When Do Puppies Need Their Rabies Shot & Other Vaccines?

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Something that may not be at the top of your “Remember To Do” mental list is getting your new puppy vaccinated on time. New puppy parents often wonder: when do puppies get their rabies shot, and what other shots do they need?

Not to worry! I have put together a simple vaccination schedule that is easy to follow for the core vaccinations (the ones every dog has to get) as well as the optional vaccinations that your dog may need depending on their lifestyle.

Now, it is all well and good for the experts to point their fingers and say your dog must get this shot and that booster! However, I believe it is important for you to also understand the “why” behind your puppy needing a bunch of injections.

For example, rabies is deadly to unvaccinated dogs. There are a number of ways your dog can come into contact with the virus on and off your property.

When Do Puppies Get Rabies Shot

Owing to the fact that the rabies vaccine is required by law in the United States, there has been a sharp decline in the number of canine deaths.

So, let’s get into what the rabies shot is and why your puppy needs it!

What Is Rabies?

According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, the “rabies virus (RABV) is a Lyssavirus in the family Rhabdoviridae. Foxes, coyotes, and wolves are among the most susceptible to RABV infection … while domestic dogs … are only moderately susceptible.”

Rabies affects many animals, and it is cross-species transmissible, which means it can be transferred to humans as well. Rabies in humans is nearly always fatal once symptoms have become present.

Rabies is transmissible through saliva and blood. That means an infected animal can scratch, bite, or transmit saliva into an open wound of another animal or human and transmit the virus.

There is no definitive answer as to what the incubation period is for rabies, as it is variable according to the type of rabies it is, the strength of your dog’s immunity, how old they are, and how far away the bite is from the nervous system (leg versus neck). 

If your dog is infected with the rabies virus, they can start to show symptoms anywhere between three and eight weeks.

Symptoms of rabies include:

  • Excitatory behaviors (vicious and erratic behavior)
  • Paralytic behaviors (full body or partial paralysis)
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Respiratory distress

Typically, death is quick to follow within as little as three to eight days once symptoms have begun.

Why Does My Puppy Need The Rabies Shot?

This very deadly and distressing virus is not treatable or curable. The only way to protect your puppy from rabies is to get them vaccinated and keep up with their booster shots.

Your puppy needs its first rabies shot when it is 12 to 16 weeks old (three to four months old). One year after this first dose of the rabies shot, they need their first booster. Then, they need their adult boosters every three years after that.

Some states require boosters to be earlier than three years. Check your state regulations or call your local vet to find out.

Puppy AgeRabies Dose
Three to four monthsInitial Dose
1 year and three to four monthsFirst Booster
Every three years after thatAdditional adult boosters

What Other Shots Does Your Puppy Need?

Rabies is not the only thing you need to worry about if you have a dog. There are a number of other viruses that can affect your dog negatively, and many of them do not have a cure and will result in death.

Luckily, there are vaccinations for these nasty viruses! It is important that your puppy gets its core vaccinations on time so it is protected from the world around them.

If your puppy attends daycare, a training program, goes on walks where other animals have been, has access to a backyard where raccoons, coyotes, or skunks have been, runs around at the dog park, or visits with other dogs, then it is essential that they get some non-core or optional vaccines, too.

The following are some optional vaccines your vet may suggest based on your dog’s lifestyle:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Bordetella
  • Lyme disease
  • Canine Coronavirus

1. Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is an airborne virus that attacks nearly every aspect of a dog’s body from the respiratory system to the nervous system. It can be transmitted through coughing and sneezing.

Raccoons and skunks can also get and pass on distemper to dogs, so be aware of your house’s surroundings before you let your unvaccinated puppy outside.

There is no cure for distemper, and the only thing you can do for your dog is vaccinate them and provide supportive care for the symptoms.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Excessive discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Paralysis

2. Parvovirus

Parvovirus, also known simply as “parvo,” is a terrible virus that affects dogs.

There is no cure for parvo, and the only thing you can do for your dog is to make sure they are vaccinated and then treat their symptoms. Unfortunately, if an unvaccinated dog gets parvo, then it will most likely result in death.

By vaccinating your dog against parvo, you will provide them with the best chance at only sustaining mild symptoms and allowing them a full recovery.

Parvo can be picked up from other animals’ feces or from saliva. This means taking your puppy for a simple walk before they are vaccinated could be fatal.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

3. Adenovirus (Canine Hepatitis)

Canine hepatitis and human hepatitis are completely unrelated and cannot be transmitted from human to dog or dog to human.

It affects many of the organs, which can lead to mass organ failure. Adenovirus affects the spleen, liver, kidneys, lungs, and eyes.

There is no cure for canine hepatitis. However, symptoms can be managed and treated with great effect. The best thing to do is to vaccinate your pup against the virus to prevent any chance of symptoms from setting in.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Fever
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Thick, mucusy vomit
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)
  • Enlarged stomach (like a balloon)
  • Stomach pain

4. Parainfluenza

Parainfluenza is what causes kennel cough, as it is a respiratory virus that attacks the lungs. It is incredibly contagious and can sweep through a kennel, boarder, or dog park very quickly.

Parainfluenza itself is not fatal. However, it weakens the immune system enough that your dog will easily develop pneumonia or another secondary infection that is fatal.

Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Fever
  • Lots of discharge from the nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent coughing

Vaccination Schedule

Each one of your pets should have a vaccination schedule that goes with them on every visit to the vet.

The schedule will help you remember when to take your puppy for its vaccines in the first couple of years of its life and further on into adulthood.

Technology has advanced wonderfully, so we can also put notifications on in digital calendars to remind us in three years’ time to take our dog for their rabies booster shot! However, always record it in their physical schedule, too, so you can take it to the vet.

You can also use this vaccination schedule as a guideline for your dog!

Dog’s AgeCore VaccineOptional VaccineDate ReceivedAdministered At
6 to 8 weeksDistemper ParvovirusBordetella
10 to 12 weeksDHPPInfluenza Leptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease
16 to 18 weeksDHPP Rabies Initial ShotInfluenza Leptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease
12 to 16 monthsDHPP Rabies Year 1 BoosterLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus
3 years oldDHPP RabiesLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus
6 years oldDHPP RabiesLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus
9 years oldDHPP RabiesLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus
12 years oldDHPP RabiesLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus
15 years oldDHPP RabiesLeptospirosis Bordetella Lyme disease Canine Coronavirus

The optional vaccines are based on your dog’s lifestyle, how social they are with other dogs, if they go to doggy daycare, and if they go on walks or hikes with you into wooded areas where they could pick up things like Lyme disease or bordetella.

Consult your vet on which additional vaccinations your dog needs depending on their lifestyle.

FAQs About Puppies Getting Their Rabies Shot

Does the rabies shot give rabies to your puppy?

The rabies shot does not give rabies to your dog. It gives a broken piece (inactive) of the virus to your puppy’s immune system to stimulate an immune response.

Your puppy’s immune system then makes antibodies that recognize and attack the broken piece of the virus. The immune system has a memory, and those antibodies are stored in the memory for the next three years.

If your dog is bitten and contracts the rabies virus within that time frame, their immune system pulls the antibodies up and kills off the virus!

If your dog misses their shot, then they can go as soon as you realize and get back on their schedule.

Is rabies shot expensive? Where can my dog get it?

The rabies vaccine will typically cost between $15 to $40 depending on where you live.

However, there are ways to get cheaper rabies vaccines. If you go to a low-cost pet clinic, an animal shelter, a pop-up vaccine clinic, or when your vet runs vaccine specials, then there is a good chance your dog can get vaccinated at a cheaper rate.

World Rabies Day is on 28 September. Research what pet stores, clinics, and vet rooms are doing specials on that day!

What are the side effects of the rabies shot?

The chance of a reaction to the rabies shot is very slim. This is because the rabies vaccine has been around for a very long time and has been improved to the point where very few allergens are included in the formula.

However, some mild reactions do occur, but they are nothing to worry about most of the time.

Mild reactions to the rabies shot include:

  • Some soreness at the injection site
  • Swelling or a hot feeling at the injection site
  • Fatigue or laziness
  • Brief loss of appetite
  • Temporary fever

Severe reactions can happen on the odd occasion when your dog is allergic to the shot itself. If your dog displays these symptoms, they should be taken to the vet immediately. The severe symptoms of a reaction to the rabies shot are:

  • Urticaria (also known as hives, which are itchy blotches over the skin)
  • Swollen face
  • Coughing or huffing like they are having trouble breathing
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Can my dog get rabies after they have been vaccinated?

If you stick to your puppy’s vaccination schedule and get them vaccinated on time, then the chance of them developing symptoms of the rabies virus is very slim if they are bitten by an infected animal.

However, viruses mutate! Your dog’s immune system may be weakened for another reason, and they can develop rabies after being bitten even if their vaccines are up to date.

Rolling Over On Rabies Shots…

It is important to remember when your puppy needs its rabies shots and to stick to their vaccination schedule in order to protect them from the scary viruses out there.

Aside from the rabies vaccine, here are the other main vaccines your pup should be getting:

  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Adenovirus/Canine hepatitis
  • Parainfluenza

Be sure to stay up-to-date on your dog’s vaccines, and keep a schedule to track when your dog gets each vaccine! Like rabies, illnesses like parvo and adenovirus can be very serious and even fatal if your pup has not been vaccinated.

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When Do Puppies Get Rabies Shot - puppy getting his vaccination shot

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