Vaccinations and Medications to Keep Your Puppy Healthy

Your puppy will need a number of vaccinations and medications to stay healthy and avoid potentially fatal illnesses that can be caught from other dogs.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppies receive antibodies from their mother’s colostrum milk during the first 12-24 hours of life, but they only receive maternal antibodies if the mother has been recently vaccinated against or exposed to diseases. Puppies will need to be immunized after they have been weaned from the mother as maternal antibodies in the puppy’s bloodstream will block the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Puppies generally receive their first round of shots by the age of 7-8 weeks. These vaccinations are one of the most crucial steps you can take to ensure your puppy stays healthy. According to the American Kennel Club, the following is the general guideline for puppy vaccinations during the first year, but your vet may recommend other shots depending on where you live and your dog’s risk factors.

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, measles, parainfluenza. Optional: Bordetella.
  • 10-12 weeks: DHPP (distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and parvovirus). Optional: Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease.
  • 12-24 weeks: Rabies
  • 14-16 weeks: DHPP. Optional: Coronavirus, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis.
  • 12-16 weeks: Rabies, DHPP. Optional: Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease.
  • Every 1-2 years: DHPP
  • Every 1-3 years: Rabies

Be sure to keep your puppy away from other dogs or areas where other dogs may have soiled until he is 12 weeks and fully immunized.

Brown Lab Puppy

Further Reading:

Going to the Dog Park
Pet Care Advice for Parents
How to Train a Puppy
Meaning of Dog Behaviors
Care of Specific Breeds

Heartworm Prevention

Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal pet disease caused by foot-long worms, or heartworms, that live in the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Dogs are natural hosts for heartworms, which can live in the dog through their entire life cycle. Heartworms are often transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitos. Adult female heartworms in an infected animal product baby worms that circulate in the blood and may be picked up by a mosquito. At this point, they will mature into the larvae stage and get deposited onto a new host when the mosquito bites again.

The American Heartworm Society recommends pets be tested for heartworms every 12 months and get heartworm preventative treatment every 12 months. Puppies under 7 months of age can begin heartworm prevention without being tested. The AHS recommends puppies begin heartworm prevention as soon as the product allows but no later than 8 weeks.

Heartworm medication does require a prescription from a licensed veterinarian. Your puppy will need to take the heartworm medication once a month in pill or topical form or every 6 months in injection form. This medication works to eliminate the larval stages of the parasite, including larvae deposited onto the dog by a mosquito. You will need to be very strict in following this monthly schedule as administering the treatment late can allow the larvae to molt into the adult stage, at which point the medication will not work.

Flea and Tick Prevention for Puppies

Protecting your puppy from fleas and ticks is important not only for your pet’s comfort but also to prevent complications and health risks, including the risk of anemia in small puppies. The type of control product you use will depend on the age of the puppy.

Most flea sprays, collars, and shampoos have age warnings and should not be used on puppies under 8 weeks of age. If your puppy is younger than 8 weeks, you can try home remedies for preventing fleas like a drop of lavender oil at the neck and base of the tail. Here’s a quick overview of flea and tick control methods for puppies at least 8 weeks of age.

Flea and Tick Medications

Topical Meds

Oral Meds


Topical Medication

Topical flea and tick medication is usually applied to the skin between your puppy’s shoulder blades. Most products repel and kill ticks and fleas and sometimes mosquitoes. This type of prevention product is convenient and easy to use and the active ingredients can work for several weeks, even if your puppy is given a bath.

Oral Medications

There are several types of oral medications available that usually work for one month. Oral medication typically kills fleas and ticks and may also offer heartworm prevention and prevention against other parasites like hookworms and roundworms.


Flea collars contain a concentrated chemical that repels fleas and ticks. According to PetMD, Collars usually protect your puppy for several months. This is a good budget-friendly and easy option, but keep in mind flea collars can have an unpleasant odor.


Flea sprays may last for days or up to several months as long as your puppy stays dry. While sprays are inexpensive and easy to use, they do not offer the full protection of a topical medication or oral medication.


Flea and tick shampoos are effective at killing adult fleas and their eggs for a short amount of time, but they typically do not stop an infestation or keep fleas from coming back.

Rottweiler puppy sitting

Further Reading:

Who Gets Pet Insurance?
How to Care For a Puppy
Common Puppy Illnesses

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