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Vaccine Reactions In Dogs: Signs And Treatments

Vaccine Reactions In Dogs: Signs And Treatments

For the most part, dogs are at very low risk of having a reaction to a vaccine. Vaccines offer your dog protection from a number of very serious conditions that can be both difficult and expensive to treat, but occasionally our canine friends have an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Our Zeeland vets share more about vaccine reactions in dogs.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Dog?

Starting when your dog is just a puppy, vaccines can help to give your dog their best chance at a long, healthy life. Booster shots are also necessary on a regular basis to help your adult dog maintain their protection against diseases. Some of the most important vaccinations for puppies include hepatitis, parvovirus and rabies.

That said, not all dogs require all available vaccines. Depending on where you live, your dog's age, and lifestyle, your dog's risk of contracting preventable diseases will vary. Your vet can help you determine which immunizations your dog should receive.

Common Reactions To Vaccines 

Any medical procedure, no matter how minor, has the potential to lead to an adverse outcome. Reactions to a vaccine are uncommon in dogs, but when they do occur they are typically very mild and short-lived.

Knowing the symptoms of a vaccine reaction can help you to spot a reaction if your dog does have one and could help lessen the stress of future vaccinations for your pooch.

  • Lethargy - Low energy and mild discomfort are common reactions that dogs experience to being vaccinated (people can feel sluggish after a vaccination, too). Sometimes this is also accompanied by a mild fever caused by your pup's immune system responding to the vaccination. These symptoms are mild and should only last a day or two, so if they persist for over 48 hours contact your vet to inform them.
  • Sneezing & Cold-Like Symptoms - Most vaccines are administered by injection but the parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica virus vaccines are given in the form of nasal sprays or drops. These vaccines tend to cause symptoms similar to basic cold symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and a runny nose. Expect your pup to recover from these symptoms within a couple of days. If these symptoms become more severe or it’s taking your pooch longer to recover, it's a good idea to contact your vet.

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

While most dogs will only react mildly (if at all) to vaccines, there are some rare cases wherein our canine companions can have more severe reactions that need immediate medical attention.

  • Anaphylaxis - This severe allergic reaction can involve facial swelling, diarrhea, itchiness, hives, vomiting and breathing difficulties. This type of severe reaction will usually occur very soon after your pet receives the injection, (typically while you are still at the vet's office) but can happen up to 48 hours after the vaccine is given.
  • Shock - The symptoms of shock following vaccines can include a sluggish heart rate, decreased blood pressure and generalized weakness. Your dog may also be showing a gray tongue and pale mucous membranes.

If your dog displays signs of anaphylaxis or shock, call your vet immediately or contact the emergency veterinary clinic closest to you!

How Vaccine Reactions Are Treated

Luckily, adverse reactions to vaccinations can often be reversed with the proper treatment, helping your pet recover more quickly.

  • Reactions that are not life-threatening and confined to the skin may be treated with cortisone and anti-histamines. Symptoms will usually clear up quickly once treatments begin.
  • Both anaphylaxis and shock require immediate veterinary care! Medications and intravenous fluids will be provided to help your dog recover and restore your pet's vital signs. Cortisone and epinephrine may also be used in these circumstances.

Preventing Dog Reactions to Vaccines

Remember, the risk of your dog having an adverse reaction to common vaccines is very low for the most part. However, if your dog has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past it’s important to inform your veterinarian so this history can be recorded. If a previous reaction has occurred your vet may recommend skipping a specific vaccination in the future.

There is a small increase in the risk of reactions to vaccines when multiple vaccinations are given during a single appointment, especially for smaller dogs. To help minimize the risk of an adverse reaction in your pet, your veterinarian may recommend spreading your dog’s vaccinations out over several days rather than all at once.

Should My Dog Be Vaccinated Again?

Knowing your pup's risk of having a reaction again if revaccinated is difficult to predict. Some pets will have no reaction when they have the vaccination a second time, some dogs will experience the same reaction that they had previously, and in rare cases some dogs will experience a serious life-threatening reaction to the vaccine.

If your pup has had a reaction to their first round of shots, speak to your vet about the risks and benefits concerning vaccines and your dog's health. Your vet may recommend not vaccinating your pooch for particular diseases based on your dog's reaction.

In cases where the vaccine is legally mandated by your local municipality, speak to your veterinarian about advocating on your behalf and sending a letter using the animal hospital letterhead explaining that the vaccine could be potentially life-threatening to your pet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If it's time for your dog's vaccines or you have questions about parasite and disease protection, contact our Zeeland clinic to schedule an appointment.

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