What Vaccines Does Your Dog Need?

Two French bulldog puppies play in a pen in a grassy yard. They are looking out
Two puppy French bulldogs, ready for their second round of vaccines

Vaccines help prevent numerous illnesses, including life-threatening canine diseases like rabies. For active dogs and traveling dogs, it’s even more important to keep your pup current on vaccinations because they are more likely to be exposed to illnesses. Some canine vaccines are required by local are state laws to board them in a kennel or participate in other activities. Which vaccines does your dog need?

Required (Core) Vaccines

Currently, only two vaccines are required across the United States for all dogs – canine rabies and canine distemper/adenovirus/parvovirus (often called the DAP or DHP vaccine). Rabies is incurable and almost always fatal for dogs. Parvo and adenovirus are very serious and sometimes but not invariably fatal. Parvo, in particular, is extremely contagious. 


The rabies vaccine is given when a puppy is 14-16 months old, but it is required earlier in some states. After that, the rabies vaccine is given every three years. Once your dog gets a rabies vaccine, it will get a tag to attach to its dog collar. This tag should always be secured on their collar in case they are injured, hurt, sick, or if they bite someone. 


The DAP vaccine is started at 6-8 weeks, then given again at 10-12 weeks, then at 16-18 weeks. After one year, a booster is needed. After that, the vaccine is given every three years. The DAP protects against three serious canine illnesses, including parvovirus, a particularly devastating canine disease.

Non-Core Vaccines

Several other dog vaccines aren’t required by law in all states. Some states may demand some of them, while others don’t. If a vaccine isn’t required, you may still want to consider them if your pet is at risk due to chronic illness or other considerations. Some vaccines protect against diseases more likely to be transmitted through water such as lakes or streams or contact with other animals. If you sometimes travel with or kennel your dog, be sure you get them the appropriate vaccines to protect them. 

Two Frenchie puppies wearing pink jackets play with a stick in a yard together.

Bordetella and Canine Parainfluenza

Both of these illnesses can lead to canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) or “Kennel Cough,” which can spread through boarding kennels like wildfire and cause a rough, hacking cough. Most dogs recover, but some develop pneumonia or severe infections. If you use a grooming salon, doggy daycare, or boarding kennel, you will probably have to have your dog vaccinated for Bordetella and parainfluenza.

Canine Influenza

Canine flu causes coughing, a runny nose, and fever in dogs and is highly contagious. It is not a required vaccine, although it is recommended for dogs who attend daycare, are boarded, or frequently go to a groomer.


This bacterial disease often leads to liver or kidney failure. Dogs get it by swimming in or drinking water contaminated by the urine of infected areas. It is more likely in rural areas where dogs may drink from standing water or streams but can also be found in crowded urban locales. Veterinarians recommend a leptospirosis vaccine for animals who travel a lot or live an outdoor, active lifestyle, particularly if they will be swimming in lakes, rivers, or streams. The vaccine requires an initial treatment and a booster 2-4 weeks later. After that, the vaccine is administered yearly.

There are a few other canine vaccines available such as the Lyme vaccine, but these are usually recommended only if your dog travels to an area where Lyme disease is endemic in the area, and your dog is at high risk of complications. 

How to Know Which Canine Vaccines are Right for Your Dog

While the core vaccines are essential, any non-core vaccines should be discussed with your veterinarian. Canine vaccines offer valuable protection against illness, but not all dogs respond well to all vaccines. Some, such as the leptospirosis vaccine, have been shown to produce moderately severe reactions in some dogs. You and your dog’s vet should weigh the pros and cons of any vaccine before proceeding.

Many veterinarians also recommend reducing the number and type of vaccines given to dogs as they age. Older dogs may have a more severe reaction to a vaccine, complicating existing conditions in some cases. The most important thing to remember is that canine vaccines were developed to protect your dog against potentially life-threatening illnesses. If your pet gets a mild reaction after a vaccine, the benefits will far outweigh the temporary, minor discomfort.

Pupups recommends keeping up with appropriate vaccinations for all your pets. If you are unsure which ones are right for your pet, your veterinarian can guide you. 

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