The side effects of canine vaccinations

Updated March 23, 2017

Serious side affects can occur for dogs receiving vaccinations. Although reactions are rare, it is important to know what to look for after your dog receives a vaccine. Not vaccinating your dog is riskier than the giving a vaccination. The type of reaction that potentially can occur depends on the vaccine given, the breed and the age of the dog. Consult with your veterinarian for concerns about vaccinations. (Reference 1)

Anaphylaxis Reaction

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that occurs within a few minutes up to 24 hours of coming into contact with the allergen. Although rare, it is life-threatening. Symptoms include respiratory failure, cardiac failure and shock. Vaccines can cause an anaphylactic response. The estimated reaction to vaccines is one in 15,000 vaccines. Symptoms include diarrhoea, shock, seizures, vomiting, pale gums, cold limbs with a fast heart rate but low pulse. Coma and death can occur if not treated. Typically, this reaction occurs with rabies, leptospirosis and canine coronavirus vaccines. (Reference 1)

Allergy Reactions

Dogs given allergy vaccines during allergy season may show more intense allergies. Discuss with your veterinarian about giving these vaccines during the "off" season. (Reference 1)

Neurologic Reactions

The distemper vaccine may cause brain inflammation. The measles vaccine has been associated with damage to the nervous system when given to puppies. (Reference 1)

Reactions When Pregnant

When using a modified live vaccine on a pregnant dog, it can cause abortions or birth defects. If you suspect your dog is pregnant, inform your veterinarian before any vaccine is given. Also, using modified live vaccine on puppies younger than five weeks can cause them to contract the disease within the vaccine. (Reference 1)

Intranasal Vaccine Reaction

Dogs can receive some vaccines such as Bordetella and parainfluenza through the nose. A cough can occur. The dog receiving the vaccine typically does not have a more severe reaction, but the cough may pass the virus to other animals. (Reference 1)

General Reactions

General reactions that may occur include swelling, redness, discomfort or occasionally abscesses around the injection area. Your dog may also experience a decreased appetite, a slight fever and may not be active for a day or two after injection. Lameness has also been associated with vaccinations. Discuss these conditions with your veterinarian and if more severe reactions occur, contact a veterinary clinic immediately.

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About the Author

Debbie McRill went from managing a Texas Department of Criminal Justice office to working for Compaq and Hewlett-Packard as a technical writer and project manager in 1997. Debbie has also owned her own businesses and understands both corporate and small business challenges. Her background includes Six Sigma training, and an Information Development career with journalism and creative writing as her passion.