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Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

The risk of your dog having a severe reaction to a vaccine is usually low, and the benefits of vaccinating them to protect against serious illnesses outweigh the minor risks. However, in case your dog has a reaction, our vets from Woburn are sharing some advice on handling it.

Why Your Dogs Should Get Their Shots

It is advisable to start vaccinating your dog when it is still a puppy, as it increases its chances of living a healthy and long life. Regular vaccine boosters are also essential to protect your dog against diseases. Some of the most crucial vaccinations that puppies should have are rabies, hepatitis, and parvovirus.

However, not all dogs need the same vaccines, as it depends on several factors, such as where you live, your dog's age, and lifestyle. These factors are crucial in determining your dog's risk of contracting diseases that vaccination can prevent. You can consult your vet to know which immunizations are suitable for your pet. They can help you determine the right vaccinations to keep your dog healthy and protected.

Common Mild Reactions to Vaccines in Dogs

It's important to acknowledge that any medical procedure comes with a certain level of risk. Although reactions to vaccines are rare, they can occur and usually have mild symptoms that don't last long.

Being aware of the symptoms of a reaction can help you identify them quickly if your dog experiences one and can make the vaccination process less stressful for both you and your furry friend.

  • Lethargy - Sluggishness, mild discomfort, and not feeling like their normal self, are the most common reactions dogs have to get their shots. Sometimes, this is 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 your dog takes longer to recover, contact your vet for advice.
  • Inflammation or swelling -After vaccinations, your dog may experience inflammation or swelling that causes difficulty walking, and may cry or yelp when being picked up.

Serious Reactions to Vaccinations

As mentioned above, dogs' reactions or side effects to vaccines will be mild and short-lived; 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!

Treatment For Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

Fortunately, adverse reactions from vaccinations can often be reversed with proper treatment, and your dog should recover quickly.

  • If your dog's reaction is not life-threatening and confined to the skin, treatment will likely include cortisone and/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 and/or cortisone may also be used in these cases.

Preventing Reactions to Vaccines

It is important to keep your dog's vaccinations up to date to ensure their long-term health. Although the risk of a serious reaction to a vaccine is low for most dogs, it is crucial to inform your vet if your dog has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past, so that this information can be recorded in your pet's medical files. If your dog has had a previous reaction, your vet may suggest skipping a specific vaccination in the future.

Giving multiple vaccinations during a single appointment can increase the risk of reactions, particularly in 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 instead of administering all vaccinations at once.

Should I have my dog revaccinated?

It is difficult to predict the risk of your dog reacting if revaccinated. Some dogs may not have any reaction when they receive the vaccination for the second time, while others may experience the same reaction as before. In rare cases, dogs may have a severe life-threatening reaction to a vaccine they have previously had.

If your dog has had a reaction to their first round of shots, it is important to speak to your veterinarian about the risks and benefits of vaccines for your dog's health. Based on your pet's previous reaction, your vet may recommend not vaccinating your pup for particular diseases.

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.

Is it time to get your dog vaccinated? Contact our Woburn vets today to book an appointment to get your dog's shots.

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