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The Vaccinations Your Dog *Really* Needs in NYC

Being a pet parent isn’t just tummy rubs and long walks in the park. Sometimes, it’s scooping poop—a lot of it—and taking care of (other) business, like their long-term wellbeing. Caring and providing the best for your pup is incredibly rewarding, and it’s something we do in sickness and in health.

When it comes to disease and illness, one of the best ways to protect your pet is through prevention. Dog vaccines are a crucial way to help your pup stay healthy, especially in a city as busy, packed, and (let’s face it) sometimes germy as NYC. Plus, certain vaccinations are mandated by New York State.

What’s the point?

Pet vaccinations not only help prevent many diseases that affect your dog, they can also help ensure that you both enjoy a long, happy life together. Essentially, vaccines work by triggering your dog’s immune system to recognize and destroy disease-causing agents and prepare itself against infection in the future (just like how it works in people).

Dogs are curious creatures by nature—it’s one of the many reasons they’re so loveable!—but all that inquisitiveness can sometimes increase their risk of exposure to illnesses. And because some infection can spread between humans and pets, vaccinations for dogs don’t just protect your pup, they can also prevent them from sharing sickness with you. 

In addition to health benefits, certain vaccines are often required by state law. New York state dog vaccination requirements mandate that all resident dogs receive and be up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, which includes timely boosters. In NYC, that means your dog’s first rabies shot must be administered no later than four months of age, plus a second within one year of the first vaccination and booster shots as needed. Failure to do so can result in fines or confinement, particularly if there’s a biting incident. Once your dog receives their proper rabies vaccines, you’ll receive a certificate. It’s a good idea to keep this proof handy, should you both ever need it. (Note: if you’re planning on traveling with your pet, you’ll pretty much always need to show proof of rabies vaccination.)

What vaccines do dogs need and when do they need them?

“Core” vaccines refer to an essential set of shots that protect against common illnesses. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, core vaccines for dogs apply to rabies, canine distemper virus, adenovirus-2, and parvovirus, with or without parainfluenza virus. The DHPP vaccine is a combination that helps prevent four viruses: canine distempter, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

Ultimately, beyond core vaccines, what your pup needs will depend on a variety of personal factors like age, their medical history, current health, lifestyle, and more. Non-core vaccines generally depend on regional factors, as well as your dog’s specific lifestyle and background, but may include those for Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria (aka lepto). Different diseases require different vaccinations, and combinations of them may affect your dog uniquely (more on that below).

As always, before starting your pup on any new medical treatment, consult your trusted vet! It’s a simple step that can help get you expert advice to navigate treatment. Your vet can work with you to determine a puppy vaccine schedule that’s best suited for your dog’s needs.

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Ok, what’s the cost of dog vaccines?

We understand that the cost of care may be a concern for some pet parents. So it’s a good thing that vaccines actually help you save money in the long run. Pet vaccines, coupled with regular wellness checkups with your vet, help prevent disease from causing real harm in your pets, which can ultimately amount to high medical fees. 

Like most medicines, there are often multiple options for each type of vaccine, so it’s worth asking your dog’s vet if there are low-cost vaccine options available. Fortunately, puppy and dog vaccines administered now can help avoid expensive treatment for otherwise preventable diseases in the future. If cost is a concern, you may want to consider purchasing pet insurance to help cover your dog’s healthcare. 

But what about  puppy vaccinations side effects?

Typically, most pets don’t react to vaccines; if they do experience side effects, they tend to be short-lived and minor. As a precaution, it’s important to monitor your dog for any potentially adverse reactions after they receive any new medication, including vaccines. Common side effects may include: mild fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, swelling or redness around the inject site, and diarrhea. 

As with any other medication, if you notice a change in behavior or any negative symptoms in your pet after they receive a vaccine, you should contact your vet immediately for professional consult and care.


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