Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Big vaccine reactions in very small dogs: It's common (and scary, too!)

Sinead the Boston terrier recovering from a vaccine

In about three weeks, Sinead the Boston terrier will be hopping on a plane bound for Nashville, for the big BlogPaws conference (I'm so excited!). Since she'll be exposed to a lot of new things, and a lot of new stresses, on her trip, I've been working with my veterinarian on her vaccine protections. And on Friday, we ran into a bit of a problem.

Sinead was due for her standard distemper/adenovirus booster, and since she was heading to a space in which there would be plenty of other dogs, we thought it best to provide her with a bordatella vaccine.

Typically, it's best to provide vaccines one at a time (my sources say), as that's the best way to avoid very serious reactions. But, since one vaccine was given via injection and the other by mouth, I thought I'd be safe to give them both at once.

Sinead didn't think so.

Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping under a blanket

She spent much of Friday curled up on the couch with the shivers, a lot like a person with the flu. And she'd cry when she was touched anywhere on her legs. It took her almost 48 hours to get back to normal.

Sinead is very small, and vaccines aren't scaled by weight. That means she gets at much vaccine in her small body as does a huge great dane. So it's not surprising that she'd struggle with vaccines. But it does mean that I'll need to chat with my veterinarian before she gets a flu shot in a few weeks.

Sometimes, veterinarians recommend providing a reactive dog with Benadryl before the shot, just to tame down vaccine reactions. And sometimes, they recommend waiting in the office after the shot, just to make sure nothing terrible happens. I'll need to check before I go, just to make sure I have my plans all set.

Meanwhile, Sinead seems restored to good health. I'm relieved!


  1. you absolutely need to have a conversation with your vet regarding Sinead's vaccine reaction and push that it is reported to the FDA. Most vets don't think it is important to report these types of reactions and thus they continue to think that vaccines are safe and no more of a problem than feeding a pet.

    Small dogs have the same issue as cats (although in slightly smaller numbers) in that vaccines can cause vaccine associated sarcoma... a very deadly cancer that is very hard to treat. There is a push to change VAS to ISS (injection site sarcoma) but I personally don't think that is appropriate, since large dogs do not suffer from it as much as cats and small dogs, and diabetics who get injections twice a day for years also do not generally deal with it.

    Anyway.. Vaccines are important for protection from disease, but it is very important that we hold the manufactures accountable for those vaccines and the damage they can do. Until they know what they are doing (by getting accurate reports) they won't bother making them safer.

    1. I agree with you completely, but there's one BIG hitch. Sinead's reaction is what the manufacturer deems "normal and expected." They'll really only get involved if the reaction is somehow weird and unexpected. For example, a cat of mine had hair loss, nausea and lethargy from a topical flea medication. His reaction was outside of normal, so the company had to know about it (as they might need to change paperwork to inform others). I've reported fax reactions like Sinead's before and gotten nowhere, as they say it's all normal. Very frustrating.