Just like with humans, vaccinations are an important element of the preventative care of your dog. Vaccines protect dogs from a wide variety of diseases and help them to live longer, healthier lives. Veterinarians used to recommend that dogs get vaccinated every year, but recent research shows that some vaccinations last much longer than that and do not need to be re-administered annually. In addition to protecting your dog from illness, vaccines also raise group immunity. Group immunity is the resistance of a population of dogs to a particular pathogen. A high group immunity raises the chances of the eradication of the pathogen from the dog population, and greatly reduces the likelihood that un-vaccinated dogs will be exposed.

Knowing What Vaccinations Your Dog Needs


  • According to the American Animal Hospital Association, there are two classes of vaccines: core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are typically recommended for all dogs because they protect against serious and fatal illnesses that are easily transmitted between animals. Non-core vaccines target less virulent pathogens and are generally recommended for dogs with high-risk lifestyles or immune deficiency.




  • Core vaccines include distemper, parovirus, rabies and adenovirus. Noncore vaccines include kennel cough, leptospirosis and lyme disease, according to the website Vetinfo.


Susceptibility Window


  • A puppy receives a large number of antibodies from his mother. These maternal antibodies can block the action of many vaccines. Because of this, veterinarians often recommend puppies reach at least 6 weeks of age before administering vaccinations, according to PetEducation.com.


When Should Puppies Be Vaccinated?


  • The window of susceptibility can vary from litter to litter, and even from puppy to puppy. For this reason, veterinarians recommend a series of vaccinations in the first year of life, to make sure the puppy is protected from pathogens. Vaccinations are typically given at 6 weeks, with boosters every three weeks until about 16 weeks of age.


Vaccination Risk


  • According to the American Animal Hospital Association, vaccine reactions are extremely rare. Most reactions that do occur are minor and involve local swelling and pain. Sometimes, however, an allergic reaction to the compounds in the vaccine can occur. When this happens, emergency treatment is recommended. As with all medical procedures, the benefits should be weighed against the risks. Statistically, the risk of disease is much greater than the risk of adverse vaccination reactions.


How Long Do Distemper Shots for Dogs Last?

Initial Shots

  • The initial distemper shot is given to puppies ages six to eight weeks. Another round is given within one to two months.


  • A distemper shot’s long-term effectiveness depends on the dog. Factors such as stress levels, increased exposure to other dogs and the overall health of the dog can have impact on how long each shot protects your dog.




  • Based on testing, vaccine manufacturers say that their vaccines are effective from one to three years.




  • The best method to know if your dog needs another shot is through testing by the veterinarian. This testing is called titing and involves blood samples being drawn to determine the level of vaccine in the dog.




  • If you are unsure of when your dog had his last distemper shot, you should have your veterinarian conduct a blood test. The first symptoms of distemper resemble those of a severe cold.

How Long Do Rabies Vaccinations Last in Dogs?


Facts about rabies and rabies vaccine

Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and nervous systems of mammals. It can be contracted at any time of the year by an animal of any age, and is always fatal. A rabies vaccination does not in itself prevent rabies; it instead causes the dog’s body to mount an immune response. The antibodies the body produces during the immune response prevent rabies; the immune response is so rapid that your dog will be protected 14 days after the vaccination. Rabies vaccinations, if given correctly, are 100% effective and will work in dogs exposed to rabies as long as the rabies is still in a latent (incubation) period.

When do you vaccinate your dog?

Rabies shots can be given at any time of the year and are typically administered with the annual booster shots. The frequency of vaccination depends on your local and state governments. Most rabies vaccinations are licensed for two or three years, depending on the company. Rabies vaccinations given for the first time to puppies and dogs are only licensed for one year. Giving a second rabies shot a year later allows your dog to mount a more effective antibody response to the virus. The second shot, depending on where you live, will be valid for two or three years. Areas where rabies is prevalent in the local wildlife may require dogs to be given a rabies vaccination by a licensed veterinarian every year.

Getting your dog vaccinated.

Puppies get their first rabies vaccinations when they are between 9 and 16 weeks old. Earlier than 12 weeks, the vaccination may not be effective, as the puppy still has its mother’s antibodies (which provide protection from disease) in his body. Adult dogs can receive a rabies vaccination at any time during their life, even while pregnant, as long as they are in good health. Veterinarians may decide to delay vaccinations in sick or underweight dogs. Depending on where you live, your dog’s rabies vaccination will need to be administered by a licensed veterinarian every year, every two years or every three years. Having the vaccination administered by a licensed veterinarian is the only way to get a certificate of vaccination. Without the certificate you may not be able to take your dog to a groomer, board him or participate in shows or events. If you dog bites someone and you do not have a current rabies certificate, you could face fines as well as having your dog impounded and possibly euthanized.

Transmission of rabies and rabies symptoms

Rabies is transmitted only by saliva and must be ingested or absorbed into the body through bites, cuts or scrapes. Only rabid animals can transmit rabies. It can take 60 days before your dog begins to show symptoms of rabies. Remember, only unvaccinated dogs can get rabies. Rabies goes through four phases, starting with the latent phase during which it is still possible to successfully vaccinate your dog. Each phase after the latent period will last four to five days. In the second phase your dog will show behavior changes, and may stop eating and drinking. In the third phase your dog may have some paralysis and an inability to swallow, and may become vicious or lethargic. The fourth phase will be complete paralysis and death. Once your dog starts to show signs of rabies, death is inevitable.