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Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

Generally speaking, the risk of your furry friend having a serious reaction to a vaccine is very low. Vaccines protect your dog from a number of serious conditions that can be difficult or expensive to treat. Here, our Carlsbad vets explain what you need to know about reactions to vaccines in dogs and how to handle them.

Why Your Dogs Should Get Their Shots

Vaccinations, starting when your dog is just a puppy, help to give your dog their very best chance at a long and healthy life. Vaccine boosters are also necessary on a routine basis to keep up your dog's protection aginst disease. Some of the most important vaccinations for puppies to have can include rabies, parvovirus and hepatitis.

Although our vets believe that vaccines are important for all dogs, not all dogs need all 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.

Common Mild Reactions to Vaccines in Dogs

Any medical procedure has the potential to lead to adverse reactions. Reactions to a vaccine are uncommon, but when they do happen, they tend to be quite mild and not last very long at all.

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 - Some mild discomfort, sluggishness and not feeling like their normal self is a common reaction to dogs getting their shots. Sometimes, this will also be accompanied by a mild fever from your pup's immune system responding to the vaccine. These mild symptoms are perfectly normal and should only last a day or two. If your pup isn't getting 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.

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

As mentioned above, the vast majority of reactions that dogs have to vaccines will be mild and short-lived. In some rare cases, pets can have a 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 is showing any signs of anaphylaxis or shock, call your vet as soon as possible or contact the emergency veterinary clinic that is closest to you.

Treatment For Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

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 and/or anti-histamines. Symptoms will usually clear up quickly once treatments begin. 
  • Serious reactions like anaphylaxis and shock will require immediate veterinary care. Medications and IV fluids will be provided to help your pet recover and restore your pet's vital signs. Epinephrine and/or cortisone may also be used in these cases.

Preventing Reactions to Vaccines

Keeping your dog's shots up to date helps 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.

With all of that being said, if your dog has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past, it's important to inform your vet so that this history can be recorded in your pet's medical files. If a previous reaction has occurred, your vet may even advise that you skip 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.

Should I have my dog revaccinated?

Knowing your dog's risk of having a reaction again if revaccinated is difficult to predict. Some dogs 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, dogs will experience a serious life-threatening reaction to a vaccine that they have previously had.

If your dog has had a reaction to their first round of shots, ask your veterinarian about the risks and benefits associate with vaccines and your dog's health. Your veterinarians may also recommend not vaccinating your pup for a particular disease based on previous reactions. 

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.

Has your dog been vaccinated against contagious diseases in the past year? Contact Carlsbad Animal Hospital today to book your dog's next vaccinations appointment.

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