Content Reviewed by an Essentials PetCare Veterinarian

Congrats! You have a new cuddly addition to your family, maybe one you weren’t expecting. If you find a puppy on the street and decide to take it into your home for a while – or even adopt it – there are a few important things to know. 

First, with any animal that you find, you should contact a local veterinary hospital or animal shelter and ask if you can bring the animal to them to be checked for a microchip.  It’s very possible this is someone’s pet that has gotten lost, and this step can reunite them with their family.  

If a microchip is found, they’ll be able to give you contact information for the microchip company so you can report the animal as found, and they will be able to contact the owner.  If a chip is not found, you will at least know that you’ve tried to locate a former owner and can now focus on providing a new home to this animal in need! 

Assuming that’s the case, you have a different question to ask yourself: what shots do puppies need?

Without vaccinating your new pet, you could risk illness or worse to the other animals and humans in your home. In this article, we’ll review the basic shots you’ll need for a puppy, when and where to get them, and what you can expect to pay.

Why are Vaccines Important for Puppies?

Just as important as asking “what shots do puppies need?” is learning why vaccines are needed at all for dogs. Here are the basics.

Shortly after a dog is born, their maternal antibodies wear off. This means that they are at-risk of contracting potentially fatal diseases. If you take in a puppy that you’ve found, you don’t know what they’ve already been exposed to. This is one reason why it’s so important to get them vaccinated sooner rather than later.

Vaccines help jumpstart your puppy’s immune system by introducing small amounts of a virus that cause them to develop antibodies. This way, they can fight off the actual disease if they’re exposed to it. 

It might be tempting to put off vaccinations due to cost, but consider this: when you vaccinate, you’re saving money you’d spend for costly treatments down the road if your new puppy gets sick. 

What Shots Do Puppies Need?

If you are unsure of a stray puppy’s history, it’s important to consult a veterinarian to determine the best vaccination plan for them. Vaccines are going to vary based on a few factors in regard to your puppy’s situation:

  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Health
  • State where you live

Vaccines are divided into two groups: core and non-core. Core vaccines must be administered to all puppies and dogs. They are a must for your new puppy. Non-core vaccines are also important, but are usually recommended depending upon your pet’s lifestyle. 

Core Vaccines 

  • Rabies is usually required by state and local laws, as it can be spread to humans and is a fatal disease with no treatment. 
  • DHP, also called DAP, is a combination vaccine that protects against distemper, hepatitis (or adenovirus-2), and parvo. Puppies are especially at risk of contracting parvo.

Non-Core Vaccines

  • Bordetella – An optional vaccine that is recommended to prevent kennel cough, a highly contagious upper respiratory tract infection.
  • Leptospirosis – While also non-core, it is highly recommended. This bacterial disease can cause severe liver and kidney disease, and it can make humans sick as well.
  • Parainfluenza – This virus is also a cause of kennel cough and is commonly combined into the DHP vaccine. 
  • Canine influenza – This is the “dog flu” respiratory virus which is very similar to the human influenza virus and can cause severe disease. 

Remember, if your puppy is a stray, consult a veterinarian before anything else. This will help you determine the best course of vaccines and establish a vaccination schedule to ensure your puppy’s preventative care is on track. 

Also, if you can’t afford to get all your non-core vaccines right away, don’t fret. Some protection is always better than none.

Understanding When to Vaccinate

Vaccinations should ideally be administered when your puppy is between six to eight weeks old. After that, they will need boosters every two to four weeks until a series is complete, at 16-18 weeks of age.

If your puppy seems older, or you aren’t sure of their age, it is important to consult your veterinarian. While vaccination series can vary depending on multiple factors, the following is an approximation of a vaccination schedule for a puppy:

  • 8 weeks: Distemper/Parvovirus Vaccine + Intestinal Parasite Test
  • 12 weeks: Distemper/Parvovirus Vaccine Booster + Intestinal Parasite Test
  • 16 weeks: Distemper/Parvovirus Vaccine Booster + Bordetella Vaccine + Rabies Vaccine (1-yr) +  Leptospirosis Vaccine + Dog Flu Vaccine
  • 18 weeks: Leptospirosis Vaccine Booster + Dog Flu Vaccine Booster

What About the Cost?

Now that we’ve answered “What shots do puppies need?”, you are likely wondering about cost. The truth is that vaccine costs can vary greatly depending on where they’re administered. At an established veterinarian, shots can cost anywhere from $25-75 each, and you will need multiple rounds for a puppy. 

While some shelters or local rescues offer free vaccination clinics, they usually only provide core vaccines. What if you want comprehensive coverage for your new puppy – but on a budget?

This is why Essentials PetCare offers bundled vaccination packages for both dogs and puppies. We firmly believe preventative veterinary medicine is the best plan of care for your furry family members, and we strive to make it affordable and accessible. 

Ready to get your new puppy set up with the essentials? Each puppy vaccine package includes a doctor’s exam and portable prescriptions for deworming and heartworm and flea prevention. Come in and see us at Essentials PetCare today!

Essential Tip: Curious about our affordable vaccination packages for your puppy? Qualifying pet parents can also apply to pay in installments on purchases of $150+. Learn more.

*Prices subject to change. See current prices: