Your fur baby might not enjoy getting shots any more than you do. But just like in humans, vaccines are an essential part of maintaining your pet’s overall health.
Vaccines help protect your pets from contagious bacterial or viral diseases and aid in building their immune system, explains Dr. Louis DelGiudice, veterinarian and national emergency specialty director at AmeriVet Veterinary Partners.
In some states, it’s even legally required to vaccinate your pets against certain diseases, like rabies. However, the cost of vaccines can add up fast if you’re unprepared, especially if you brought a new puppy home.
Below, learn what vaccines your pet needs, how much you can expect to spend on them, and how you can find affordable pet vaccination clinics near you.
How Much Do Vaccinations Cost on Average?
According to Dr. Ivana Crnec, veterinarian with Veterinarians.org, it typically costs more to vaccinate a dog or cat in their first year than it does throughout the rest of their life.
For dogs, you can expect to pay between $100-$300 for the first year of core vaccines. After the first year, the annual cost is around $80-$200, Crnec says.
Keep in mind this may not include the vet exams costs you’ll be invoiced for. The total cost for vaccinations for the first year of a puppy or new dog, including exams, may be closer to $340 to $510 up front, per Rover’s cost of dog expenses report. Fortunately, if your clinic offers a vet tech appointments, follow-up booster shots won’t require an examination fee and should stay in the price range Crnec quoted.
While you might assume that a larger dog would cost more to vaccinate than a smaller dog, that’s actually not the case.
Vaccines for dogs aren’t given based on body weight. Instead, they’re one-dose-fits-all, Crnec explains. “Vaccinating a Chihuahua costs the same as vaccinating a Great Dane.”
For your cat’s first year of core vaccinations, you can expect to pay between $100-$200. After that, the annual costs are usually around $80-$150, Crnec says.
However, Crnec says, the total cost you’ll spend on vaccines can vary based on factors like your cat’s lifestyle. For example, cats with outdoor access may need additional vaccines that indoor-only cats don’t.
If you take your pet to the vet to get their vaccines, bear in mind that you might not pay for the cost of vaccines alone.
According to Crnec, factors that could increase the overall cost of your pet’s vaccines include:
- Physical exam: Some vets may require a physical exam before giving your pet their initial round of vaccines.
- Additional tests: Your vet may provide vaccine titer testing to determine your pet’s need for booster shots
- Local regulations: Some jurisdictions may require more frequent boosters for certain vaccines, like rabies.
What Vaccinations Do My Pets Need?
Since they’re different species, the American Animal Hospital Association has different vaccine guidelines for dogs and cats. Although the timeline is generally the same for kittens and puppies. “Vaccination series generally starts when a puppy or kitten is around 6 to 8 weeks of age, Del Giudice says. “Just like a newborn baby, they receive several doses of the vaccine to prime their immune system.”
Once they’re a year old or older, your pet will generally only need vaccine boosters every 1-3 years, according to AAHA guidelines.
We break down which vaccines are necessary for your pet and which are optional, depending on factors like your location, your pet’s lifestyle, and individual risk factors.
Core vaccinations for dogs
Apart from rabies, the core vaccinations for puppies and dogs may be given in 2-3 doses of combination vaccines during their first year. These vaccinations are recommended for all dogs, unless they have a medical allergy or condition that reacts with the vaccines.
|Protects against||Before 18 weeks||After 18 weeks|
|Distemper||canine distemper, a viral disease that attacks a dog’s nervous, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems||2 to 4 weeks apart, between 6 to 16 weeks of age||1 year from the last dose as a puppy, and then every 3 years|
|Adenovirus||canine hepatitis||See above||See above|
|Parvovirus||contagious viral disease that causes gastrointestinal illness and inflammation||See above||See above|
|+/- Parainfluenza||canine cough||See above||See above|
|Rabies||viral disease that attacks the brain||at 16 to 18 weeks||Every 12-16 months, from one years old|
Non-core or optional vaccines for dogs include:
- Lyme disease
- Canine influenza
- Rattlesnake toxoid
Core vaccinations for cats
|Protects against||Before 16 weeks||After 16 weeks|
|FHV-1: Feline Herpes Virus 1||an infectious herpes virus that causes upper respiratory disease and eye inflammation||3 to 4 weeks apart, between 6 to 16 weeks of age||Every 3 to 4 weeks|
|FCV: Feline Calcivirus||upper respiratory inflammation, infection, and oral disease||See above||See above|
|FPV: Feline Panleukopenia||a virus that attacks the immune system and white blood cells||See above||See above|
|FeLV: Feline Leukemia Virus (Only for cats under one year old.)||cancer, blood disorders, and immune defiency||8 to 12 weeks of age, with second dose 3 to 4 weeks later||See above|
|Rabies||viral disease that attacks the brain||at 8 to 12 weeks||Annually, or by local law|
Non-core vaccines for cats include:
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Kennel Cough
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
What Places Offer Low-Cost or Free Vaccines for Dogs And Cats?
If you can’t afford to get your pet vaccinated at a private vet practice, you’re not completely out of luck. Many affordable pet care clinics offer low-cost dog and cat vaccination options. Some places, like Petco’s vaccine clinic, will even provide free pet vaccinations.
You can find affordable vaccines throughout the country at places like:
- Petco Love
- Tractor Supply Pet Vet
- Vetco Clinics
- The Animal Foundation
Additionally, shelters like The Animal Humane Society may offer low-cost vaccine programs for pet owners. Check and see if your local shelter has a program or any special low-cost vaccination events on their calendar.
Can you vaccinate pets yourself?
If you don’t have hundreds of dollars to spare on vaccines, you might wonder if you can take the needle into your own hands. But according to vets, it’s not a good idea to vaccinate your own pets for multiple reasons.
Vaccine manufacturers don’t sell directly to the public, DelGiudice explains. Even if you manage to find vaccines from a third-party seller, they may not be stored properly — which could make them ineffective or dangerous, he adds.
To ensure your pet stays safe and gets an effective vaccine, it’s best to leave it to the pros.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Vaccinations?
In general, most pet insurance plans don’t cover vaccines. However, some pet insurance companies may cover vaccines through wellness add-ons.
Wellness add-ons generally offer extra coverage for routine and preventive care that you can add to standard accident and illness coverage. They can be financially prudent for some pet parents, especially those with young pets who have a lot of routine check-ups and spaying/neutering to get through.
But they’re not a good deal for everyone—so it’s a good idea to do the math on both standard pet insurance and wellness add-ons to see if the pet insuracy policy is worth it.
What If I Miss the Window for My Pet’s Vaccinations?
Puppies and kittens Tizard, are still building their immune systems, so it’s important to stick to the recommended schedule for their vaccines. But what if life gets in the way, and you miss the window for vaccinating your pet?
“Missing appointments or delays in administering vaccines in the right timing could result in a new restart of the series,” DelGiudice says. “This is based on the maturity of your pet’s immune system and how it responds to vaccinations when administered.”
In other words, missing a round of shots could mean paying for another round of initial vaccines to re-prime your pet’s immune system.
So, if you want to keep your pet from contracting a painful or expensive-to-treat disease, it’s important to stick to the vaccination schedule your vet recommends.