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Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

With preventive care, we can protect your furry friend against many potentially life-threatening diseases. But what about the risk of adverse reactions? Today, our vets talk about the importance of pet vaccinations in Fairhaven, how the benefits outweigh the risks and what happens if your dog has a vaccine reaction.

Dog Vaccinations for Lifelong Health

Vaccinations starting when your dog is just a puppy help to give your pup their very best chance at a long and healthy life. Vaccine boosters are also regularly necessary to protect your dog against diseases. Some of the most important vaccinations for puppies to have include distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. These are usually given together in the form of the DHPP vaccine. This will be given during their initial preventive care visit then boosters given at subsequent visits.

Although our vets believe that vaccines are important for all dogs, not all dogs need the same vaccines. Which shots your dog should have depends upon where you live, your dog's age, and your pup's lifestyle. These factors combine to determine your dog's risk of contracting diseases that can be vaccinated against. Your vet can help you determine which immunizations are right for your pet.

Mild Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

Any medical procedure (for people or pets) has some risk attached. While side effects from pet vaccinations are uncommon, the effects are typically mild and quick to pass if they do occur.

Knowing the symptoms of a 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: Your dog may appear sluggish and lethargic after receiving their shots. This can include noticing that your dog is having trouble walking after their shots and is fairly normal. Sometimes this is also accompanied by a mild fever caused by your dog's immune system responding to the vaccination. These mild symptoms are perfectly normal and should only last a day or two. If your dog isn’t back to normal within 48 hours, contact your veterinarian to let them know.
  • Sneezing & Cold-Like Symptoms: While the majority of vaccines are administered by injection, the parainfluenza and Bordetella bronchiseptica virus vaccines are given in the form of nasal sprays or drops. Reactions to these vaccines tend to look like basic cold symptoms and may include sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Expect your pup to recover from these symptoms within a day or two. If these symptoms become more severe or it’s taking your pup longer to recover, contact your vet for advice.
  • Soreness: You may notice that your puppy is yelping after their vaccinations or crying when you pick him up after his shots. This is normal as the injection area may be feeling a little sore. This will relieve itself fairly quickly.

Serious Reactions Requiring Emergency Veterinary Care

As mentioned above, most dogs who have vaccinations and experience side effects will only have mild and short-lived reactions. In some rare cases, pets can have more severe reactions that require immediate medical attention.

  • Anaphylaxis: This severe allergic reaction can involve symptoms including facial swelling, diarrhea, itchiness, hives, vomiting, and breathing difficulties. This type of severe reaction will usually occur very soon after your dog receives their injection, (typically while you are still at the vet's office), but can happen up to 48 hours after the vaccine is given.
  • Shock: 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 is a dog treated for a vaccine reaction?

Fortunately, adverse reactions resulting from vaccinations can often be reversed with proper treatment, and your dog should recover very quickly. If your dog's reaction is not life-threatening and confined to the skin, treatment is likely to include cortisone or antihistamines. Symptoms will usually clear up quickly once treatments begin.

Serious reactions such as 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. Epinephrine (adrenaline) or cortisone may also be used in these cases.

How to Reduce the Risk of Vaccine Reactions

Vaccinations are crucial to your dog's health and their effectiveness is best when they are kept up to date. A good thing to keep in mind is that the risk of an adverse reaction is quite low for most dogs.

That said, if your dog has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past it’s important to inform your vet so this history can be recorded in your pet's medical files. 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 shots are given during a single appointment. This can be especially true for smaller dogs. To minimize the risk of an adverse reaction in your pet, your vet may recommend spreading your dog’s vaccinations out over several days rather than doing them all at once.

What is the importance of pet vaccinations in Fairhaven?

It is difficult to predict whether your dog will react to a vaccine again if it has happened in the past. Some dogs will not react when they have the vaccination a second time, some dogs will experience the same reaction that they had previously, and in rare cases, dogs will experience a serious life-threatening reaction to a vaccine they previously had.

Speak with your vet if this is an issue that you and your dog are faced with. Your vet may recommend not vaccinating your pup for particular diseases based on your pet's previous reaction.

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.

Contact our vets today to schedule a preventive care visit. We offer both core and lifestyle dog and cat vaccinations at our hospital in Fairhaven to keep your furry friend safe and healthy.

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New England Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fairhaven companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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