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What Do My Dog's Vaccines Do?

If you're a dog owner, then you know the drill - go to the vet for yearly or twice yearly checkups, get your pup's shots, give them a treat for how well-behaved they were! If you don't ask your vet a lot of questions or just go with the flow, you might not know what shots your dog needs or what they help them with. Here's a breakdown of what shots your pup will need (when they're young and old), and exactly what they are.


Core Shots

These shots are necessary for your dog to help protect them from dangerous diseases.

Distemper - This shot protects a dog from canine distemper, which is a contagious viral disease that is similar to measles in humans. 

Parainfluenza - This often-recommended but not-always-necessary shot is very similar to our human flu shot, and helps dogs from catching canine influenza, which can be deadly. 

DHPP - While distemper and parainfluenza shots are often separated for younger dogs, once they're older, they'll be able to handle this combination vaccine. This combo vaccine helps prevent distemper and parainfluenza, as well as hepatitis and parvovirus. Hepatitis (or adenovirus) is an infectious virus that can affect a dog's white blood cell count, thereby affecting their organs. Parvovirus is a deadly, contagious viral illness that can affect the intestines (more commonly) or the heart.

Rabies - The rabies vaccine can be given starting at around 12 to 24 weeks of age, and prevents your dog from getting rabies, which is a contagious and fatal viral disease that is spread through the saliva of infected animals. If you're familiar with Cujo, then you know it can cause aggression, madness, and convulsions.

Optional (and/or Recommended) Shots

Besides distemper, parainfluenza, DHPP, and rabies, here are some other vaccinations that your adult dog might get:

Bordatella - This shot is good for your pup if they interact with other dogs often. It prevents your dog from catching kennel cough, which is a respiratory infection that can be transmitted between dogs.

Leptospirosis - This shot can help your dog, especially if they're a puddle drinker! Leptospirosis is a bacteria that can harm your dog and is spread through standing water, soil, or urine of infected animals.

Lyme - While flea and tick prevention can kill tick threats or prevent them from latching, it's not a 100% guarantee. If you're in a region with a heavy concentration of deer ticks, your vet might recommend this vaccine, which we can help prevent lyme disease even if a deer tick bites your dog.


While this is your average list of vaccines, it's not a catchall for all pups. Be sure to discuss with your vet what vaccines make sense for your dog and ask them any questions you have about how these vaccines work.

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Jenna Gomes

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Jenna Gomes