Which puppy shots does my new dog need?

December 4, 2020 | Pet Guides | Cari Evans
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Which puppy shots does my new dog need?

Getting a new puppy can be one of the most joyful experiences. There is nothing quite comparable to adding a new fluffy member of the family that almost instantly loves you more than themselves. But taking on the responsibility of a new puppy requires more than just love, and attention. The puppy will rely on you to give them the best possible care you can, which includes a quality diet, socialization, training, exercise, and puppy shots.

Why are puppy shots important?

Vaccinations are vital to protect against dangerous and potentially deadly diseases. For puppies, they ideally need four rounds of the distemper vaccine. Booster vaccinations are recommended yearly to ensure titer levels are high. You can get your puppies vaccinations at your local vet office, or you can administer them yourself.

There are several variations of puppy shots that cover different diseases and illnesses. It can be challenging to decide which vaccine is right for your puppy. Here is a breakdown of the different strains available.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

Bordetella is a highly infectious bacterium that causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are both injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, it will be a necessary vaccine. Most often proof of this vaccination will be a requirement before your puppy can participate in any co-mingling setting.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is a viral disease that attacks the respiratory, GI, and nervous systems. This disease affects a wide variety of mammals, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, and large cats, as well as pinnipeds, primates, and others. Distemper spreads through airborne exposure, such as sneezing or coughing from an infected animal. The disease can be transmitted by shared food and water, where saliva is exchanged. Symptoms include eye and nose discharge, harden footpads, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures, twitching, and most often (50% – 80%), death.

There is no cure for distemper, only a preventative vaccine that is highly effective, at an almost 100 percent efficacy rate. Puppies should receive their first vaccinations at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and booster shots should be given every 3 to 4 weeks until the puppy is 4 or 5 months old. It goes without saying but keep your puppy away from potentially infected dogs and away from other animals where the vaccination history is unknown until the puppy has completed their rounds of vaccines.

Since there is no cure, treatment for canine distemper consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections and controlling the symptoms. If the dog or animal survives the unpleasant symptoms, there is a slight chance the dog’s immune system will have the opportunity to fight it off. However, infected dogs can shed the virus for months so it is important to keep them away from other animals to lessen the risk of spreading the disease.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is a very contagious viral infection in dogs, caused by Canine mastadenoviru. It affects the liver, kidney, spleen, lungs, and eyes of an affected dog. This disease is not related to the human form of hepatitis. Many dogs can overcome a mild form of the disease, but a severe form can easily kill a infected dog. There is not a cure, but veterinarians can treat the symptoms which consist of congestion, vomiting, stomach enlargement, fever, and jaundice.

Canine Parainfluenza

Canine parainfluenza is one virus that causes kennel cough in dogs. Kennel cough is a contagious but non-life-threatening condition similar to a common cold. Symptoms include coughing, fever, sneezing, gagging or hacking, and nasal discharge in dogs.

Kennel cough, which can also be caused by a bacteria called Bordetella. Commonly in multi-pet facilities such as your groomer or boarding kennel. Parainfluenza can also be passed from cats to dogs, and vice versa. Also can spread from dogs to humans with weakened immune systems. Most dogs with kennel cough recover completely within three weeks, although it can take up to six weeks in older dogs or those with underlying medical conditions.


The canine coronavirus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people. COVID-19 is not thought to be a health threat to dogs. There is no evidence it makes dogs sick. Canine coronavirus usually affects dogs’ GI systems but it can also cause respiratory illness. Signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. There is no cure or drug to kill a coronavirus. Treatment consists of keeping a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable.


Heartworm preventative is recommended when a puppy is around 12-to-16 weeks old. Talk to your vet about starting a heartworm preventive. There is no vaccine available for heartworms. However, it is preventable with monthly prescription medication. Scripts must be written by a licensed veterinarian, but can be filled at a pet pharmacy, such as ours at UPCO Pet Supplies. Heartworms lodge in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries (that send blood to the lungs), though they can travel through the rest of the body and sometimes invade the liver and kidneys. The worms can grow to 14 inches long and, if clumped together, block and injure organs.

Heartworms are transmitted to an animal through a mosquito bite. It requires a blood test to diagnose. After a puppy is over the age of six months, a blood test is required prior to starting heartworm preventative. It can be dangerous for a dog to take preventative medication if they are already infected. Signs that may indicate a case of heartworm includes difficulty breathing, becoming lethargic, not eating, and in some cases a cough. Usually these signs becoming visible in the later stages of the disease.

Kennel Cough

Kennel Cough is an infectious disease that causes inflammation of the upper airways in dogs. Highly contagious amongst other dogs. Symptoms include mild, yet irritating, harsh dry coughs and gagging. Commonly paired with lack of appetite. In rare cases it can be fatal. Commonly, spread where unvaccinated dogs are kept in close proximity. Treatment usually consists of cough suppressants or steroids to keep the dog relaxed while their immune system fights off the annoying virus.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial virus and some dogs may not even show symptoms. Typically you will notice fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, infertility and/or kidney failure. Antibiotics are an effective treatment and should be given as early after diagnosis as possible. Dogs can spread this virus to other dogs even if no symptoms are visible.


Parvovirus is a very contagious and dangerous virus that can affect dogs of all ages. However, puppies less than four months of age that are unvaccinated are most at risk and are the ones that have the hardest time fighting off the disease. Parvo is commonly fatal, and treatment requires veterinary care and hospitalization in most cases. Symptoms of parvovirus is loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and severe diarrhea. Dehydration can quickly threaten an infected dogs life, even within 72 hours after onset of symptoms. Immediate veterinarian care is critical if you suspect infection. There is no magic pill or injection to cure this disease. Keeping the dog hydrated and controlling symptoms is the only treatment available while hoping the dogs own immune system is capable of fighting off the nasty virus.


Rabies virus is a disease that invades the central nervous system of dogs and several other mammals. Symptoms include headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. Rabies is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require a rabies vaccination for all domesticated animals.

Vaccination Schedule

Here is a standard guide for puppy shots. However, some dogs do not or should not receive every vaccine. Genetic risk factors, canine breed, and geological location should be considered before administering puppy shots.

Potential Side Effects

Vaccination reactions are rare, however you should be aware of the signs of a reaction before administering a vaccine.

Symptoms may include

  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Soreness Around Injection Site
  • Hives
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Facial Swelling

Adverse reactions to a vaccine usually occurs minutes to hours after the shot.

Most of these symptoms, if experienced, are only mild and will likely pass in less than 24 hours. Some adverse reactions such as lethargy, facial swelling, or seizure will require veterinarian assistance, as soon as possible. If you do believe your pet is having an adverse reaction to a vaccine, call or seek veterinarian help immediately. In conclusion, the risk of disease or infection greatly outweighs the risk of a reaction. Vaccinating your puppy or dog gives them the best “shot” at a long, happy, and healthy life.

About UPCO Pet Supplies

Founded in 1952, UPCO® was one of the first retail animal supply companies in St. Joseph, MO.  A third generation, family owned and operated company boasting a knowledgeable staff and offering products from over 700 brands. UPCO® provides both pet and farm supplies to the local community and throughout the U.S. via their website and mail order services. Primary focus on friendly customer service and low wholesale prices, they are the animal supplier of choice, voted Reader’s Choice for the past 12 years.

Located at 3705 Pear Street, Saint Joseph, MO 64503

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