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Puppy Vaccination Guide

golden retriever puppy with female vet

It is such an exciting time welcoming a puppy into your life and there is nothing better than bonding with your new bundle of fluff! It can also be quite overwhelming in acquiring all the necessities to keep them happy and healthy. Fear not, this guide is designed to give you a helping hand with all things concerning puppy vaccination, how frequently they need them and how much they will cost.

Why does my puppy need vaccinations?

Vaccinations are a very important part of health care for your puppy as they help protect against and prevent some potentially fatal diseases. Initially your pup will acquire their antibodies to some diseases from their mum, but eventually these maternal antibodies will decrease and your pup will need to produce some of their own. Vaccinations will stimulate an immune response in your pup and their own antibodies against the diseases will be produced.

We don’t know exactly when mum’s antibodies will stop offering protection, hence we need to give a course of vaccinations to make sure all puppies are protected. Puppies are given a series of vaccinations not to “boost” the vaccine, but to ensure that a puppy’s Maternally Derived Antibodies (MDAs) do not override the vaccine.

A puppy’s mother will have antibodies against a variety of diseases that she would have been exposed to or have been vaccinated against. She passes these antibodies onto her puppy, but over a period of weeks these antibody levels drop and the puppy is no longer protected.

What are the different dog vaccines?

The core vaccine (which all dogs should receive) is known as the C3 vaccination and protects against Parvovirus, Distemper and Adenovirus. These diseases are still out there, and can be deadly and that is why it is so important to vaccinate your pup.

Non-core vaccines are administered depending on the risk (based on the dog’s lifestyle, location and risk of exposure to infection). A common non-core vaccine in Australia is one that protects against kennel cough (Canine parainfluenza virus and Bordetella bronchiseptica). The kennel cough vaccine together with the core C3 vaccine make up the C5 vaccination which is recommended for dogs who come into contact with other dogs.

The Leptospirosis vaccination is recommended for dogs who are in at-risk areas (speak to your vet if you are not sure about this).

There are different forms of vaccines such as injectable (usually given subcutaneously under the skin), intranasal (given into the nostrils) and oral (given into the mouth). Some vaccines are also longer-lasting than others meaning you only need to give one every 3 years as apposed to yearly. But the kennel cough vaccine needs to be given annually.

Vaccination Schedule

Puppies require a course of 3 vaccinations a month apart and these usually start at 6-8 weeks of age.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule*

6-8 weeks First Vaccination c3 vaccination
10-12 weeks Booster Vaccinationc5 vaccination
14-16 weeks Final puppy vaccinationc5 vaccination (depending on brand may just require c3)
Every year after Annual booster vaccinationDependant on brand
*Depending on the brand of vaccine your vet will tailor a vaccine program for your pup

Puppy vaccinations and socialisation

Puppies should have had all of their routine puppy vaccinations before going to public places like parks, as this will reduce their risk of coming into contact with other dogs or an environment that could harbour a source of infectious disease. The exception to this is puppy preschool, as it is conducted in a clean environment and all the puppies will have had at least their first vaccination.

Those first few weeks of bringing your puppy home is the prime period for socialisation. It is important to expose them to different humans, pets and novel situations (all in a positive way) to set them up to be a confident dog for life! This is when they do a lot of their learning and the more positive encounters with people and other dogs and pets will help them to have a well rounded approach to life.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases


Canine Parvovirus causes a life-threatening diarrhoea. The virus destroys the lining of the intestinal tract, which leads to blood loss. The damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract also allows bacteria from the gastrointestinal tract to enter the general bloodstream, causing sepsis. Many dogs who contract parvovirus will die or become extremely unwell.
Furthermore Parvovirus is HIGHLY contagious. It is spread by exposure to contaminated faeces or grass and footpaths on which contaminated faeces have been deposited. It survives in the environment for years! Vaccination is critical for the prevention of Parvovirus in puppies.

Canine Distemper Virus

Canine Distemper Virus is contracted through contact with the respiratory secretions of infected animals. The virus spreads through the respiratory tract, and then through the bloodstream and to the central nervous system. This results in neurological abnormalities such as problems with movement and balance, twitching, and ultimately seizures, blindness and often death.
While Distemper was common in Australian domestic dogs in the 1960s and 1970s, rates of infection have dropped significantly due to effective vaccination programs. It is still, however, a serious threat to our domestic dogs because the disease persists in the wild canids such as foxes, wild dogs and dingoes.


The virus is contracted through respiratory secretions from infected dogs. It localises in the tonsils from where it enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver, kidneys and eyes. The virus then replicates in the liver causing necrosis, which basically means that the liver tissue dies. Like Canine Distemper Virus, this virus has been almost eliminated from domestic dog populations through effective vaccination programs, but the virus is very resistant in the environment and may still be present in local wild dog populations.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica and Canine Parainfluenza Virus.

(These organisms are responsible for what is commonly referred to as “kennel cough”)

Bordetella bronchiseptica

This is a bacterial respiratory infection responsible for most of the clinical signs associated with “kennel cough.” It is caught the same way that we catch a cold, through airborne respiratory secretions. Dogs will pass it to each other at the dog parks when they sniff and lick each other.

Bordetella bronchiseptica is not life threatening, but it will cause a persistent honking cough, which many pet parents will confuse with choking. It also produces a mucus in the trachea which will be coughed up as a liquid froth, often giving the appearance of vomiting.

Vaccinated dogs can still become infected with Bordetella bronchiseptica, but the clinical signs will be milder than in unvaccinated dogs, your dog should still be bright and alert despite the presence of a cough. Unvaccinated dogs who become infected with Bordetella are susceptible to infection with secondary bacteria that can lead to serious pneumonia.

Canine Parainfluenza Virus

Like BordetelIa bronchiseptica, Parainfluenza is caught via airborne respiratory secretions. The virus replicates in the nasal passages, the pharynx, trachea and lungs, causing a persistent cough similar to that in patients with bronchitis.
Infections are generally not life-threatening, but vaccination is essential for dogs who socialise as they often touch noses or lick each other.

How much do vaccinations cost?

This can be very variable depending on the vaccine you are getting for your pup but expect to pay anywhere from $100-$150. This will include the coat of the vaccine as well as an examination of your puppy by the veterinarian.

Your puppy will likely have had their first vaccination and health check by a vet before you purchase them. But they will still require further vaccinations so don’t forget to check their vaccination card or health record to see when this is due.

Can puppies and dogs have adverse reactions to vaccinations?

Your pup or dog may experience a reaction to a vaccine as it causes immune stimulation. Extreme and potentially dangerous reactions are very rare with the advanced technology of the newer vaccines. Although an anaphylactic reaction is still possible and usually occurs very soon after the vaccine is given.

The most common reaction would be pain at the injection site, so refrain from touching your pup in this area for a day or two. Occasionally you may witness lethargy, a reduced appetite and a mild fever but treatment is often not required. If you are concerned about any potential side effects, do contact your vet for advice.

Tips for your first vet consult with your puppy

As mentioned vaccinations are both important to prevent diseases as well as decreasing the severity of some diseases. Another extremely important aspect is that your puppy will also receive a physical health examination with your vet. This gives your vet the opportunity to look for any developmental or congenital abnormalities and provides you with the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about caring for your puppy. We want this to be a very positive first experience for you and your puppy and there are some tips that can help achieve this goal.

  • Give your puppy the opportunity to toilet before travelling to the vet appointment
  • Place them in a suitable carrier or device that keeps them safe and secure
  • Take some treats with you to the consult to help associate the vet visit with positive rewards
  • Take all paperwork you may have including vaccine records and microchip information
  • Enquire what parasite preventative your puppy will require in your specific location
  • Discuss with your vet about puppy insurance
Dr Angie with Axel

Written by Dr. Angie, the brilliant veterinary mind behind Pet Circle Insurance. With over 15 years of experience in the veterinary field and hands-on experience in handling insurance claims, Angie is a trusted and reliable source of truth when it comes to all things pet-related. Her passion for small animal medicine, nutrition, and the human-animal bond shines through in her work with the Pet Circle Veterinary Squad, where she provides top-notch advice and support to pet owners.