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Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

Vaccines are essential to your dog's health and overall, the risk of a serious reaction is very low. Today, our Pleasant Hill vets discuss some common reactions to vaccines in dogs and when it's time to seek veterinary care. 

Why Vaccinate Your Dog

Vaccines help to give your dog their best chance at a long, healthy life. While your dog is still a puppy it should receive a series of vaccinations that are then followed up on a regular basis throughout their adulthood with booster vaccinations. Some of the most important vaccinations for puppies include hepatitis, parvovirus, and rabies.

However, not all vaccines are necessary for all dogs. The vaccines your dog should receive are determined by where you live, the age of your dog, and the lifestyle of your pet. These factors work together to determine your dog's risk of contracting diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. Your veterinarian can advise you on which immunizations your dog should receive.

Common Reactions to Vaccines in Dogs

Any medical procedure has the potential to lead to an adverse reaction. Reactions to a vaccine are uncommon however 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 may help to make vaccination time less stressful for you and your dog.

  • Lethargy - Sluggishness and mild discomfort are the most common reactions dogs experience to being vaccinated. Sometimes this is also accompanied by a mild fever caused by your pup's immune system responding to the vaccination. These mild symptoms are normal and should only last a day or two. If your dog isn’t back to normal within 48 hours, contact your vet to let them know.
  • Sneezing & Cold-Like Symptoms - The majority of vaccines are given via injection, but parainfluenza and Bordetella virus vaccines are given via nasal sprays or drops. Reactions to these vaccines are typically characterized by common cold symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and/or a runny nose. Expect your dog to recover from these symptoms in a few days. If your dog's symptoms worsen or he takes longer to recover, you should contact your veterinarian.

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

While most reactions to vaccines that dogs have will be mild and short-lived, in rare cases your dog could experience a serious reaction that requires emergency veterinary care.

  • Anaphylaxis - This severe allergic reaction can cause facial swelling, diarrhea, itchiness, hives, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. This type of severe reaction usually occurs shortly after your pet receives the injection (typically while you are still at the vet's office), but it can occur up to 48 hours later.
  • Shock - The symptoms of shock following vaccines can include a slow heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and generalized weakness. You may also see 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

Fortunately, adverse reactions as a result of vaccinations can often be reversed with proper treatment and your pet should recover 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. 
  • Anaphylaxis and shock both necessitate immediate veterinary attention! Medications and intravenous fluids will be given to your dog to help him recover and restore his vital signs. In these cases, cortisol and epinephrine may be administered.

Preventing Dog Reactions to Vaccines

Your pup's vaccinations help to protect your pet’s long-term health, and it's important to remember that the risk of having a serious reaction to a vaccine is very low for most dogs.

Nonetheless, 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.

When multiple vaccinations are given in a single appointment, the risk of vaccine reactions increases slightly. This is especially true for puppies. Your veterinarian may recommend spreading your dog's vaccinations out over several days rather than all at once to help reduce the risk of an adverse reaction in your pet.

Is vaccinating my dog worth it?

Yes, in almost all cases! Vaccines pose a low risk in comparison to the serious conditions and illnesses they protect against. The best treatment is prevention. Stopping diseases and disorders before they start can help your dog live a long and healthy life while potentially saving you money and time in the future!

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets.

For more information on vaccinations and preventive care, contact our Pleasant Hill vets today to set up an appointment! 

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