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Your newborn puppy has very little immunity to the world around it. And, for those first few years (especially the first year), vaccinations are going to be an absolute necessity in order to keep your gorgeous, little fluff-ball safe from harm.

The vast majority of illnesses that dogs are vaccinated against are preventable, which is great news.

But they’re only preventable if you follow the vaccination protocols. Vaccinations aren’t just about the health of your dog. They also help to keep the entire canine population (and even the human population) healthy by keeping these illnesses at bay.

Because of this, certain dog vaccinations are mandatory for most cities, as well as dog parks, grooming parlors, boarding kennels, and doggie daycares. Especially the Bordetella vaccine. You may need to show your pup’s vaccination history in order to have access to some of these facilities.1

So, as a parent of a newborn pup, what kinds of vaccinations are required?

Which Vaccinations Does My Puppy Need?

Let’s start with two of the most important vaccination shots for your pooch.

1. Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus (DHPP)

The DHPP vaccine is a 4-in-1 shot that covers four major illnesses:

Vaccinations | Ultimate Pet NutritionDistemper is a very serious illness with no cure. It attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of dogs. Even if an animal survives distemper, symptoms and secondary ailments could result.

Canine Hepatitis is highly contagious and affects the liver and surrounding organs. Like the human variety, there is no cure, but a mild form can be treated long-term. The severe form of canine hepatitis is not usually survivable.

Parainfluenza is dangerous because it can lead to “kennel cough,” a serious inflammation of the airways. Though not often deadly, kennel cough can make your pup extremely sick.

Parvovirus, or Parvo, is an extremely contagious and dangerous virus that affects the gastrointestinal system. It can easily kill a dog within 48-72 hours, mostly from the effects of dehydration. There is no cure, but a dog can survive parvo if it’s treated quickly.2

2. Rabies

Rabies attacks the nervous system, commonly causing those symptoms that it’s become most famous for: hallucinations, excessive drooling, frothing at the mouth, fear of water (hydrophobia), aggressive behavior, paralysis, and, ultimately, death. It’s also extremely dangerous to humans.3

Next up, you should speak to your vet and ask them their opinion on some of the more “optional” shots out there. Some may be essential for where you live, or your dog’s lifestyle, and some may not. So, it’s best to design a plan for your pooch in tandem with your vet.

Some of these other vaccinations include:


Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection with a greater risk around water or in damp climates. It’s most commonly found in soil and water and can easily be spread to humans. Some vets may roll this vaccine in with the DHPP vaccine (called the DHLPP vaccine) but not always.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Also known as the primary cause of kennel cough, Bordetella is a highly contagious respiratory infection. If you dog socializes a lot with other dogs, or if you board them, your vet will likely recommend this shot.

Canine Influenza

A viral upper respiratory infection, canine influenza is much like human influenza, in that most dogs do make a full recovery from it. For some, however, canine influenza could lead to pneumonia or other more serious conditions.

Lyme Disease

Because Lyme disease is carried by ticks, it’s usually found in specific areas of the country, including the east and west coasts, as well as the Great Lakes area.

Corona Virus

Attacking the intestines, the Corona virus is mostly found in the southern United States.
Though it’s highly infectious, it’s generally considered quite mild. But, it can have a much more severe effect on young puppies, especially if another infection is also at play (such as parvovirus).4,5

Vaccinations | Ultimate Pet Nutrition

Vaccinations Schedule

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, here’s a basic schedule that you can use to help get you started:6

6 – 8 weeks:

Recommended: DHPP combo (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus) – First of 4 shots

9 – 12 weeks:

Recommended: DHPP combo – Second of four shots.
Optional: Bordetella “kennel cough” – First of two shots
Lyme disease – First of two shots

12 – 16 weeks:

Recommended: DHPP combo – Third of four shots.
Optional: Bordetella “kennel cough” – Second of two shots
Lyme disease – Second of two shots

16 -18 weeks:

Recommended: DHPP combo – Final of four shots.
Rabies – Annual, or every three years, depending on vaccine

Every 1 – 2 years:

Recommended: DHPP vaccine booster
Rabies (check the legal requirements for your State)

There are more “optional” vaccines than these, as listed above, that you should talk to your vet about for your particular dog. Also, note that optional vaccines, like Bordetella, are commonly required twice a year by most grooming and boarding facilities.7

What About Heartworm?

Heartworm is a very serious condition for a dog of any age. Worms quite literally lodge themselves in a dog’s heart (and sometimes other organs), causing severe lung disease, heart failure, and organ damage.

But, heartworms can’t be controlled by a vaccine. Instead, you should talk to your vet about starting your pup on preventative heartworm medication. If puppies are under 7 months of age, they don’t need to take a heartworm test first.

The American Heartworm Society suggest you remember to “think 12.” This means that you should get your dog tested for heartworms every 12 months and give your pup heartworm preventive treatments for all 12 months of the year.8

Vaccinations | Ultimate Pet NutritionAre Vaccines Safe For My Puppy?

The vast majority of veterinary experts agree that vaccinations have prevented the deaths of millions of animals over the last century. This fact alone immensely outweighs any potential negative side effects. As with humans, some pets may experience mild adverse reactions to vaccinations, like mild fever, decreased appetite, or local swelling at the injection site. Serious reactions are extremely rare. But, if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, you should always get them to a vet immediately.9

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the cost of vaccinating far outweighs the cost of having your pet contract one of these illnesses – both financially and emotionally. And, isn’t your new best friend’s health the most important thing?

If it feels overwhelming, especially if you’ve never owned a dog (or a very young dog), have a chat with your vet. They will be able to not only advise you, but they can draw up a personalized immunization schedule for your puppy.

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