How to administer shots to dogs

Vaccinations provide important protection for your pet’s health


Jumpstart your puppy’s immune system.

In their first year of life, puppies will need to visit their veterinarian numerous times to get vaccinated for and become immunized against potentially fatal, yet preventable infectious diseases. The worst of these are Distemper and Parvo.

The timing and interval between booster vaccinations is critical to ensure your puppy is protected, as their mother’s antibodies can interfere with a vaccination’s ability to mount your puppy’s own immune response. Thus, puppies need a series of vaccinations to allow their immune system to “break through” waning maternal antibody.

When to vaccinate?

Puppies should receive their first vaccinations at six to eight weeks of age. Be sure to get medical records for a newly purchased or adopted puppy so your veterinarian can determine what has been given and when the next vaccine is due. Your veterinarian will then recommend a schedule depending on the lifestyle you envision for your puppy and risk of certain diseases based on where you live or travel.

Most vaccines are given every 2-4 weeks until actual protection is expected to be achieved. Depending on your puppy’s age, this may require 3-4 vaccinations for the Distemper/Parvo series until your puppy is 16-20 weeks of age. If your dog is over 16 weeks of age and isn’t up-to-date on shots, or if you’re not sure, your veterinarian may recommend a shorter series.

Core v. non-core vaccinations

Core vaccines should be given to ALL dogs and puppies. Non-core vaccines are given based on lifestyle and where you live/travel. Core vaccines include:

  • DHP (also called DAP) – stands for Distemper, Hepatitis (or Adenovirus-2), and Parvo and are usually combined.
  • Rabies – usually required by state or local law, which dictates the age and intervals for your dog.

Non-core vaccines are important, but not needed for all dogs. Vaccines in this category are:

  • Parainfluenza – often combined with DHP.
  • Leptospirosis – can be given separate or combined with DHP or DHPP. 2-vaccine series needed initially, followed by an annual booster.
  • Bordetella – can be given intranasally, orally, or injectable. Route and interval to be determined by your veterinarian.
  • Canine Influenza – 2 strains (H3N2 and H3N8), 2-vaccine series needed initially, followed by an annual booster.
  • Lyme – 2-vaccine series needed initially, followed by an annual booster.

A typical puppy vaccination schedule:

  • First vaccination: 6 to 8 weeks – DHP
  • Second vaccination: 9 to 11 weeks – DHP
  • Third vaccination: 12 to 15 weeks – DHP
  • Fourth vaccination: 16 to 20 weeks – DHP
  • Booster DHP: 1 year of age or 12 months after the last puppy shot, then as recommended (usually every 1-3 years)
  • Rabies vaccination: typically required by law at 3-6 months of age with a booster 12 months later, then a booster every 1-3 years.
  • Bordetella, Parainfluenza, and Canine Influenza recommended for social dogs (day camp, dog parks, boarding, grooming, dog shows).
  • Lyme or Leptospirosis: May be recommended by your veterinarian if you live in or travel with your dog to an area where these are endemic.

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Vaccines help prevent many illnesses that affect pets. Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life. Not only are there different vaccines for different diseases, there are different types and combinations of vaccines. Vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed for every pet relative to his lifestyle and health. Your veterinarian can determine a vaccination regime that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual animal.

Understanding Vaccines

Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don’t actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a pet is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.

Vaccines are very important to managing the health of your pet. That said, not every pet needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that’s right for your pet. Factors that should be examined include age, medical history, environment, travel habits and lifestyle. Most vets highly recommend administering core vaccines to healthy pets.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans.

For Dogs: Vaccines for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies are considered core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk. These include vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.

For Cats: Vaccines for panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies are considered core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the cat’s lifestyle; these include vaccines for feline leukemia virus, Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Your veterinarian can determine what vaccines are best for your pet.

Determining the Timing and Frequency of Vaccinations

Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your pet. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle.

For puppies: If his mother has a healthy immune system, a puppy will most likely receive antibodies in mother’s milk while nursing. Puppies should receive a series of vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks of age. A veterinarian should administer a minimum of three vaccinations at three- to four-week intervals. The final dose should be administered at 16 weeks of age.

For adult dogs: Some adult dogs might receive certain vaccines annually, while other vaccines might be given every three years or longer.

For kittens: Kittens automatically receive antibodies in the milk their mother produces if their mother has a healthy immune system. When the kitten is around six to eight weeks of age, your veterinarian can begin to administer a series of vaccines at three- or four-week intervals until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age.

For adult cats: Adult cats might be revaccinated annually or every three years.

Local Laws Regarding Mandatory Vaccines

Each state has its own laws governing the administration of the rabies vaccine. Some areas require yearly rabies vaccination. Other areas call for vaccines every three years. In almost all states, proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory.

Risks Associated with Vaccination

Immunizations should mildly stimulate the animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions.

There are other, less common side effects like injection site tumors and immune disease associated with vaccination. That said, it is important to realize that vaccines have saved countless lives, and play a vital role in the battle against infectious diseases. As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of side effects. In most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of disease itself. But it is important to talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s medical history before he is vaccinated.

Most pets show no ill effect from vaccination. Vaccine reactions may be minor and short-lived or require immediate care from a veterinarian. Clinical signs include:

  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial swelling and/or hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain, swelling, redness, scabbing or hair loss around the injection site
  • Lameness
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Lameness

It is best to schedule your pet’s appointment so that you can monitor him for any side effects following administration of the vaccine. If you suspect your pet is having a reaction to a vaccine, call your veterinarian immediately.

Got a pup with an itch that can't be scratched? Great news: a novel, non-pharmaceutical pruritus treatment called Cytopoint has been approved in the U.S., promising to relieve itching in millions of dogs.

Itching for relief

Itchy dogs pose a frustrating clinical challenge for veterinarians. Seasonal allergies, or atopic dermatitis, affect an estimated 10% of all dogs. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics are thought to play a major role in determining if your dog suffers from recurrent itching and scratching.

Canine atopy or the red, burning, itchy skin that accompanies pollen, mold, dust mite, or other environmental allergens, is one of the leading reasons pet parents rush their dog to the veterinarian. Most dogs experience worsening symptoms over time, leading to pain and discomfort, skin infections, and diminished quality of life. Allergic dogs don’t sleep well, constantly lick and chew, and lose interest in play and interaction.

In short, dogs suffering from skin allergies are miserable.

Conventional allergy treatments for dogs

Treatment has traditionally been aimed at reducing exposure to allergens (good luck) and a wide variety of anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, bathing techniques, foods and allergy shots for dogs. Hypo- or de-sensitization injections helped about half of treated canines. If we could control 70% to 80% of a pet’s itching, that was considered a win.

For serious cases, veterinarians would often turn to corticosteroids, potent drugs that carry side effects and risks we’d rather reserve for severe symptoms. Regardless of treatment combinations and clever formulations, canine allergic dermatitis remained a tremendous challenge.

But now, a new drug that works in an innovative way has arrived to offer relief for itchy dogs.

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Cytopoint treatment for dogs

The drug is called Cytopoint, from the pet pharmaceutical company Zoetis. Cytopoint isn’t a drug; it’s a biological therapy. It contains engineered antibodies, the cells the body uses to fight injections, to target and neutralize a signal protein that induces itching. In simplest terms, Cytopoint stops the itch signaling protein from reaching the brain, reducing or eliminating the itch-scratch cycle.

This is important because it’s the incessant scratching that damages the skin and leads to complications (and keeps your dog up all night chewing). If the scratching ceases, the skin can heal.

The manufacturer has shown a single subcutaneous Cytopoint injection can relive itching in dogs for four to eight weeks. The treatment begins working within a day, and research demonstrates skin healing begins within a week.

The safety studies submitted for FDA approval showed a wide safety margin with no side effects reported other than occasional injection site discomfort. Cytopoint was tested in combination with steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics, parasiticides, antifungals, vaccines, and many more medications without any observed interactions or adverse events.*

Even more exciting, Cytopoint doesn’t suppress the immune system, alter hormones, and potentially damage the liver the way corticosteroids could.

Cytopoint side effects

The manufacturer claims Cytopoint is similar to treating atopy with steroids without the potentially dangerous side effects. The treatment is naturally broken down and recycled by the body, avoiding excretion by the kidneys and liver like most medications, especially steroids. If these reviews hold up in rigorous real-world usage, that’s a huge breakthrough in my book.

If your dog suffers from atopic dermatitis, it’s worth asking your veterinarian about this new treatment prior to allergy season. In clinical trials, about 70% to 80% of pet parents reported less itching and scratching, especially during the first four weeks.

These initial results are encouraging; I’m eager to see how the treatment works in larger populations of dogs under diverse environmental conditions. If Cytopoint performs as well as claimed, this could be a game changer in the management of canine atopic dermatitis.

This sheet will show you how to give a shot in the fatty tissue below the skin. This is called a subcutaneous (sub-kyu-TAY-nee-us) injection. Ask your doctor or nurse if this method is the correct one for the drug you are going to take. This sheet does not apply to insulin shots and blood thinner shots. There are different instruction sheets for them.

What You Will Need

Before you give the shot, you will need the following:

  • Drug (This comes in a small bottle or vial.)
  • Alcohol swab, or cotton ball moistened with alcohol
  • Syringe with needle (You will need a prescription to buy syringes from a pharmacy.)
  • Hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on or tightly-secured lid

Parts of a Syringe and Needle

You will use a syringe and needle to give the shot. The parts are labeled below.

Drawing up the drug into the syringe

  1. Wash the work area (where you will set the drug and syringe) well with soap and water.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Check the drug label to be sure it is what your doctor prescribed. Check the expiration date on the vial.

Do not use a drug if:

  • It is past the expiration date
  • You see small pieces floating in it
  • It is discolored

Call your pharmacist if this happens.

  • Hold the syringe with the needle pointing straight up (still in the vial).
  • Gently tap the barrel of the syringe so air bubbles float to the top.
  • Still holding the syringe upright, slowly push the plunger until you push all the air out of the syringe, back into the bottle.
  • Check to make sure you have the correct dosage.
  • If you have too much or too little, adjust the plunger again until you have the right amount.• Remove the needle from the vial.

Giving the Shot

Decide where on your body you will give the shot. The diagram below shows general areas on the body where the shot can be given. Be sure to give the shot in a different place each time. You can stay in the same general area, but try to stay at least 1 inch from the last shot, any scars, and your belly button. Keep a diary to remember where your last shot was given.

  1. Wipe the area of skin with an alcohol swab or a cotton ball moistened in alcohol.
  2. Remove the needle cap. Hold the syringe in one hand.
  3. With the other hand, gently pinch up the skin around where you will give the shot (unless your doctor tells you otherwise) and hold firmly.
  4. Insert the needle at a 45- to 90-degree angle.
  5. Once the needle is in, let go of the skin. Be sure the needle is still left in the skin.
  6. Pull back gently on the plunger of the syringe.

If blood appears at the tip of the syringe:

  • Withdraw the needle, and apply gentle pressure to the site.
  • Change the needle, and begin again at another site.

If no blood appears at the tip of the syringe:

  • Inject the drug slowly.
  • Push down on the plunger until all of the drug solution is gone from the syringe.


If you have any questions about these instructions, call your doctor or nurse at:

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell, and today, I’m going to show you how to give your pet an injection. There’s a lot of different reasons you might need to give your dog an injection. There are allergy shots and diabetic pets, and there are some vaccinations that can be purchased at pet stores as well. Here’s some tips and tricks on how to do it.

Most injections are typically given subcutaneously, which means under the skin versus in the muscle. There’s definitely a difference there. Muscle injections tend to be a little bit more painful, but you want to make sure that you are administering it correctly.

So for a subcutaneous injection, typically, we like to use the skin up on the scruff of the neck. They have a lot of extra skin there. And it’s an ideal spot for a subcutaneous injection. In a nice dog like Dina, you might be able to do it by yourself, although especially when you’re beginning, it’s great to have somebody to hold and distract the dog, so that you don’t have to focus on them moving around. So one person to kind of distract, maybe give a treat, give some food, something like that, while you focus on the injection.

I’m right-handed, so I usually like to have the dog faced this way, so that the injection can go this way. And I have several different syringes; this would be what’s typical for insulin, so more of an insulin syringe. Whereas something like this is more typical for allergy injections or vaccinations. So we’ll actually use this one today for Dina. You’re going to want to draw up your injection just like you see in the movies. Upside-down, pull the amount into the syringe, and then push out the extra air. If you have a little air bubble in there, give it a good flick so that the air comes out. And this is just for Dina today, just for the demonstration.

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Always use needles once; they’re not meant to be reused. A larger needle like this should be disposed of properly. You can put it in an empty milk container, for example, works really pretty well. Insulin syringes, you’ll want to put the cap back on. You can put those in an empty milk jug. And most veterinarians will dispose of them properly for you.

So one tip for when you’re giving injections is to hold the skin this way, rather than this way. And the reason is is if you’re holding it this way and you aim here, you can actually go all the way through with your needle, especially in a really thin dog. So if you go this way, you’ve got a little bit more room when you’re aiming right here. And then you want to aim at about a 45-degree angle into the tent that you have. We don’t usually use a lot of alcohol on the skin. And the reason is, especially with insulin injections, is it’s just not necessary. If it makes you feel any better, you certainly can swab the area with rubbing alcohol to sterilize it.

I’ve seen some clients shave a little spot, especially for diabetics, so that they can see the skin better. It’s not a bad idea, so that you can kind of see where your needle is going in. So your cap comes off, skin gets tented, feel that little furrow at about a 45-degree angle. Once you’re in, you should really pull back just to make sure you’re not getting blood or gas. If you’re getting air, then you’re not in the skin. So it has some good negative pressure there. And then you pull that needle straight directly out, and place the cap on it, and then be sure to dispose of it properly.

How to administer shots to dogs

If an allergy is to blame, it probably falls into one of three categories, according to Dr. Scott Miller, who recently completed an internship in small animal dermatology at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana. The options are flea allergic dermatitis, food allergies, and environmental allergies, also called “atopy” and “atopic dermatitis.”

“Flea allergy is considered the most common allergy affecting dogs, though that varies based on geography,” says Dr. Miller. “For example, fleas do not survive well in the Southwest. Environmental allergies are more common there.”

Food allergies are less common. When they do occur, these allergies are most often tied to a specific protein source, such as chicken or beef, rather than to a grain, like corn or rice.

Flea and food allergies are both fairly straightforward to treat. Got fleas? Control the fleas. Food allergy? Attempt to avoid that food.

Not Fleas or Food? Try Environmental

And that leaves the final category, allergies to environmental stimuli, which afflict between 10 and 20 percent of dogs. In fact, an environmental allergy—which includes allergy to grasses, pollens, insects, and more—is diagnosed only after ruling out all other possible causes of the allergic signs.

“In environmental allergies, the immune system overreacts to these allergens and causes a variety of signs, including itching, skin inflammation, skin infections, and ear infections,” says Dr. Miller.

Unfortunately, we cannot treat environmental allergies by removing grass, trees, dust, mold spores, and so on from our pet’s environment. So, instead of changing the pet’s environment, we have to mediate the pet’s allergic reaction.

“Immunotherapy, commonly known as ‘allergy shots,’ is one of the oldest and still most effective treatment options for environmental allergies in dogs,” says Dr. Miller. “It is the only natural way to truly try to change the immune system’s response to allergens, but it requires a long-term commitment on the part of the pet owner.”

How Immunotherapy Works

Immunotherapy is delivered by a specialist in veterinary dermatology working together with the pet’s general practice veterinarian to ensure continuity of care. Immunotherapy is a good choice for a dog that has not responded well to basic allergy medications or a dog that has frequent, severe allergic signs throughout the year.

“Overall, 60 to 80 percent of dogs with environmental allergy will respond very well to allergy shots, often eliminating the need for other medications the pet may have been given to control signs,” says Dr. Miller. “Young dogs may respond better to immunotherapy than do older dogs.”

Immunotherapy works by introducing small amounts of what the pet is allergic to and gradually increasing the dose over time, so that the pet builds a tolerance to these allergens. This is most often done via injections under the skin, but in some instances is completed via drops placed under the tongue, usually twice a day. Frequency of shots can vary, but most often they are given every other day initially and then decreased to once or twice weekly.

Immunotherapy must be continued for at least one year before effectiveness can be determined. During this first year, the pet will also take medication to control the allergic signs.

Skin Testing Identifies Allergens

How to administer shots to dogs

A patient undergoes skin testing at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. As in human medicine, skin testing is used to identify an individualized formulation of allergens the animal reacts to. The dog is placed under sedation during skin testing. A trained veterinary dermatologist uses tiny needles to introduce small amounts of potential allergens under the skin. The dermatologist then watches for a skin reaction, indicating a positive allergy.

“Skin testing is the gold standard. Blood tests are also available, but reactions in the blood and the skin are not always the same. When investigating symptoms on the skin, we want to go directly to the skin to test reactions,” explains Dr. Miller.

Dr. Miller wants owners to understand that skin testing does not diagnose allergies. Testing is done only in the context of pursuing immunotherapy treatment. In some circumstances, a dog can be allergic yet have normal or negative allergy test results. This does not mean the dog is not allergic. Rather, it means that allergy shots are not a treatment option for that patient.

“After one year of shots, we start to wean the pet off the other allergy medication to see if any improvements have been made to the allergic signs. If there has been no change, we may stop giving shots and choose a different therapy. If the shots appear to be working, they may be continued for life,” explains Dr. Miller.

The goal of immunotherapy is to control the allergies, not to cure them. With proper treatment and owner education, many dogs with allergies can have perfectly normal, happy lives.

If you have questions about allergies and immunotherapy, contact your veterinarian or the veterinary dermatology service at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

By Hannah Beers

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The last thing any new puppy owner or dog breeder wants to hear is a diagnosis of parvo. Parvo in puppies is unfortunately a common disease with deadly consequences, which is why it is important for anyone dealing with puppies on a regular basis to be aware of the symptoms of parvo and what to do about it.

What Is Parvo?

Parvo in puppies is caused by the canine parvovirus. This virus is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object. Your puppy is exposed to the parvovirus every time he sniffs, licks, or consumes infected feces. Indirect transmission occurs when a person who has recently been exposed to an infected dog touches your puppy, or when a puppy encounters a contaminated object, like a food or water bowl, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.

The Merck Veterinary Manual classifies the virus as a disease of the stomach and small intestines, as this is where the virus does the most damage. The virus prefers to infect the small intestine, where it destroys cells, impairs absorption, and disrupts the gut barrier. Parvo in puppies also affects the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues, and in some cases can also affect the heart.

Why Do Puppies Get Parvo?

Puppies ages six weeks to six months are the most susceptible to parvo. Puppies younger than six-weeks-old still retain some of their mother’s antibodies, assuming that the dam received her full series of parvo vaccinations. Puppies are vaccinated against parvo at approximately 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. They are vulnerable to the disease until they have received all three shots in their vaccination series, which means owners need to take extra precaution during this time to prevent their puppies from contracting the virus. Puppies should receive a dose of canine parvovirus vaccine between 14 and 16 weeks of age, regardless of how many doses they received earlier, to develop adequate protection.

The severity of parvo cases varies. The stress of weaning can lead to a more severe case of parvo n puppies, as stress weakens the immune system. A combination of parvo and a secondary infection or a parasite can also lead to a more severe case of parvo in puppies.

To top it off, certain breeds of dogs are at an increased risk of parvo:

How to administer shots to dogs

How Long Are Puppies With Parvo Contagious?

Puppies and adult dogs with parvo start shedding the virus within 4-to-5 days of exposure. Unfortunately for conscientious owners, this time period does not always coincide with the first parvo symptoms, which means dogs can be contagious before owners even realize that they are sick. Puppies with parvo continue to shed the virus for up to 10 days after a clinical recovery, so be sure to keep any puppies recovering from parvo away from unvaccinated and partially vaccinated dogs.

Outside of your dog, the virus can survive indoors for at least one month, and outdoors it can survive for many months and even a year under the right conditions. Talk to your vet about the best way to remove the parvovirus from your home environment or kennels.

Symptoms of Parvo in Puppies

A puppy with parvo is a very sick dog. The sooner you catch the early signs of the virus in puppies, the sooner you can get your dog to the vet. Since parvo is common in young puppies, you should call your vet any time your puppy is feeling under the weather, but you should also be aware of the specific symptoms of parvo in puppies:

All of these symptoms are serious by themselves and could be a sign of parvo or another serious illness. You should contact your vet immediately if you suspect your puppy has parvo, and be sure to notify the vet’s staff ahead of time of your suspicions and your puppy’s symptoms, so that they can take the appropriate quarantine procedures to prevent your puppy from infecting other dogs.

How to administer shots to dogs

Treating Parvo in Puppies

Your vet will diagnose parvo based on clinical signs and through blood work. She may also run a test called an ELISA to search for virus antigens in your dog’s feces and will perform additional diagnostic testing as needed.

There is no cure for parvo. Your vet will offer your puppy supportive care over the course of the illness, treating symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration, and making sure that your puppy gets adequate nutrition.

Serious viruses like parvo weaken a puppy’s immune system and lower his white blood cell count, reducing his ability to fight off secondary bacterial infections. The damage the virus does to a dog’s intestinal wall increases the likelihood of a secondary infection. Your vet may put your puppy on an antibiotic medication to combat these bacterial infections and will monitor your puppy carefully for additional complications.

Parvo is a potentially fatal disease. The survival rate of dogs treated by a veterinarian is 68 to 92 percent, and most puppies that survive the first three-to-four days make a complete recovery. Recovery times vary depending on the severity of the case, but it usually takes approximately one week for puppies to recover from parvo.

Your veterinarian will walk you through the appropriate treatment steps for your puppy’s case and will advise you about any precautionary steps you need to take for any other puppies and dogs in your household.

Preventing Parvo in Puppies

Parvo is a preventable virus. All puppies and adult dogs should receive their parvo vaccinations, and it is especially important that bitches used for breeding receive a full course of parvo vaccinations, as the puppies will depend on the mother’s antibodies for the first few weeks of life.

You should not allow puppies to come into contact with unvaccinated dogs until they have received all of their parvo vaccines. Make sure all dogs in your household are vaccinated, and be very careful when socializing your puppy. Dog parks and other places where dogs congregate are potential sources of parvo, so plan on socializing your puppy in a less public environment.

Socialization and training are very important for puppies. You can safely socialize your puppy with fully vaccinated adult dogs in an environment like your home. Puppy classes, boarding facilities, and doggy daycare facilities usually require proof of vaccination for all of their participants, but it is a good idea to talk to your vet about the appropriate level of caution.

Parvo is a serious and highly contagious disease. Understanding how parvo spreads, the symptoms of parvo, the treatment options for parvo, and the best ways to prevent parvo in puppies will help you keep your puppy safe. For more information about parvo, talk to your vet.

Note: This article is not intended as a substitute for veterinary care. If you suspect your dog has parvo, contact your veterinarian immediately.

A dog can be a wonderful addition to any home, but whether you’re an experienced pet parent or a first-time adopter, it’s important to keep your canine companion’s health and happiness a top priority. Below are some useful tips for all dog parents.

And remember: If you’re considering bringing home a new dog, please make adoption your first option. We encourage you to browse our directory of adoptable dogs in your area or visit our Find a Shelter page to start your search.


  • Puppies eight to 12 weeks old need four meals a day.
  • Feed puppies three to six months old three meals a day.
  • Feed puppies six months to one year two meals a day.
  • When your dog reaches his first birthday, one meal a day is usually enough.
  • For some dogs, including larger canines or those prone to bloat, it’s better to feed two smaller meals.

Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet for adult dogs and may be mixed with water, broth or canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg or fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than ten percent of his daily food intake.

Puppies should be fed a high-quality, brand-name puppy food (large breed puppy foods for large breeds). Please limit “people food,” however, because it can result in vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits and obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and be sure to wash food and water dishes frequently.


Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and stay healthy. Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age and level of health. Exercise also tends to help dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. Supervised fun and games will satisfy many of your pet’s instinctual urges to dig, herd, chew, retrieve and chase.


Help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding with frequent brushing. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don’t need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or the dirt will stick to soap residue. Please visit our Dog Grooming Tips page for more information.


To carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog’s chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the underside, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.


Your pet needs a warm, quiet place to rest, away from all drafts and off the floor. A training crate or dog bed is ideal, with a clean blanket or pillow placed inside. Wash the dog’s bedding often. If your dog will be spending a lot of time outdoors, be sure she has access to shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather, and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it’s cold.

Licensing and Identification

Follow your community’s licensing regulations. Be sure to attach the license to your dog’s collar. This, along with an ID tag and implanted microchip or tattoo, can help secure your dog’s return should she become lost.

Fleas and Ticks

Daily inspections of your dog for fleas and ticks during the warm seasons are important. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several new methods of flea and tick control. Speak to your veterinarian about these and other options. Visit our Fleas and Ticks page for more information.

Medicines and Poisons

Never give your dog medication that has not been prescribed by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your animal has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for 24-hour animal poison information at (888) 426- 4435.

Spaying and Neutering

Female dogs should be spayed and male dogs neutered by six months of age. Please visit our Spay/Neuter Your Pet page to learn more.


Your dog may benefit from receiving a number of vaccinations. Please visit our Pet Vaccinations page to learn more.

Dog Supply Checklist

  • Premium-quality dog food and treats
  • Food dish
  • Water bowl
  • Toys, toys and more toys, including safe chew toys
  • Brush & comb for grooming, including flea comb
  • Collar with license and ID tag
  • Leash
  • Carrier (for smaller dogs)
  • Training crate
  • Dog bed or box with warm blanket or towel
  • Dog toothbrush

The Scoop on Poop

Keep your dog on a leash when you are outside, unless you are in a secured, fenced-in area. If your dog defecates on a neighbor’s lawn, the sidewalk or any other public place, please clean it up.

Like people, pets need vaccines. And pet vaccinations, like those for humans, may sometimes require a booster to keep them effective. The best way to stay on schedule with vaccinations for your dog or cat is to follow the recommendations of a veterinarian you trust.

Chances are your vet’s suggestions will break down into two categories: core pet vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core pet vaccinations are those recommended for every pet, while non-core vaccines may be advised based on your pet’s lifestyle. For example, your vet may suggest certain non-core vaccinations if your cat or dog is outdoors only or boarded often.

Many vaccines can be given to pets as young as 6 weeks old, so talk to your vet about setting up the best vaccination schedule for your cat or dog, kitten or puppy.

Vaccination Schedule for Dogs: Core and Non-core Vaccines

Core dog vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal to dogs, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.

Core dog vaccine.

2 doses, given 3-4 weeks apart

Core dog vaccine. Caused by an airborne virus, distemper is a severe disease that, among other problems, may cause permanent brain damage.


Vaccination Schedule for Cats: Core and Non-core Vaccines

single dose with yearly booster

Core cat vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal to cats, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.

Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)

2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart

Core cat vaccine. Feline distemper is a severe contagious disease that most commonly strikes kittens and can cause death.

2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart

Core cat vaccine. Feline herpesvirus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), a very contagious upper respiratory condition.


American Animal Hospital Association: “Canine Vaccine Guidelines Revised.”

Humane Society of Southern Arizona: “Animal Services: Vaccinations.”

Veterinary Partner: “Canine Influenza (H3N8),” “Kennel Cough,” “Leptospirosis.”

Colorado Veterinary Medical Association: “Dog And Cat Vaccine Antigen Selection Guidelines.”

American Association of Feline Practitioners: “Vaccine Summary.”

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks.” “Canine Adenovirus Type 2.” “Nobivac® Canine 1-DAPPv+L4.” “Nobivac® Feline-Bb.”

Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. “2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report,” 2013, Vol. 15, pp. 785-808.