Vaccine reactions in dogs are not uncommon. Normal vaccine reactions can include joint or muscle soreness, reduced appetite, and sleepiness. These reactions are not serious and can even go unnoticed, but there are also allergic reactions to vaccines that can be fatal if not handled in a timely manner.

An allergic reaction might include hives,

facial swelling, or vomiting with or without diarrhea.

More serious allergic reactions can include shock, shortness of breath

or sudden death (anaphylaxis).

An allergic reaction to a vaccine can be immediate or up to 48 hours after receiving any vaccine.

Which Pets are more likely to react?

The group at greatest risk for reaction are small breed (Chihuahuas, toy poodles, dachshunds, pugs and terriers) and some hunting dogs such as the weimaraner.  As a dog’s size increases, the risk of vaccine reaction also decreases. When more than one vaccine is given, the risk for reaction is higher.

What to do during the Reaction

If you think your pet is having a serious reaction, bring your pet back right away. If it’s after hours, take them to your nearest emergency clinic.

**Be sure you know where and how to get to your closest Animal Emergency Hospital **

What to do in the Future for the Pet who has had Reactions

There are many steps that can be taken to prevent allergic vaccine reactions in dogs known to have had reactions in the past:

– Avoid Giving Several Vaccinations at one Time

Separating up vaccines also helps determine which vaccine have which side effects.

– Be Sure your Veterinarian is Aware of Your Pet’s Vaccine Reactions

If you know your pet has had vaccination reactions in the past or if you know which vaccine preceded the reaction, your veterinary healthcare team needs to know this information too, be sure to inform the veterinary nurse or veterinarian before vaccines are given, that way we can ensure appropriate protocols are followed. It is also extremely helpful to know what the reaction consisted of (lethargy, local soreness, inappetence or more serious reactions like vomiting, diarrhea, itchiness or changes in breathing), please make note and let us know.

– Where possible Avoid the Vaccine Identified as the problem

Depending on your pets risk level, vaccine titre testing in their adult years is possible for some vaccines and here at ECVC we recommend it for all of our patients. By checking vaccine titres we can hopefully reduce over vaccinating your pet. Vaccine titre testing can help identify if your pet’s vaccine titres are too low and a booster vaccine is needed. Here at ECVC we always consider your pet’s lifestyle and what diseases they are at risk for. This allows us in many cases to simply avoid unnecessary vaccinations, this is especially important for indoor male cats.

– Plan ahead, be aware that special considerations are now necessary for your pet

A pet that has reacted to vaccines should receive special attention in the form of post-vaccination monitoring in the hospital and/or pre-treatment with medication(s).  Premedication with Benadryl is a first line of defence but sometimes we need to use something stronger in clinic. See How to premedicate dogs who’ve had a past vaccine reaction before their next vaccine for more information on this.

– Be prepared to invest extra for Pre-Medications and Observation

Medications can be used to attempt to ward off allergic reactions before they happen, and with the use of these medications it may be possible that a reacting pet can be vaccinated normally. To be safe, schedule your pet’s vaccine appointment early in the day or drop off them off in the morning. This allows for adequate monitoring post vaccine (during the highest risk period post-vaccination). This way we can intervene quickly if an allergic reaction is developing.

Vaccination is an important part of responsible pet ownership and should not be discontinued without specific veterinary guidance.

Reporting a Vaccination Reaction

After we confirm a reaction to a vaccine, we report these directly to the vaccine manufacturer. The manufacturer may even help cover the initial costs of treatment after a first time allergic reaction. However, no manufacturer will cover the costs of treatment for a second vaccine reaction.

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