Vaccination Reactions in Dogs
Anaphylaxis can range in severity from quite mild to life threatening but this is just the beginning

Vaccination reactions in dogs are very well documented in what is referred to as Anaphylaxis, however, there is a misconception about this reaction; it is not the only one.

In fact, the number of potential reactions to a vaccination may surprise most owners.

Vaccinations, also known as immunizations, are intended to stimulate your dog’s immune system in such a way that it protects them from an infectious agent.

However, there are some situations where this stimulation may cause a reaction. These reactions can be quite mild, moderate, or in some cases, quite severe.

These reactions can vary depending on the type of vaccination that is used, as well as the age and the breed of your dog.

Although all of these reactions are considered to be rare, if they occur in your dog, they have now become anything but rare.

Understanding the potential list of reactions will help an owner in identifying what these reactions may be as well as what to look for.



The best known vaccination reactions in dogs are referred to as Anaphylaxis, which is a life threatening allergic reaction to either something ingested or injected.

However, it is not the most common.

If this reaction is left untreated, it can very easily cause shock as well as respiratory and cardiac failure in your dog.

If this form reaches the level of severe, it can very quickly take your dog’s life.

In the vast majority of case, the adverse reactions that will strike your dog will happen very quickly.

In almost every case it will happen within 24 hours of the vaccination, but in some dogs, it may happen in just a matter of minutes.

The most common signs of this form of vaccination reactions in dogs will be the sudden onset of diarrhea and vomiting, as well as shock, comas, and seizures.

This form of vaccination reaction in dogs is most commonly associated with what is referred to as killed vaccines and this category includes rabies, canine coronavirus, as well as leptospirosis.

When a killed vaccine is used, they will have more virus or bacterial particles per dosage, as well as added chemicals.

These added chemicals are referred to as adjuvants, and they are designed to improve your dog’s immune systems response.

Anaphylaxis reactions will show you some very distinctive signs very early and it comes in three stages; mild, moderate, and severe.

If the reaction is only mild, your dog will develop a slight fever, and feel very sluggish. In over 95 percent of the cases with only mild symptoms, they will resolve themselves without any type of treatment.

If they are considered moderate, it now becomes a brand new ballgame, as Urticaria may develop.

This is a moderate vascular reaction in your dog’s skin that will be marked by hives or what is called wheals, as well as a very rapid swelling.

Cute BulldogVaccination reactions in dogs can become life threatening

This swelling will occur on your dog’s lips, around their eyes, as well as in several areas surrounding their neck.

All of these affected areas will also demonstrate another symptom; extreme itching.

This is the most common reaction to these types of drugs, but it can very easily lead to the severe stage, which is Anaphylaxis itself.

Although all of the preceding symptoms are confused with Anaphylaxis, it is not technically reached until it hits the severe stage.

When this form of vaccination reactions in dogs hits the severe stage, your dog will have a very sudden and dramatic allergic reaction.

It will cause your dog almost instant trouble in breathing properly, and this is also where the violent diarrhea and vomiting strikes. In short, your dog is under attack in several places all at the same time.

Because of this, they will have also have a very sudden drop in their blood pressure, which will cause them to stagger as now they virtually cannot breathe as their larynx is swelling.

Once this occurs with this form of vaccination reactions in dogs, three thing will happen; seizures, cardiovascular collapse, or the unthinkable, death.

Neurologic and Eye Problems

The next possible vaccination reactions in dogs are actually the most common, Neurologic problems are generally caused by canine distemper vaccines, and it can very easily cause inflammation.

However, this is not a normal inflammation, as it will affect your dog’s brain.

Another vaccination, measles vaccines given to puppies, can also cause damage to the neurological system and affect their nerves.

This is especially true  if a modified live vaccine has been used.

Uveitis, which is an inflammation of your dog’s eyes, also referred to as blue eyes, has also occurred as the result of the canine adenovirus vaccination.

However, because this was so wide spread, the vaccination was altered and now contains what is called canine adenovirus 2.

This has almost entirely eliminated this blue eye reaction.

Discomfort at The Injection Site

This form of vaccination reactions in dogs is also quite common, but not anywhere like it is in cats.

However, they can still develop swelling, redness, and a lot of pain at or near the injection site. Abscesses can also occur, but like some other potential problems with vaccinations, these are not normal.

Most abscesses in dogs are the result of some type of infection, but these are not.

Instead, they are caused by your dog’s bodies over reaction to the vaccine. If they do develop, you need to take your dog in as quickly as possible.

These types of reactions can occur within 30 minutes or they may take as long as several days to develop.


Vaccination reactions in dogs can also be breed specific, affecting Akitas as well as Weimaraners and other large breeds of dogs.

Akitas can very easily develop immune mediated poly arthritis as the result of any type of vaccination.

There are certain lines of Akitas that genetically have immunodeficiency which makes them a lot more prone to reactions from a vaccination.

It can cause immune mediated arthritis in one or several of their joints which can be very progressive.

Weimaraners, as well as large breeds in general, may also develop hypertrophic osteodystrophy after a canine distemper vaccination.

Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, also known as HOD, is a bone disease that affects young, rapidly growing large breeds of dogs.

It is also referred to as skeletal scurvy, and can cause severe lameness and pain and can affect one, or all of your dog’s limbs.


However, the list of vaccination reactions in dogs does not end here. It can also cause mild fever as well as a decreased or complete loss of appetite.

This reaction occurs most commonly in modified live vaccines.

If your dog has recently been vaccinated with the intranasal Bordetella or the parainfluenza vaccine, they may develop a mild cough.

This can be quite dangerous, as it can easily spread to other dogs as well as cats. Birth defects or infections can also occur as the result of a vaccination.

For this reason, most veterinarians will never vaccinate a pregnant dog with any form of modified live vaccines.

However, there is still one other concern with this form, shedding of a vaccine agent, and there is a lot of misconception with this potential problem.

Several vaccines can be shed by nasal secretions of dogs, and parvovirus vaccines can be shed in the feces of dogs.

But it is important to understand that these are the vaccine forms of the virus, and as such, they do not revert to the actual disease causing strains of the virus.


Vaccination reactions in dogs can and do occur, simply because it is a medical procedure. Any type of medical procedure can have a reaction as well as side effects.

It is also important to understand that when your dog is vaccinated, it is for a disease that can produce very serious as well as very deadly threats to their health.

The bright side is that the rewards far outweigh the risks, and everyday vaccines are being improved, but there will always be risks.

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