Adverse Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

Adverse Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

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Overview of Vaccine Reactions in Dogs

Veterinarians use vaccines to protect pets from serious diseases. In the majority of cases, pets receive vaccines with no ill effects. Among those who do respond badly in some way, the majority of the adverse vaccine reactions are not life threatening.

However, if you notice any changes in your pet’s health following a vaccination, call your veterinarian immediately.

If a pet develops a pattern of adverse vaccine reactions, it may indicate the pet is at higher risk of something more serious happening following future vaccinations. Share all of your concerns about vaccines with your veterinarian so that you can collaborate on a vaccine plan that makes sense for your pet.

Any individual pet may be susceptible, but smaller dogs tend to experience more adverse vaccine reactions.

Here are breeds that are more commonly affected with vaccine reactions:

What to Watch for:

Common Adverse Vaccine Reactions

  • Vomiting
  • Facial swelling
  • Injection site swelling or lump
  • Lethargy (being unusually tired)
  • Hives
  • Shock (which can be serious)
  • Injection site pain
  • Itching
  • Injection site hair loss
  • Diarrhea

Less Common Adverse Vaccine Reactions

  • Not eating
  • Fever
  • Dangerous allergic reaction and shock (anaphylaxis)
  • Trouble walking or standing (ataxia and other signs of neurological problems)
  • Lameness
  • General signs of pain
  • Hyperactivity
  • Muscle tremors
  • Heart rhythm problems (tachycardia)
  • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Death


Diagnosis is based the history of a recent vaccine and subsequent symptoms as indicated above.


Veterinary treatment greatly depends on the symptoms and seriousness of a pet’s adverse vaccine reaction.

  • Veterinarians may administer antihistamines (such as benadryl) and steroids (such as prednisone or dexamethasone) to treat many common reactions.
  • Serious adverse vaccine reactions require emergency intervention, hospitalization, intravenous fluid administration, steroids, and other supportive care which will depend on the pets symptoms.

How to Report an Adverse Vaccine Reaction

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees veterinary vaccines through its Center for Veterinary Biologics. Reporting of adverse vaccine reactions is voluntary. Usually, veterinarians file adverse vaccine reaction reports on your behalf. If you choose to do so yourself, here is what’s required.

First, contact the vaccine’s manufacturer, through its veterinary services or technical services department. Visit the company’s main website and look for a toll-free phone number for that department.

Have the following information ready before you call:

  • Your pet’s breed, age, health status at the time of vaccination
  • Date of vaccination
  • Number and type of vaccinations given, including lot numbers for the vaccine(s)
  • Description of your pet’s symptoms
  • How soon after vaccination the symptoms began
  • Your pet’s outcome or prognosis (if known)
  • How your pet has been treated

USDA: Once you’ve alerted the vaccine’s manufacturer, then you can also contact the USDA.
Online: USDA – Center for Veterinary Biologics
By Phone: (800) 752-6255
By Fax: (515) 337-6120
By Mail: Center for Veterinary Biologics, 1920 Dayton Avenue, P.O. Box 844 Ames, Iowa 50010


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