When to Give a Puppy Shots

By Tami Parrington


Getting a new puppy is a fun and anxious time. There is so much to do to prepare for your new family member and so many things to learn to keep them safe, happy and healthy. One of the first things a new puppy owner should know is when to take their bundle of joy to the vet for their shots. Some can even be given at home if you feel comfortable with doing it, but, whether you give them yourself or take your puppy to the vet, timing is everything.

First Shots

If you are a puppy breeder, you will need to know when to give the very first vaccinations to your puppies. Puppies have some immunization from their mothers at birth, but it quickly wears off and more, longer lasting protection is necessary to cover what they can pick up from their living areas, but also as they venture out into a world full of possible disease.

The parvovirus vaccine is usually given at 5 weeks of age to protect a young immune system and help a puppy develop a strong immunity against this deadly disease. Giving the parvo vaccine earlier than others is recommended largely because many dogs have not been exposed to parvo and if the puppy's mother has not been exposed to parvo, or vaccinated against parvo she does not have an immunity to it to pass along to her puppies.

At six weeks of age, the first of the normal series of vaccines are given to puppies. This is usually a single combination shot that includes distemper, parvovirus-2, canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis). These along with the rabies vaccine are considered the "core" vaccines. You should consult with a veterinarian to find out if additional vaccines are needed for diseases such as leptospirosis, coronavirus, parainfluenza, lyme disease or others.

If you are purchasing a new puppy from a breeder, ask about his vaccinations and get a veterinary record of his shots. If you have any reason to doubt the validity of a breeder's statement of provision, it is best to take your puppy to the vet right away and get them vaccinated. It is much safer to err on the side of caution than to combat a disease such as parvovirus or distemper after it has infected your new puppy.


This is the single vaccination that must be administered by a qualified veterinarian with the accompanying certification and registration. It is given to puppies at 12 weeks of age and then once a year or every three years depending on the type of vaccine you choose. Owners of young puppies are advised to give dogs one year of age or younger a single year dose because the three-year vaccine may be too harsh for their systems.


At 12 to 16 weeks, your puppy will need a booster of the core vaccines listed above and any other vaccines your veterinarian suggests for the local area such as lyme disease. Most vaccines are then given a yearly booster to keep them active and protecting your dog for a long and healthy life.
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