There are many diseases we can prevent through proper vaccination. There are other diseases we can use vaccinations to make it less likely that the dog will get very sick if they encounter them. Some of these require multiple boosters initially and then revaccinate on variable schedules as your dog ages.

Kennels, training classes, dog parks, and grooming facilities may request that you show proof of certain vaccinations prior to participation.

Vaccinations are strangely controversial considering we do them so frequently. As with any medication, there is a potential for side effects although most of the time this is much less likely than the benefit we are hoping to achieve.

The diseases we are vaccinating against are almost always relatively common or extremely dangerous if the dog catches them. It makes me sad to see cases where the patient dies from a disease that is very preventable with a vaccination.

It also makes me sad to see any of my patients have a reaction, no matter how small, to a shot I have given. I try to look at each dog as an individual and weigh the risk of trouble with a vaccine against the risk of catching the disease.

Sometimes you may not want to give your dog many vaccinations all at the same time. Talking through a vaccination schedule with your vet is advised in order to prioritize immunity to the concerned diseases, risks of reactions, your schedule, upcoming travel to different areas, the costs, and the number of times your dog needs to return to the office.

Some dogs have extreme anxiety at the vet and this may be important in deciding how many vaccines to give at once.

Below I have listed some of the most common vaccines you will hear about. Not all of them may be indicated in your animal or region.

Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo, Parainfluenza-DHPP

These are 4 COMMON viral diseases that a dog would be lucky to survive if they contracted them. Some have cause respiratory problems, some cause gut disease, and some cause brain and nerve damage.

The dogs that contract them are extremely ill and even with very aggressive treatment they can die. These diseases are preventable with proper vaccination.

Puppies get a series of these shots and then adult dogs have them boostered appropriately. The vaccination for all 4 are frequently given as one injection.


This is a viral disease found in many wildlife species that is 100% fatal to dogs and can be transmitted to humans. These vaccinations are required by law.


This is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through contact with urine of another species. This can be extremely regional and localized. Some years it can be more prevalent than others. It can spread to humans. This disease is known for causing kidney and liver failure.

Bordetella (also known as kennel cough)

This is a bacteria that likely to hang out in a group of germs that stick together and cause upper respiratory infections. It is a super contagious bug that gets spread around pretty easily so even if your dog doesn’t go to the kennel they can still have pretty frequent contact with this one.

Fortunately, most dogs get sick for a few weeks but don’t die when they encounter this germ. Most of them recover fine even without vet care but a few of them can end up with pneumonia secondary to having this. Kennel cough does not spread to humans.

This vaccine requires frequent boosters to keep your dog protected and there are many dogs who get the vaccine and still can get kennel cough anyway because it likes to hang out in a group with other respiratory germs that change from season to season.

It is especially likely to find it’s way to your door if your dog receives the vaccine less than a week prior to being exposed. I see many folks who come into my office only hours prior to leaving on a trip because they realized that they can’t board their dogs without this vaccine. This is not ideal for preventing illness.


A vaccination that can help prevent your dog from getting this common disease spread by ticks. This is regional and you should talk to your vet about if this is appropriate.

Try to think ahead if your dog will be traveling to an area where it is common. Even if they don’t go outside much, there are some regions where ticks seem to be fairly thick.


This is a viral disease causing respiratory troubles in dogs. Just like the human flu, some dogs become very sick and need hospitalization while others have milder experiences.

This is a relatively new problem for our companion animals compared with the other diseases and it appears to be found more commonly in some areas of the country but spreads quickly and somewhat unpredictably. Let your vet know if you are traveling to an area where this might be more common.

Photo Credit: Via @k9cinemas on Instagram

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