Regular vaccinations are a significant part of responsible pet ownership. Maintaining your pet’s immunity to disease plays a part in community health, not merely in your own pet’s health. Immunization is not without risk, however. Some side effects may occur, even when your dog is vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian.
Puppies are generally given either the 5-in-1 or the 7-in-1 vaccine to initialize the immunity they will carry throughout their lives. The 5-in-1 vaccines protect against distemper, hepatitis, bordetella (kennel cough), parainfluenza and parvovirus, while 7-in-1 vaccines protect against two additional illnesses: leptospirosis (lepto) and coronavirus. Over the last decade, many veterinarians have begun moving away from using the 7-in-1 vaccine. Holistic veterinary practitioners have been part of the move against yearly vaccinations and “over-vaccination” of pets, citing concern over joint disorders and immune disorders. It is true that some joint inflammation, lethargy and mild fever may occur shortly after vaccines are administered. However, these symptoms are typically short-lived and fade over the first several days.
Allergic Reactions and Anaphylaxis (Shock)
Dogs may have allergic reactions to any of the vaccine components: the virus (live or killed), stabilizers, preservatives, chemicals to improve the immune response (adjuvants) or laboratory tissue culture residue. Allergic reactions are typically associated with vaccines that use killed viruses, such as the lepto and coronavirus components of a 7-in-1 vaccine and the rabies vaccine. Unlike mild allergic reactions, anaphylaxis is a serious allergic response that must receive immediate care to prevent the heart and lungs from shutting down and to prevent death from occurring.
The canine distemper component of the 7-in-1 vaccine has been known to cause brain inflammations. In addition, administering the bordetella component may also result in an inflammation that causes mild coughing for several days post-vaccination.
Injection Site Abscesses and Lumps
Some puppies will develop abscesses at the injection site. As with lumps, these abscesses occur in response to the injection and are not bacterial infections. Lumps are often caused by either adjuvants or large proteins in the vaccine requiring time to be absorbed into the dog’s body. These lumps will usually disappear without treatment.
Some dogs, especially puppies, will become tired and still after receiving their 7-in-1 vaccinations. This lethargy is not unusual and may be accompanied by soreness in joints or muscles.
When a lump at an injection site does not resolve on its own, then a tumor must be suspected. Lumps that remain after 12 weeks or grow to over 2 cm in diameter should be removed for biopsy. The risk of tumors increases based on the frequency of injections and the number of vaccination your dog receives. Sarcomas, which rarely appear at the site of the rabies vaccines that often accompany your dog’s 7-in-1 vaccine, are typically fast-growing and malignant. Risk of these tumors can be reduced by vaccinating your pet no more frequently than once every three years, unless advised to do otherwise by your veterinarian.