Diseases, Vaccines

Dog Vaccine FAQs

What vaccinations do dogs need? Find the answers to your questions about dog vaccines and vaccination.

Is Dog Vaccination Necessary?

Yes, absolutely. Vaccination can help prevent your dog from contracting potentially fatal diseases. Vaccines contain modified or killed versions of common canine diseases. When they are injected into the body, your dog’s immune system will attack them. If your dog is later exposed to the disease, the immune system will remember the disease and quickly counteract it. Arguably, vaccines have likely save more lives-human and animal- than any other medical advancement in the history of mankind.

What Shots Does My Dog Need?

Not necessarily. There are two classes for canine vaccines: Core and Non-Core.

Core vaccines for dogs are recommended for all dogs, regardless of breed, size or location. All dogs will see these life-threatening diseases in their lifetime. If it didn’t kill them and they were lucky enough to recover, they would still suffer from side effects for the rest of their lives. The core vaccines include Rabies (required by law), Distemper, Adenovirus, and Parvovirus.

Non-core vaccines for dogs are reserved for pets with unique exposure risks or needs. These include Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough, Coronavirus, Giardia and Lyme disease. If any of these diseases are prominent in your area, you may want to consider vaccinating for them. If your dog visits the groomer or kennel often, the Kennel Cough (Bordetella Bronchiseptica, Parainfluenza, Adenovirus) and bivalent Canine Influenza vaccines may be recommended as well.

Standard 5-way vaccines such as the Solo-Jec 5® vaccine for dogs offer protection against many of the “Core” canine diseases. Other 6-way vaccines such as the Canine Spectra® 6 way shot for dogs, or a 7 way vaccine or 8-way vaccine combination such as the Nobivac Canine 1-DAPPvL2+Cv 8 way dog vaccine add “Non-Core” disease protection against Corona or Lepto. Kennel Cough vaccines may include the Parainfluenza virus, as well. The non-core options should be added if your dog’s lifestyle or area of the country exposes him to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian for more specific recommendations concerning your dog.

Is There a Risk in Giving Vaccines?

As with human vaccination, there are always risks. However, the benefits of a healthy life certainly outweigh the risks of contracting a life-threatening disease. Your dog may have mild tiredness, a fever, soreness or a reduced appetite, but these will go away in a day or two. If they persist longer, you should talk with your veterinarian. Rare cases have reported allergic reactions or vaccine injury and sometimes death, but the chances of this happening are very low.

If your dog has had reactions to vaccinations before, it’s best to let your veterinarian give the vaccines. Let them know of the reactions, so they can make the proper adjustments and preparations.

What’s the Difference Between MLV Vaccines and Killed Vaccines?

An MLV (modified-live vaccine) is a live but weakened version of a virus that is used to stimulate immune response. A killed vaccine is an inactive form of the virus or bacteria, with all infectious agents killed.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. MLV vaccines are more effective in preparing the immune system, they last longer, and they’re also faster at achieving immunity. Killed vaccines pose no risk of infecting the animal, but are less effective in providing immunity and usually require two doses.

Why Do Puppies Need Shots?

Puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s milk, giving temporary protection against disease. These antibodies also see vaccines as a disease and can block them before they stimulate the immune system. There is a time after weaning called the “window of susceptibility,” where the antibodies wear off, the puppy has not yet responded to the vaccination and the puppy is at risk for disease. However, it’s almost impossible to determine this time period for each individual puppy, even littermates. By giving a series of vaccinations, you expose your puppy to the infectious agent, allowing the puppy to develop protection as soon as the mother’s antibodies wear off, whenever this happens.

Current recommendations from experts indicate the series should be continued until 18 weeks of age to maximize protection. Better vaccines recently developed lead to stronger maternal antibodies. While this improves protection in young pups, it delays the drop in maternal antibodies. This means pups need their final vaccination of the series at an older age than in past generations of vaccines.

Can You Vaccinate a Pregnant Dog?

In general, vaccines and most medications of any kind are not recommended for pregnant or nursing animals unless the manufacturer has tested and proven them to be safe. The same is true with vaccines. It is not recommended to vaccinate a pregnant dog. If you have questions, check with your veterinarian first.

Can I Vaccinate a Nursing Dog?

Keep in mind that vaccinating a nursing animal will not pass the protection on to the babies. Newborn puppies only receive the antibodies from the colostrum (first milk) in the first 36 hours of nursing, and the vaccine will take a week or more to fully affect the immune system. If the mother needs vaccination, it’s best to wait until after weaning, when the stress of pregnancy and nursing is removed. She will be better equipped to respond after she’s had adequate time to recover.

Is a Yearly Dog Booster Vaccine Necessary?

Up until a few years ago, this was the standard recommendation. However, recent studies show increasing evidence that some vaccines last much longer than a year. Talk to your veterinarian for recommendation. One vaccine schedule is not universal for all pets, so your vet will have the best insight into what kinds of vaccines your dog should receive and when he or she should receive them.

Try Revival’s Vaccine Finder

The Vaccine Finder is a free tool to help choose the right vaccines for your dog.

If you have more questions on what vaccinations dogs need and how often, call us at 800.786.4751.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.