How Often Should A Dog Get Shots | Don’t Over Vaccinate

Whether you just got a new puppy or recently rescued an older dog, vaccinating your dogs is something we all have to do.  We all want to make sure that we are doing our best to protect our dogs.  But how often should a dog get shots? Do we annually need to get our dogs their shots.  Do we need all the shots that the Vet tells us to get?

how often should a dog get shots
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Are we at risk of over vaccinating our dogs? What are the most important shots we need to give our dogs.

History of vaccinations

We have all heard of Louis Pasteur.  He was a French biologist, microbiologist and chemist that is historically known for being the first to discover the principles of vaccinations.  His contributions started with the study of crystals of by-products of wine fermentation.

He found a distinct chemistry between dead and living matters.  His work showed the role of living microbes in fermentation and putrefaction processes.  Using well-designed experiments he was able to challenge the two-millenium old theory of spontaneous generation.

Using silkworms he was able to identify the role of specific germs in infectious diseases.  He discovered the vaccine against fowl cholera which was the birth of immunology.   He is renowned for creating the vaccines against Anthrax and Rabies.

What does the research say

A leading researcher in the field of immunologist at the University of Wisconsin in the School of Veterinary Medicine a Dr. Ronald Schultz conducted studies that spanned a number of years.

He found that some yearly vaccinations provide immunity protection for up to 7 years.  Some of them even provide lifetime protection. His study was published in 2006.

But if we look at the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in 2003 they revised its vaccination guidelines.  They recommend that adult dogs are only in need of vaccinations every 3 years, not yearly like otherwise thought.


dog care

What are vaccinations

What exactly is a vaccine.   A vaccine is a product that is introduced into the body to trigger a protective immune response to help fight future diseases.   The vaccines help stimulate antibodies within a dogs immune system to help destroy disease causing organisms.

They help the dogs body fight off and prevent certain diseases altogether.  Widespread use of vaccines has saved the lives of millions of animals since they were discovered.   Vaccines prevent our dogs from becoming infected with highly contagious and serious illnesses.

We treat dogs with vaccines over and over, to ensure that they are always protected from a particular disease and to avoid any gaps in protection.   If there are gaps in the timeline of giving the vaccines, then that leaves our dogs susceptible to contracting serious life threatening diseases.

Some vaccinations are required only when our dogs are puppies and some are required when our dogs are adults on a yearly type time frame.   The frequency of vaccinations are something that has dramatically changed over the years.   We now are spreading out the use of vaccines for longer periods than originally thought.

vaccine shots

Shots that are a must

Let’s start with what vaccinations our dogs absolutely should have.   As we know, very young dogs are at serious risk of catching an infectious disease.   Puppies do receive antibodies from their mother’s milk, but the problem with these antibodies is they don’t last.

There can be gaps in the protection from the mother’s antibodies and this will leave them at risk while their own immune system is maturing.   A first round of shots given to puppies helps kick start their immune system to create its own antibodies that will protect them.

In order to get the best protection for your puppy, a series of shots are scheduled within the first few months usually in 3-4 weeks apart.   The final vaccination for puppies is given at around 4 months or so.   Now if your puppy is at a higher risk, your Vet may require you to give your puppy more vaccines than normal.

The first vaccines are what we call Core vaccinations.  They consist of :

  • Parvo
  • Andenovirus (Canine Hepatitis)
  • Distemper
  • Rabies

The core vaccinations should be again administered at the one-year mark and then again every 3 years after that.  Now one way that you can potentially avoid doing the 1-3 year vaccination schedule is to have your dogs antibodies tested to see what level they are at.   In some cases the antibodies are still present and determined to be protective enough that another vaccination is not required.


dog vaccinations


The rule of thinking now is that most dogs are protected after their core vaccinations and could be potentially good for 7-15 years or even for life.

Now there are other vaccinations that are considered to be Non-core vaccinations.  These are:

  • Kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica)
  • Parainfluenza
  • Lyme (Borrelia burgdorferi)
  • Leptospirosis (Leptospira)

These non-core vaccinations maybe required for your dog if they live in certain geographical locations, local environment and lifestyle place.   It can put them at risk of contracting these serious diseases if they are not properly protected.

Now depending on your Vet, they may completely disagree with the core vaccinations protecting your dog for life.  They may even say that it is against the law not to get your dog vaccinated since their first vaccinations.   Truthfully though the only one vaccination that is actually required by law is the Rabies vaccination.

shots your dog needs

Vaccination Finale

There is a real worry that if we don’t follow these new guidelines we run the risk of over vaccinating our dogs which can be really dangerous.   All vaccinations have adverse side effects and can be extremely dangerous to your pet’s health.

They can have mild reactions to serious reactions.   The mild causes can be lethargy and soreness.   The extreme ones could be anaphylactic shock, autoimmune diseases and even as far as causing death.

The most important thing when it comes to vaccinations is to educate yourself about your dog and the proper vaccinations they require with your Vet.

Now that being said don’t always just take your Vet’s advice when it comes to making all of the vaccination decisions.   Every dog’s history is different and not every dog needs the same vaccinations.  Have a discussion about it.   Ensure that you talk in depth with them about your dogs entire medical history so there is no confusion about what their needs are.


I have talked about how important it is to vaccinate your dog and what can happen if you don’t.  Are you interested in hear more about dog health? Input your email below to receive this important guide.


10 thoughts on “How Often Should A Dog Get Shots | Don’t Over Vaccinate”

  1. Hi Coralie;

    I no longer have my most recent dog companion (and miss her dearly), but I’ve been thinking about getting another. I’ve always had my pets vaccinated, but mostly just followed the schedule given by my vet clinic, assuming they know what they’re doing. Your post has given me much to think about if I get another dog. I’ll definitely ask more questions and do more research.

    I was interested to see that there is a vaccine for Lyme, which is becoming a big issue. Here in the region of Canada where I live, ticks are only just starting to become a potential problem. I always treated our dogs with pills for fleas and ticks, so I don’t know if we have that vaccine for Lyme here. It’s interesting that there’s a Lyme vaccine available for dogs, but I haven’t heard of one for humans yet.

    Thanks for the valuable info,
    Stella 🙂

    • Hi Stella,

      So sorry that you lost your dog, I myself am just going through that difficult time now.  I just lost both of my boys and it is extremely difficult.

      I am excited that you are thinking of getting another dog, there is always more dog love to go around.

      You are right, that Lyme disease is quickly becoming an issue in Canada.  I live in Western Canada and we definitely need to be cautious to protect our pets.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.


  2. Great post. I always wanted to get a dog and just recently I’ve been seriously considering getting one. I learned a lot about some of the things I need to do to take care of dogs in this post, such as getting them vaccinations! I know that the cost will vary from state to state, country to country, but how much does vaccinations usually cost? And also, what do you look for when finding a vet for your dog? If you can help me out with some of those questions, that would be great. Thank you!

    • Hello Kevin,

      It is exciting to think that you are considering getting a dog. The best decision in the world.  I live in Canada, so it would be really tough to give you a price that is even close to the actual cost. 

      The one thing that I really do know is that finding a reasonable Vet that is good and still fair priced is important.  There is a huge difference from one place to the next.  The best is to ask anyone that you know that has any pets who they use as a Vet. 

      That is what I did and I got the best guy in the city who is completely affordable.

      Best of luck to you and thank you so much for sharing your comments with me.


  3. Vaccinations can be important, but over vaccinating can be harmful as well. I agree, following guidelines is our best bet when it comes to vaccination. I imagine that like with any small being it’s best to vaccinate early. Thanks for the information on kennel cough and lyme especially. Ticks can be a nuisance and are dangerous at times. It’s awareness like this that keeps our pets safe and sound, well done!

    • Hello Pentrental,

      Your comments are so true about the concern of over vaccinating.  We can follow the guidelines that are recommended, especially with puppies.  I think that dogs that are older may not require the regularity or preciseness of the puppy schedule.

      Ticks and lyme disease are quickly becoming a huge issue in Western Canada, so here we need to make sure we do what we can to protect our dogs.

      Thank you for the comments on my post.


  4. Hello there thanks for the really wonderful information on how vaccination came about and its founder, I had absolutely no idea about it. Looking at vaccinating one buddy, I really don’t know which is important or not important. When we visit the vet, I’ll just let him do all that is required. But from now onwards, I’ll take full part on looking at the administration of his vaccines to know if its really important or not. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hello Dane,

      I appreciate your comments on my post. I think you absolutely have the right idea about just making sure you really need all the vaccinations.  Talking to the vet is a good idea and doing some of your own research is also good.

      The thing that I found the most important is the length of time that a vaccination is still good for.  Making sure that you aren’t adding one vaccination on top of another.

      Best of luck and thank you.


  5. Vaccinations are important to have for sure. But, are there such things as herbal based vacinations for dogs? I ask because I recall my dad using herbal plant based remedies he would make himself using plants around us to add to the dogs food. Very rarely would he call a vet to tend to our dogs. Dad had loads of working dogs over the years to help out on the farm and I only recall one time when a juvenile pup had to be put down after eating rat poison that the neighbour had laid and it broke dads heart.   

    • Hi Rina,

      I appreciate your comments on my post. I have never heard of anyone that has not gotten their dog vaccinated. But it is completely up to each dog owner. For me personally some of the diseases like Parvo and Rabies are not something I would risk on a herbal medication.

       I would worry about the effectiveness of the herbal based products, but I have never tried them either.

      Thank you for sharing.



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