If you’ve brought a new dog into your home before, you’ve likely been through the experience of getting him vaccinated. First-time vaccinations are almost always followed by boosters shortly after, but then what? Do adult dogs need regular vaccinations?

Long story short, yes your dog will need a set of vaccinations each year. Regularly vaccinating your dog greatly increases his resistance to illnesses including rabies and distemper.

What vaccines should my dog get each year?

Veterinarians categorize the yearly vaccines necessary for all dogs as core vaccinations, and then other yearly vaccines as option or non-core. Core vaccinations address illnesses and diseases that any dog can come across no matter their lifestyle. Core vaccinations for dogs include:

Rabies – This highly transmissible disease that attacks the nervous system is often carried by wild animals and spreads through blood/saliva. Rabies is a lethal condition caused by the Lyssavirus and can infect any mammal, including humans. Though very rare in the United States thanks to increased vaccination, there are about 5,000 reported cases of rabies each year. This yearly vaccine can protect everyone in your family, animals and humans alike.

Distemper – Canine distemper, usually found in puppies or strays that are housed in shelters, is an airborne virus that attacks the respiratory and nervous systems, often leading to death. Yearly vaccinations aid in building prolonged immunities and protect against the likelihood of transmission when in shared spaces with non-vaccinated dogs.

Parvovirus – After an initial round of vaccinations and boosters, the Parvovirus vaccine is done every three years. So, while not an annual vaccine it is important to keep track of when this vaccine is administered as Parvo is a highly deadly disease that can quickly prove fatal if not caught early.

What non-core vaccines should I consider for my dog?

Non-core vaccines are optional treatments that should be determined after a discussion with your veterinarian. These vaccines are typically determined by your dog’s lifestyle – does he attend doggy daycare? Is he frequently boarded? Do you visit dog parks often?

Because these high-traffic areas are more likely to host infectious diseases, they play a factor in what vaccines your dog should get. The same thing goes for your environment – swampy and wooded areas are known for diseases spread by ticks, mosquitos, and more.

If your dog attends daycare or is boarded, it is likely required that they receive the following vaccinations:

Bordetella – This vaccine helps prevent dogs from contracting what is commonly known as “kennel cough”. Kennel cough is a respiratory infection that is easily spread between dogs typically in shared spaces. Fortunately, this disease is not usually life-threatening and most dogs make a full recovery.

Leptospirosis – This immunization, while not required, is highly recommended for dogs that go outside in rural areas. Leptospirosis is carried by wildlife (rats, raccoons, squirrels, deer, etc.) and is found in the places they urinate, including lakes. Due to the varying strains of this disease, it is recommended that any dog exposed to the elements regularly get this vaccine annually.

As always, consult your veterinarian if you are unsure which non-core vaccines your dog should be receiving.