You take your dog for his yearly physical. Everything looks good after the veterinarian takes a careful look at your dog's mouth, eyes and ears. The heart and lungs are very healthy, the rectal temperature is within the norm. The veterinarian therefore, goes ahead and administers two shots: a multivalent vaccine containing Distemper along with various other antigens and the mandatory Rabies vaccination.

Right upon checking out and paying for the services rendered, your dog appears not to be doing very well. His walk is uncertain, he staggers and appears to have breathing difficulties. Immediately, he is taken back to a room where the veterinarian immediately delivers a Cortisone and Epinephrine shot. Such medications are kept on hand for such type of occurrences.

The above scenario describes a severe vaccine reaction. While these reactions are not very common, veterinarians are well trained on how to respond promptly. Severe vaccine reactions tend to occur in dogs immediately after the vaccine is administered, often while the dog is still at the vet, as described in the above scenario. However, in some cases, these reactions may be delayed and show up only hours later. These reactions are medically known as Anaphylactic shocks and they can be potentially fatal. By knowing what to look for, owners may be able to have their dogs promptly seen.

Symptoms of Severe Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

  • Weak Pulse
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Facial Swelling
  • Pale Gums
  • Cold Limbs
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Collapse

Much more common than severe vaccine reactions are mild reactions. Unlike severe vaccine reactions, mild reactions tend to occur at home after a few hours.

Symptoms of Mild Reactions in Dogs

  • Fever
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Pain at the Injection site/Limping
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeping More
  • Swelling at Injection Site

Usually these symptoms resolve and get better within 48 hours. In some cases, pain at the injection site my last up to a week. Even though the reaction is mild, it is best to consult with a vet so the reaction is recorded on the dog's chart. So now that you know your dog is prone to vaccine reactions what happens next?

The episode is recorded in the dog's chart so the vet is aware of the reaction and its intensity. At the next vaccine appointment your veterinarian will determine if a specific vaccine should be excluded or not. Depending on the area in which you live and its history of dog diseases, the vet may choose what is best for the dog. He or she may also chose to try a different type of vaccine or the vaccines may given separately rather than all at once in one appointment.

Administering antihistamines prior to giving the vaccine may help prevent vaccine reactions. A catheter may be inserted in your dog's vein so life saving medications may be administered at once in case of a severe vaccine reaction.

The vaccines most likely to create reactions in dogs are Lepto and Rabies. Some dogs may suffer mild reactions after receiving the intranasal Bordetella vaccine. In this case, dogs may seem to suffer from a mild upper respiratory infection with sneezing episodes and a runny nose.

Because there are always chances that a dog develops a vaccine reaction, it is best to schedule vaccine appointments when owners are able to watch the dog for the rest of the day. A veterinarian therefore can be contacted promptly should there be any questions or concerns.

Disclaimer: the above article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has a vaccine reaction, consult with your vet at once for proper assessment and treatment.

Your Dog's Yearly Shots May do More Than Protect Against Disease