Non-Core Dog Vaccinations: Tailoring Protection for Your Pet

There’s no denying that our dogs are cherished family members, and we’d do anything to ensure they lead happy, healthy lives.

With the array of vaccines and advice out there, it can be challenging to navigate the best options for our pups.

That’s where non-core vaccines come into play – think of them as your dog’s customized wellness shield, uniquely designed to match their lifestyle and environment.

In this article, you’ll discover the ins and outs of non-core vaccines, and how they can be tailored to fit your dog’s unique needs and lifestyle.

person at the vet holding a white dog

What Are Non-core Vaccines?

Non-core vaccines are vaccinations that aren’t essential for every dog but may be beneficial depending on factors such as your dog’s lifestyle, health status, and geographic location.

Unlike core dog vaccines, which protect against life-threatening diseases that all dogs are at risk of contracting, non-core vaccines are administered based on your dog’s specific needs and risk factors.

Think of non-core vaccines as the personalized protection plan for your furry friend.

As we venture into the world of non-core vaccinations, it’s essential to remember that each dog has unique needs. Together with your veterinarian’s guidance, you can create a tailored plan that promotes your dog’s health and longevity while considering their specific lifestyle and risks.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Non-core Vaccines

When it comes to non-core vaccines, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll need to take several factors into account to determine which vaccines are appropriate for your dog.

Let’s dive into three essential considerations: your dog’s lifestyle, geographic location, and health status.

Your Dog’s Lifestyle

Your dog’s daily activities and social interactions play a significant role in determining their risk of exposure to various diseases.

Dogs that frequently visit dog parks, doggy daycares, or boarding facilities are more likely to encounter other dogs and be exposed to pathogens.

If your dog participates in activities like hunting, hiking, or dog sports, they may also be at a higher risk of coming into contact with disease-carrying wildlife or insects.

My dog’s vaccinations:

For example, when I first adopted Sam, my older dog, I didn’t realize how important socialization was for his well-being. We started attending dog park playdates and agility classes, which opened up a new world of excitement for Sam. However, it also increased his risk of exposure to certain diseases, prompting me to discuss non-core vaccination options with our veterinarian.

Geographic Location

Different regions have varying risks for specific diseases, which can influence the need for non-core vaccinations.

For instance, Lyme disease is more prevalent in certain parts of the United States, particularly in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and West Coast. Canine influenza outbreaks can also be more common in some areas.

It’s essential to understand the risks associated with your location and to discuss them with your veterinarian.

Health Status

Puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems may require additional protection.

Also, certain breeds may be predisposed to specific health issues that can make them more susceptible to certain diseases.

For example, large and giant breed dogs are more prone to joint problems, which can be exacerbated by Lyme disease. In such cases, the Lyme disease vaccine may be particularly beneficial.

Additionally, brachycephalic breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs, may be more susceptible to respiratory infections, making the Bordetella vaccine a valuable consideration.

In the end, non-core vaccinations are about offering tailored protection to your precious pup. Taking into account your dog’s lifestyle, geographic location, and health status, and working closely with your veterinarian, you’ll be ready to create a customized vaccination plan that keeps your four-legged friend safe and sound.

Popular Non-core Vaccines and Their Purposes

Diving into the world of non-core vaccines and their purposes empowers you to make educated choices about your dog’s well-being. Here, we’ll delve into three popular non-core vaccines: Bordetella, Lyme disease, and canine influenza. Each has specific applications and benefits, so let’s break them down.


Bordetella, commonly known as kennel cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects dogs. The vaccine can be administered either intranasally or as an injection.

It’s particularly important for dogs that frequent dog parks, boarding facilities, or doggy daycares, where the risk of transmission is higher.

The vaccine is typically administered when the dog is 8 weeks old and is often given every 6 to 12 months depending on the dog’s risk factors. Boosters are recommended annually or biannually for dogs frequently exposed to high-risk environments.

My Charlie got it:

When Charlie, my younger dog, was just a pup, he caught kennel cough after a stay at a boarding facility. It was heartbreaking to see him struggle with the persistent cough. After his recovery, I made sure to keep his Bordetella vaccination up to date, especially since he loves socializing with other dogs.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can cause fever, joint swelling, and lethargy in dogs.

The vaccine is recommended for dogs that live in or frequently visit areas with a high risk of Lyme disease, such as the Northeast, upper Midwest, or West Coast of the United States.

The initial vaccine is usually given when the dog is between 12 and 16 weeks old, followed by a booster 2 to 4 weeks later. Annual boosters are recommended for dogs living in or frequently visiting high-risk areas.

Additionally, tick preventatives should be used in conjunction with the vaccine to minimize the risk of infection.


Check your dog regularly for ticks, especially after outdoor activities, and promptly remove any ticks found using a tick removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can lead to severe illness in some dogs.

There are two known strains, H3N8 and H3N2, and vaccines are available for both. Dogs that interact with other dogs regularly, attend dog shows, or visit boarding facilities are at a higher risk of contracting canine influenza.

The vaccine is initially given as a two-dose series, 2 to 4 weeks apart, starting at 6 to 8 weeks of age. Annual boosters are recommended, especially for dogs that are frequently exposed to high-risk environments.

The vaccine can help reduce the severity of the illness and lower the risk of transmission to other dogs, which is why it is recommended by

To wrap things up, Bordetella, Lyme disease, and canine influenza vaccines are popular non-core options that can be tailored to suit your dog’s specific lifestyle and risk factors. It’s worth considering pet insurance that covers non-core vaccinations, so you’re always prepared to provide the best care for your furry family member. And remember, collaborating with your veterinarian is key to keeping your dog happy, healthy, and thriving.

Consulting With Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to non-core vaccinations for your dog. 

Beyond just giving recommendations, they can also provide insights on local disease trends, as well as advice on vaccine schedules and potential side effects.

To make the most of your consultation, bring a list of questions or concerns, and don’t forget to mention any recent changes in your dog’s lifestyle, travel plans, or health.

By fostering open communication with your veterinarian, you can ensure your dog receives the most appropriate and effective protection.


Are non-core vaccines necessary for all dogs?

Non-core vaccines are not necessary for all dogs, but they may be recommended based on your dog’s lifestyle, health status, and geographic location. Consult with your veterinarian to determine which non-core vaccines are suitable for your pet.

Can I get my dog vaccinated against Lyme disease?

Yes, you can get your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease. The vaccine is recommended for dogs living in or frequently visiting areas with a high risk of Lyme disease, such as the Northeast, upper Midwest, or West Coast of the United States.

How do I decide which non-core vaccines my dog needs?

To decide which non-core vaccines your dog needs, consider their lifestyle, geographic location, and health status. Consult with your veterinarian for personalized recommendations based on these factors.

Can I vaccinate my dog against kennel cough?

Yes, you can vaccinate your dog against kennel cough, also known as Bordetella. The vaccine is particularly important for dogs that frequent dog parks, boarding facilities, or doggy daycares, where the risk of transmission is higher.

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