterinarian is the best person to answer this question, but the safest bet is to do the full round of puppy shots. There’s usually no harm in repeating the vaccinations, and a lot of harm in missing one.

Do farm dogs need special puppy shots?

This is a question for your veterinarian, but rural life and frequent exposure to other animals does make any “optional” vaccinations generally more important.

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