Canine vaccines are categorized as either core or non-core. Veterinarians recommend core vaccines, such as the DHP or DHPP combination shots, for all dogs to protect them from some of the most common and most severe canine diseases. The rabies vaccine, another core vaccine, is required by law. Non-core vaccinations, such as the Lyme disease, leptospirosis and bordetella vaccines, are recommended only if your vet thinks your dog's lifestyle puts him at risk of catching those specific diseases.
The rabies vaccine is a core vaccine designed to protect dogs from this fatal virus that attacks the central nervous system. Rabies is highly contagious and transmitted through the saliva of infected animals. This disease can also pass to humans if an infected dog bites a person. Any dog that catches the rabies virus must be euthanized to prevent the disease from spreading.
Due to the severity of the disease, owners are legally required to make sure their dogs stay current on their rabies vaccinations, although the laws vary according to state. Puppies must typically receive their initial rabies vaccine at about 16 weeks old, and grown dogs with unknown medical histories need a vaccine as well. Thereafter, some states require that dogs receive a rabies vaccination once a year, while others require the vaccine once every three years.
Other Core Vaccines
Although not required by law, core vaccines are recommended for all canine companions to protect them from severe, very contagious diseases. Except for the rabies vaccine, core vaccines most commonly come in 3- and 4-way distemper combination vaccinations, which helps protect your pet against several infections with just a single injection. The DHP, also seen as DAP, vaccine protects dogs from distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis, sometimes called canine adenovirus-2. The DHPP combination vaccine includes those three vaccines along with a canine parainfluenza vaccine, technically a non-core vaccine only available in a combo injection. This vaccine might also be abbreviated as DAPP, DA2PP DA2PPV or DHPPV on your dog's veterinary records.
Nursing puppies receive natural immunity from their mothers' milk. Maternal immunity lasts no longer than 12 weeks, however, and then puppies become vulnerable to canine diseases. Puppies should receive a series of three DHP or DHPP combo shots every three to four weeks starting when they're between 6 and 8 weeks old. DHPP is also given as a series of three injections to adult dogs with unknown vaccination histories. All dogs need a booster shot one year after the initial vaccine series and every three years thereafter.
Non-core vaccines are optional and typically recommended by vets according to your dog's lifestyle. Non-core vaccines include those for leptospirosis, Lyme disease and bordetella. Leptospirosis is a disease passed along through the urine of infected wildlife, such as skunks, deer, racoons or mice. Pathogens include various bacterial-like organisms, and current vaccines protect against the four most common canine vectors. Vets often recommend an annual leptospirosis vaccine for dogs that spend time outdoors in places frequented by wildlife. Vets can include this vaccine in the DHPP combo, turning it into a DHLPP combination shot.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by infected ticks. Dogs in areas commonly hosting ticks might need a yearly Lyme vaccination to remain healthy. (ref 7, ref 2) The bordetella vaccine, often seen as the kennel cough vaccine, protects your dog from a highly contagious upper respiratory infection. Your dog might need the bordetella vaccine once a year if he goes places frequented by other dogs, including dog parks, the groomer, dog shows, obedience classes or a boarding facility.
Vaccines work by introducing antigens, or mildly infectious agents, into a dog's body. This prompts his immune system to generate an antibody without your pet actually getting sick. Then your dog's immune system will be able to identify and fight off the disease pathogens in the future. Whether core or non-core, but both types can only prevent diseases; they can't cure them.
Dog receive a series of core vaccines because it takes puppies about five days to build up those protective antibodies, and 10 to 14 days to establish a high level of protection. In addition, some vaccines don't give adequate protection until the puppy receives his second dose. The maternal antibody dogs receive in their mother's milk might even delay protection until one of the later shots in the series. Because of this, it's always a good idea to keep vaccinated puppies away from other dogs until they complete their vaccination series.
- ASPCA: Vaccinations
- University of California Davis Veterinary Medicine: Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Vaccines for Dogs
- Arden Animal Hospital: Yearly Recommendations for Adult Dogs
- Elkhorn Veterinary Clinic: Canine Vaccination Recommendations:
- Arlington Animal Hospital: Canine Vaccination Guidelines
- Olney-Sandy Spring Veterinary Hospital: Vaccinations
- Airport Veterinary Hospital: Preventative Care -- Pet Vaccinations
- Scott Slattery/iStock/Getty Images