It's like clockwork: Every year you take Bonny to the vet for her wellness examination and her annual shots. Vaccinations can be an important part of keeping your dog's immune system strong, and they help her fight off diseases such as parvo, kennel cough and rabies. Typically, vets will warn you that vaccines can cause side effects, but it is helpful if you know what to look for.
Typical, Mild Symptoms
Bonny's yearly shots stimulate her immune system, so it's normal for her body to react by displaying some common mild symptoms. These can include sore muscles or joints, mild fever, loss of appetite, sluggishness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and swelling at the injection site. In the article "Vaccinations - Allergic Reaction" for VeterinaryPartner.com, veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks points out that the development of a bump in the area where Bonny received her shot isn't an allergic reaction. Some vaccines are designed to remain localized; they can cause an inflammatory reaction resulting in a small knot under the skin right where the vaccination was injected.
Even though Bonny's yearly shots can protect her from life-threatening illnesses, some risks are associated with annual vaccinations, including allergic reaction or other acute symptoms such as hives, swelling of the face and neck, difficulty breathing, shock, seizures, the development of autoimmune disease and, in severe cases, death.
Not Every Pet Reacts
Typically, veterinarians downplay possible reactions to yearly shots because most dogs don't experience more than the expected mild symptoms. Veterinarians George E. Moore and Harm HogenEsch decided to see if they could find out which pooches were at greatest risk for having an adverse reaction to vaccinations. They published the results of their 2005 study in the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association." Moore and HogenEsch found that small breed dogs in the 1-to-3-years age range were most likely to have reactions to yearly shots, especially when more than one vaccination was given at a time.
What to Do if Bonny Reacts
If your dog is going to experience a reaction to shots, usually it will be the same day that she was vaccinated. Even if her shots were uneventful in years past, you should still watch her for any unusual sign after she's been vaccinated. If Bonny shows symptoms that are more serious than lethargy or mild discomfort, contact your vet immediately. The sooner your dog can be treated for severe symptoms, the less likely they'll be to have long-term adverse effects. Parents of pooches who've had reactions to their shots should discuss alternative vaccination options with their vets to tailor the regimens to their individual dogs.