Do puppies have 2 or 3 injections?

Puppies receive a series of vaccinations in their first year of life to protect them against serious and potentially fatal diseases. The exact number and types of vaccines a puppy receives can vary depending on factors like the puppy’s age, health status, lifestyle, geographic location, and veterinarian recommendations. However, most puppies will receive between 2 to 4 sets of combination vaccinations, each given 3-4 weeks apart, starting around 6-8 weeks of age.

Quick Answers

How many sets of injections do puppies get?

Puppies typically receive 3-4 sets of combination vaccinations, given 3-4 weeks apart, starting around 6-8 weeks of age. Some puppies may receive an additional 1-2 individual vaccines for specific diseases like Lyme disease or kennel cough.

What vaccines do puppies need?

Core vaccines puppies need: Distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and rabies. Non-core vaccines recommended based on lifestyle and location: Bordetella, parainfluenza, Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, canine influenza.

When do puppies get their shots?

First set: 6-8 weeks old. Second set: 9-11 weeks old. Third set: 12-14 weeks old. Fourth set: 16-20 weeks old. Rabies vaccine given around 16 weeks old. Schedule can vary, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Types of Puppy Vaccinations

There are two main categories of puppy vaccinations:

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are those recommended for all dogs, regardless of lifestyle or location, because they protect against highly contagious and deadly diseases. Core puppy vaccines include:

  • Distemper: A viral infection that impacts the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Often fatal.
  • Adenovirus: A viral infection that causes liver disease and neurological problems. Fatal in many cases.
  • Parvovirus: A highly contagious viral infection attacking the gastrointestinal system. Fatal in many cases.
  • Rabies: A fatal viral infection that affects the nervous system. Transmitted through saliva of infected animals. Required by law in most areas.

Non-Core Vaccines

Non-core vaccines are those tailored to an individual dog based on lifestyle factors and geographic location risk. These may include:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica: Bacterial cause of kennel cough respiratory infection.
  • Parainfluenza virus: One cause of kennel cough.
  • Leptospirosis: Bacterial disease that can damage kidneys and liver.
  • Lyme disease: Bacterial disease transmitted by ticks.
  • Canine influenza virus: Flu virus that causes respiratory infection.

Veterinarians will make non-core vaccine recommendations based on the puppy’s environment and potential disease exposure. For example, the Lyme vaccine may be recommended if there are high tick populations in the area. The kennel cough vaccines may be advised for puppies who will be boarded or go to doggy daycare.

Number of Puppy Vaccinations

While the specific vaccination schedule can vary, most puppies will receive 3-4 sets of combination core vaccines, spaced 3-4 weeks apart, starting around 6-8 weeks of age. Non-core vaccines may also be periodically administered based on veterinary guidance.

Here are the general American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) guidelines for puppy vaccine schedules:

6-8 weeks old:

– First DA2P combination vaccine (Distemper, Adenovirus type 2, Parvovirus)

9-11 weeks old:

– Second DA2P combination vaccine

12-14 weeks old:

– Third DA2P combination vaccine
– Rabies vaccine

16-20 weeks old:

– Fourth DA2P combination vaccine

Some puppies may receive an additional vaccine around 14-16 weeks for Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that can damage the liver and kidneys.

Non-core vaccines for kennel cough (Bordetella, Parainfluenza) may be administered intranasally every 6 months to 1 year for at-risk puppies. The Lyme disease vaccine is also generally boostered on a 1 year schedule for puppies in high risk areas.

So in total, most puppies receive 3-4 sets of core vaccines, and may receive an additional 1-2 non-core vaccines by about 16-20 weeks of age.

Importance of Multiple Puppy Vaccinations

Giving puppies a series of vaccinations a few weeks apart rather than a single shot is important to provide maximum immunity against disease. Here’s why:

  • Maternal antibodies interfere early: Puppies acquire passive immunity from their mother’s milk that protects them but can also block the effects of vaccines given too early. Spacing out shots helps overcome this interference.
  • Immune system maturity: The puppy’s immune system is still developing and producing its own antibodies after birth. Multiple vaccines spaced appropriately allow time for the immune response to strengthen.
  • Disease exposure risk: Puppies from 6-16 weeks of age are at greatest risk of exposure to viruses shed from unvaccinated dogs. Multiple vaccines are needed during this high risk window.
  • Enhanced immune response: The first vaccine primes the immune system, while the following boosters improve the duration and effectiveness of immunity.

Without multiple doses, the puppy’s protection against these dangerous diseases would be severely compromised during their most vulnerable stage of life. Even with a complete puppy vaccine series, some maternal antibody interference is expected requiring timely booster shots.

Side Effects of Puppy Shots

Puppy vaccines are extremely safe and effective with generally mild side effects. Possible adverse reactions include:

  • Soreness, swelling, or redness at injection site
  • Mild fever
  • Decreased appetite, lethargy, or irritability for a day or two
  • Rare allergic reaction

Severe vaccine reactions are very uncommon. Benefits far outweigh the risks considering the seriousness of preventable diseases. If significant swelling, lethargy, or other concerning reaction appears, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Booster Vaccines for Adult Dogs

After the puppy vaccine series is complete around 16-20 weeks old, dogs require regular booster shots throughout their life. Recommendations for core vaccine boosters:

  • Distemper/Adenovirus/Parvo combination: Every 3 years
  • Rabies: Every 1-3 years (timeframe mandated by law based on jurisdiction)

For non-core vaccines, veterinarians will advise annual, biennial, or triennial booster schedules as appropriate for the individual dog’s risk factors.

Adult dogs with sufficient immunity may not always need vaccine boosters after the initial series. Veterinarians can run antibody blood tests to help determine if existing immunity against specific diseases is already satisfactory. This is one reason why many vets have extended core vaccine boosters to every 3 years rather than administering them yearly.

Puppy Vaccine Schedule Chart

Here is a general puppy vaccination schedule chart summarizing the vaccine guidelines:

Age Vaccines Recommended
6-8 weeks DA2P #1
9-11 weeks DA2P #2
12-14 weeks DA2P #3
16-20 weeks DA2P #4
14-16 weeks Leptospirosis (optional)
Every 6 months-1 year Bordetella (optional)
Every 1 year Lyme (optional)

Core vaccines (DA2P, Rabies) are given at 3-4 week intervals starting at 6-8 weeks of age, with a final booster at 16-20 weeks old. Non-core vaccine needs are determined by lifestyle risk factors and location. Leptospirosis, Bordetella, and Lyme disease vaccines may be recommended for at-risk puppies.

Puppy Vaccination FAQs

Why do puppies need so many shots?

Puppies need multiple vaccinations because their immune system is still developing and maternal antibodies received from the mother can interfere with responding to vaccines. Giving a series of shots beginning at 6-8 weeks of age and spacing them 3-4 weeks apart allows protection to be built gradually and provide broader coverage during the window of greatest disease susceptibility.

What vaccines do puppies need every year?

Rabies vaccine is required yearly by law in most jurisdictions. For other core vaccines, 3 year boosters are now common once puppies have received their initial series. Non-core vaccines are boostered annually or up to every 3 years based on lifestyle risk and veterinarian recommendations.

Can a puppy get vaccinated too early?

Yes, vaccinating puppies under 6 weeks of age can result in vaccine failure due to maternal antibody interference. Puppies should get their first combination shot at 6-8 weeks, with additional boosters spaced every 3-4 weeks afterwards until 16-20 weeks of age.

Do all puppy vaccines have to be given sequentially?

Yes, correct timing of the sequences of puppy vaccines is important for generating proper immunity. The initial series should follow the labeled guidelines starting at 6-8 weeks of age and be boostered every 3-4 weeks. If a dose is missed or given late, consult your veterinarian about getting back on schedule.

How can you tell when a puppy has full immunity?

There is no definite way to confirm complete immunity has developed aside from testing antibody levels. Generally, after a puppy has received the entire initial vaccine series around 4-5 months old, full protection can be assumed. Annual vet exams help confirm your puppy remains healthy and properly immunized.


Responsible puppy ownership requires following the necessary vaccination schedule during the first year of life. Typically, puppies receive 3-4 sets of core vaccines for distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and rabies, spaced 3-4 weeks apart starting between 6-8 weeks old. Additional non-core vaccines may be advised based on risk of exposure. While individual vaccine needs may vary, completing the entire recommended series on schedule provides critical disease protection during puppyhood. Discuss your puppy’s vaccination plan with your veterinarian to ensure maximum immunity.

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