Pet Health Library

Vaccinations for Dogs

A veterinarian is giving a puppy a vaccine.

Vaccines are an easy way to prevent your dog from getting sick with serious, sometimes fatal, diseases. Groomers, daycare, or boarding kennels may require vaccinations to prevent the spread of diseases in close quarters. Your veterinarian can discuss with you which vaccines your dog needs and how often to get them.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans.

  • Distemper: A very contagious, often fatal virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. The virus spreads through the air and vaccination is the only way to effectively prevent or control it.
  • Hepatitis: A disease caused by a virus that affects the liver and cells lining the blood vessels. It can cause a high fever, swelling, and uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Parvovirus: A very contagious viral infection that affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tract and immune system and can cause sudden death. It’s spread by contact with the infected poop of other dogs, contaminated environments or objects, or even people with the virus on them. This infection can be life-threatening in puppies.
  • Rabies: A serious, fatal viral infection that affects a dog’s central nervous system. It’s usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal but can also be spread when an infected animal’s saliva comes in contact with broken skin (through licking, drooling, etc.). Rabies vaccinations are required in most states.

Non-Core Vaccines

  • Bordetella: This bacteria causes what’s commonly known as “kennel cough” and affects the respiratory system of a dog. It is spread in places where there are many dogs in contact with each other, like kennels, grooming facilities, and dog shows. Puppies are at the highest risk, but adult dogs can get sick too.
  • Leptospirosis: A disease that can cause permanent kidney damage. It spreads through contact with nasal secretions, urine, or saliva of infected animals. Rats, mice, squirrels, and other rodents are common carriers of the bacteria.
  • Lyme disease: A tick-borne disease that causes inflammation of the joints and can cause lameness. Some dogs may also develop kidney problems.
  • Parainfluenza: A very contagious disease that attacks the respiratory system. It is spread through contact with infected dogs or through the air.