My Dog Needs What Vaccine? Core vs Lifestyle Vaccines

March 25, 2022
Dr. Kate McDaniel, DVM

Whether you have a newly adopted puppy or a gray-faced best friend, we’re all familiar with our annual duty of taking our pet to the vet to “get their shots.” With a slew of scientific names and abbreviations, it’s difficult to recall which vaccine your vet may have administered and why. In fact, some vaccines are not requirements at all, but are specifically recommended to you based on your pet’s lifestyle. Having an open dialogue with your veterinarian at your visit is optimal to determine the best vaccine regimen for your doggo. In the meantime, consider this list of core and lifestyle vaccines that will support your pet’s individual needs.

Core Vaccines

Rabies Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: Rabies, an incurable virus contracted by a bite from an affected animal. The virus attacks the nervous system and causes death.
  • Why it’s important: Your pet may come in contact with affected wildlife (commonly bats, skunks, opossums, and potentially other pets) and may contract this horrific disease. It is equally as transmissible to humans if bitten (unfortunately, even the sweetest pets may succumb to the neurologic symptoms and may bite out of disorientation).
  • Vaccine Timeline: Puppies typically receive their first rabies vaccine at 16 weeks of age (no earlier than 12 weeks). Their first booster is due 1 year after. Rabies vaccines may be labeled for 1 or 3 years after this immunization, so ask your veterinarian which regimen to follow.

DAPP (or DHPP) Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: Canine Distemper Virus, Parvovirus, Adenovirus-2, +/- Parainfluenza Virus
  • Why it’s important: These viruses can cause widespread effects on your pet’s immune system, affecting the respiratory, nervous, hepatic, and gastrointestinal systems. Arguably, the most notorious of the diseases is parvovirus. Puppies are extremely susceptible to this disease due to their developing immune system and, as a result, is often fatal. Completing the three-part DAPP/DAPP series by a veterinarian is highly recommended. DHPP/DAPP vaccines provided before the age of 8 weeks are not sufficient as the puppy maintains elevated levels of material antibodies in their system that will diminish the efficacy of the vaccine.
  • Vaccine Timeline: Puppies receive this vaccine at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age (an additional DHPP/DAPP may be administered between 18-20 weeks if your pet is in a high risk area). Consult with your veterinarian if your puppy comes with a vaccination history as that will inform your puppy’s particular timeline! Your dog will receive the vaccine again one year after the puppy series, then on a one or three year schedule.

Non-Core Vaccines

Bordetella Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: Bordetella spp. is a primary agent causing canine infectious tracheobronchitis, or “kennel cough”
  • Why it’s important: Kennel cough is a wide encompassing term to include several highly contagious respiratory conditions found in dogs. Outbreaks are prevalent in areas of high dog populations: dog boarding facilities, daycares, grooming facilities, dog parks, etc. As such, many dog care facilities require the bordetella vaccine.
  • Vaccine Timeline: Puppies may receive the intranasal (aka the squirt in the nose) vaccine at their first puppy vet visit, followed by once annually thereafter.

Leptospirosis “Lepto” Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: leptospira bacteria species
  • Why it’s important: Leptospirosis is a disease that has detrimental effects on your dog’s liver and kidneys if contracted (cases range from outpatient treatment for mild cases or hospitalization for moderate and severe infections). Leptospirosis is transmitted through an affected animal’s (such as raccoons) urine. Pets are exposed to this bacterium if they drink contaminated water or reside in areas with wildlife population.
  • Vaccine Timeline: Regardless of your dog’s age, the initial dose of leptospirosis vaccine will require a booster in 3-4 weeks, followed by revaccination annually thereafter.

Lyme Disease Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: Borrelia burgdorferi is the causative agent in canine Lyme disease
  • Why it’s important: Lyme borreliosis is a bacterial infection transmitted through the bite of affected deer tick (Ixodes) species. The infection can cause multi-system symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes, swollen joints, fatigue, lameness, and fatigue. This lifestyle vaccine is highly recommended for canines that live in areas of heavy tick infestations (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southern states), if your dog accompanies you traveling or hiking, or if your dog spends a large portion of their time outdoors.
  • Vaccine Timeline: Regardless of your dog’s age, the initial dose of the Lyme vaccine will require a booster in 3-4 weeks, followed by revaccination annually thereafter.
  • Don’t Forget! The use of consistent flea and tick preventative medicines are essential for all canines and may help prevent or reduce the threat of Lyme disease if your pet enjoys the outdoorsy lifestyle described above!

Canine Influenza Vaccine

  • What does it prevent: Canine influenza (H3N2 and H3N8 strains), “dog flu”
  • Why it’s important: Canine influenza is very contagious among dogs and is transmitted through respiratory air droplets from an infected dog’s sneeze or cough, or through contact with a contaminated surface. Cases can range from mild to severe and may make your pet susceptible to secondary bacterial infections due to their weakened immune system.
  • Vaccine Timeline: Regardless of your dog’s age, the initial dose of the influenza vaccine will require a booster in 3-4 weeks, followed by revaccination annually thereafter.

Consistent immunization against preventable diseases is essential to giving your dog their best chance at avoiding these unwanted illnesses. Ask your veterinarian which lifestyle vaccines are best suited for your pet.

In the meantime, do not hesitate to reach out to our Pet Professionals for additional pet care advice!