By: Gary Wynn Kelly

The new owner of a dog or cat may be unaware of the vaccinations that should be given to every dog and cat during the lifetime of a new companion. We get asked about what vaccinations should be given to a dog. The following is one possible program that will protect your dog. Your own veterinarian may have a different program. If so, please follow the advise of your veterinarian.

Many states have laws stating that a puppy must be at least 8 weeks old before it may be sold. Should you visit a breeder to adopt a puppy, ask what vaccinations have been given before you adopt the dog. Typically, at least one vaccination should have been given. This is desirable, as puppies can get parvo and die very quickly.

Many breeders will give the second vaccination as the pup is being adopted. Get proof that the pup did get vaccinated, and know what vaccine was given. Your vet will want that information. If there is an adoption contract that guarantees the health of the dog--there should be--it should show clearly the type of vaccinations that have been given, and the dates on which those were administered. Be sure to read it carefully, and understand what has been given to the puppy and when it was given.

Most good breeders give the first vaccination at 5 weeks, and a second at 8 weeks. These are combination-vaccinations that protect against: canine distemper. A distemper infection is serious, with a death rate approaching 50% in untreated dogs. The virus attacks the respiratory, digestive, and brain/nervous systems of dogs.

Canine adenovirus-2 infection

Canine adenovirus-2 causes respiratory disease and is one of the infectious agents commonly associated with canine infectious tracheobronchitis,--known commonly as kennel cough.

Hepatitis and respiratory disease

Canine adenovirus-1 causes canine infectious hepatitis, a serious disease that affects the liver.

Canine parvovirus infection

A parvo infection is highly contagious and serious, with a death rate approaching 90% in untreated dogs. The virus attacks the digestive and immune systems of unvaccinated animals, causing debilitating diarrhea and vomiting . The parvo virus remains in the environment for 9 months or longer. Puppies can become infected easily if taken into an area where the infection remains. It is spread through bodily fluids from an infected animal.


Poorly researched, this is a variant version of kennel cough. It is generally not fatal, and it is currently unknown as to how essential this vaccination is. It is an afterthought to the combination vaccinations.

The letters in these vaccines represent the following: D = Canine distemper virus.

H = Hepatitis. This vaccine protects against canine adenovirus-2 and adenovirus-1, it is referred to by “A2”.

A2 = Canine adenovirus-2. This virus causes a respiratory disease in dogs known by the public as kennel cough.

P = Parvovirus - a serious infection that kills unprotected dogs quickly.

The combination vaccines may be designated by any of these names: DA2PPV, DA2PP, DHPP, or DHPPV. Any of these terms indicates vaccination against canine distemper, hepatitis (canine adenovirus-2 and -1), parvovirus, and parainfluenza.

After a puppy has had the combination vaccination at 8 weeks, it will have limited protection for a month or more. This is because puppies are well protected from disease by the immune system for the mother until a few weeks after birth. As that immunity decreases with time, it is essential to protect the pup against disease by boosting its own immune system. The vaccines given at short intervals help to do this. Some puppy mills re encouraged by drug manufacturing representatives to vaccinate every 3 weeks. It is doubtful that this affords better protection, though it increases drug sales. Generally, vets vaccinate at 12 weeks, or even 14-16 weeks, depending on the health risk profile for the dog.

Rabies is a 100% fatal disease, and in most states, it is a required or core vaccine. The rabies injection may be given when the combination vaccination is repeated at 20 weeks either at the same time or separately administered..

Rabies injections generally are not given before this time. The first rabies vaccination is a 1 year vaccine. It must be repeated the next year along with the DA2PP/C or equivalent. The rabies vaccination must be repeated after one year. This is true for dogs when the prior rabies vaccination history is unknown. This applies to dogs from shelters or rescue, as their prior history is generally unknown.

The second rabies vaccination may be for 3 years, and all subsequent rabies are at 3 year intervals, unless local laws dictate otherwise. It is important to keep those records for the life of the dog.

The DA2PP or equivalent combination vaccine is recommended for every year for the life of the dog for best protection. There are schools that question this, as the DA2PP has been shown to last 3 to 5 years in some studies. While protection will come with an annual vaccination, some vets may choose to skip a year, or even 2 years in an older dog--especially if that older dog has other health issues, and has had an excellent vaccination record in younger years.

In California, canine influenza virus, CIV, spread through the state in 2016-2017. This virus killed many dogs across the state. It is spread through contact and an exchange of body fluids--as in drinking from the same water bowl, or licking an infected dog. This vaccination should be given by the vet of your choice. It is a two-step vaccination requiring 2 administrations 3 weeks apart.

CIV is believed to have spread from Chicago where it spread in 2015. Dogs residing in California should be vaccinated to protect against this respiratory infection. It may manifest with symptoms resembling kennel cough. It can be more serious in many dogs.

Bordetella - One Form of Kennel Cough

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that causes respiratory disease in dogs. It is one of the most common bacterial causes of canine infectious tracheobronchitis, which is also sometimes called kennel cough. Kennel cough is a general term for a type of infection rather than a specific infection.

Bordetella is highly contagious, easily transmitted through direct contact or the air, and resistant to destruction in the environment. Bordetella vaccination is often recommended for dogs that are boarded frequently or that regularly visit grooming parlors or dog parks. Based on your dog’s risk for exposure, your veterinarian may recommend vaccinating your dog against Bordetella in addition to administering the canine distemper combination vaccine, which affords some protection for kennel cough infections.

Bordetella is best given again at 20 weeks, and repeated at least annually. It may be given as a nasal inhalant rather than a injection. The Bordetella is *very important*, and most often skipped by too many people. It helps to protect your dog against Kennel Cough. Kennel cough is rarely deadly in a healthy dog, but it makes the dog miserable for 2-3 weeks. It is easily spread among dogs that come into contact with one another. It may be required for boarding dogs, bathing dogs, or in other facilities where dogs come into close contact. If your dog is walked in public, plays in dog parks, or with other dogs it is an excellent idea to have this protection for your dog.

DA2PP/C and Bordetella can be purchased at many feed stores, pet stores, and ordered by mail from pet supply firms. They can be administered by anyone able to manage giving injections. Rabies vaccinations can only be given by a vet, because rabies vaccines are a live vaccine.

These vaccinations are also given at low cost vaccine clinics. These clinics are best used by people with dogs that have an established vaccination history. Sometimes, although not often, a dog can have an allergic reaction to the vaccination and require emergency treatment. We recommend that young dogs get their shots when your vet is available to see your dog should there be an unusual reaction to the vaccination. For older dogs--2 years and older who have had at least one annual booster previously, it is unlikely for the dog to have an allergic reaction.

A rabies vaccination is required for a dog license. Be sure you get a certificate of rabies vaccination for your dog, and keep it with your dog’s important records! The rabies certification and the spay-neuter certification will be required when you license your dog, or you will be required to see your bet again to obtain them. Most areas do license dogs.

If you do not know about a dog license, call your county/city Animal Control Office to find out how to license your dog, and what copies of certifications they will require with the fee for the license. Most animal control offices now have online application forms, and clearly state what documentation is required to license a dog.

Remember! *A rabies tag is insufficient proof of a rabies vaccination*. Anyone can put a rabies tag on a dog, and it may be difficult to prove that the dog wearing the tag had the vaccination.

The paperwork is the legal proof of your dog having had a current rabies vaccination. Should your dog be reported as having bitten anyone, that documentation will be required unless the local animal control office has it on file.

Animal Control does not care if your dog has a DA2PP or Bordetella, but you should. One of the most tragic events that can occur in your

family is to have your dog become deathly ill with any of the illnesses these injections prevent. Bordetella is not usually deadly, except to pups and older dogs; there is a chance of a complication with pneumonia for any dog having kennel cough, which Bordetella inhibits. We are now recommending that in California, dogs get the canine influenza vaccination to prevent CIV, unless the family vet advises otherwise.

If your dog is being boarded with other dogs, or is around other dogs in public, as when going to the dog park or beach, or when being groomed in a public dog grooming establishment, you should consider administering Bordetella at intervals of 12 months, and protecting your dog against canine influenza. It may well be required at nearly all facilities in CA.

We have seen vaccination clinic lines where the person giving the vaccinations is asking people if their dog is ever boarded. Most answer no, and do not realize that the question was being asked to see if the dog needed a Bordetella vaccination. We object to that practice, as the public generally does not understand the issues. It is best for the public if Bordetella vaccinations were given to all dogs, even if they are not currently expected to be boarded. Kennel cough can be spread through public encounters with other dogs, other than at a dog pound.

We recommend having a serious discussion with the veterinarian of your choice regarding the risk profile for your dog. Other vaccinations can be important, such as coronavirus, Lyme disease, or leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis is a potentially serious bacterial disease that attacks the kidneys and liver of infected dogs. It can be transmitted to humans. Vaccination against this disease is recommended in areas where leptospirosis is common. Leptospirosis exists in several strains, and a vaccination in one area may not cover exposure in another. Guidance from a vet is advisable.

Dog vaccinations are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture--not the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates human medications. The importance of this is that there has never been a federal requirement for the manufacturers of these vaccines to demonstrate how long a vaccination provides protection beyond the period stated by the producer. It is likely that young dogs, like young children, need vaccinations according to this recommended schedule, but a dog that has had all vaccinations for the first 3 or 4 years may be protected up to 3 years by a DA2PP or equivalent. Some studies indicate that this is true.

Before skipping vaccinations, consult your own veterinarian, and determine what is best for your dog in your situation. We have seen through experiences in Rescue, that Bordetella does only last a year or so.

Some strains of kennel cough can even effect a vaccinated dog. Like human vaccinations for the flu, this vaccination is not 100% effective.

Most dogs tolerate injections well if they are kept calm and are used to being handled. It is important to socialize your dog to accept examination by you and other people, so it will tolerate treatment and vaccinations when necessary. Sometimes combining an outing with a visit to the vet is a good idea. Taking your dog to the vet, and then on a short outing to a pet store, the beach, or some other dog friendly place can help your dog accept the idea of a vet visit more readily.

We have also found that if you have 2 dogs, that taking both to the vet when only one needs treatment is a good idea. The dog not treated gets a vet visit that has no negative events to bring back memories later, and will often be more calm at the vet’s office when it is his/her turn another time.

Copyright October, 2018, by Gary Wynn Kelly. Please respect the copyright, and contact for permission to reprint or distribute this article. Thank you!