How to Spot Allergic Reactions to Vaccines
PetSmart Robyn Jaynes, D.V.M.
Believe it or not, dogs suffer from allergies just as people do. Allergic reactions are inflammatory responses against specific proteins entering the body. These proteins may be from environmental allergens (pollens, dust, grass, etc.), various foods, insect bites (flea bites, and bee, wasp or scorpion stings), and may also be from medications and/or vaccines. Most pet allergies to the environment or food are controlled with medications and removal of the allergen, if possible. However, vaccine reactions and insect bite reactions are quite similar and may cause much more severe, life-threatening symptoms.
Allergic reactions to vaccinations can vary from mild to very severe. Mild reactions may include the pet being sore at the injection site, developing a low fever for a day or two, being slightly less active and/or having a decreased appetite. With mild reactions, your pet should be able to follow their normal routine and symptoms generally go away in a day or two without treatment.
More severe allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare and are thought to occur in less than 1 in 1,000 dogs. The symptoms may appear within the first hour after a vaccination is given or, less commonly, it may take up to two days for symptoms to appear. The most common findings in pets that are having an allergic reaction include vomiting, hives, a swollen face, difficulty breathing, weakness and/or collapse. This condition is known as anaphylactic shock and is very severe and may even be fatal. Should any of these sign occur, it is important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian can treat most allergic reactions if treatment is started immediately.
There is no way to determine which pets may experience allergic reactions although pets that have had minor reactions to vaccinations in the past are more likely to have a severe reaction in the future. If your pet is prone to vaccine reactions or allergies, the following steps can be taken in the future to prevent allergic vaccine reactions:
- Avoid giving several vaccines at one time. This will not only help to decrease the level of the reaction but it will also help to determine which vaccination may be causing the reaction.
- Avoid having your pet vaccinated at a "vaccine clinic." Vaccine clinics are designed for healthy pets and are not always prepared or equipped to handle pets that are having vaccine reactions.
- Be sure to inform your veterinarian each time your pet is due for vaccines that your pet has had a vaccine reaction in the past. Veterinarians may choose to give additional medication to prevent your pet from having a reaction.
- Schedule the appointment for the early morning hours where a veterinarian can observe your pet for the day.
Should you have any additional questions about allergic reactions, please consult with your veterinarian.