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Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Vaccine Reactions in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

You understand how important it is to have your dog vaccinated. That said, vaccines still carry certain risks and side effects every pup parent should beware of. Today, our Murfreesboro vets explain the importance of vaccinations for dogs, their side effects, potential reactions and what to expect.

Reactions to Dog Vaccinations

Taking your dog to the vet's for his vaccinations is one of the most important things you can do to keep them safe from numerous conditions and diseases, but what about the risk of reactions? While side effects from dog vaccinations are relatively uncommon, when they do occur it's important to be able to recognize them and understand which measures you'll need to take, if any. In this post, our vets list common vaccine reactions in dogs. 

Will my dog need every vaccine that's available?

Part of your vet's job is to identify which risk factors your dog may have for reactions depending on characteristics such as their breed, age and lifestyle before recommending shots for your dog. 

What are the most common side effects from dog vaccinations?

Adverse reactions may occur any time your dog has a medical procedure - and vaccines are no different. Seeing your dog in the midst of a reaction to a shot can be concerning and shocking depending on severity. That said, when it comes to dog vaccinations, side effects are usually short-lived and mild. 

Understanding what's happening and what you should do if you recognize signs of a reaction to a vaccine in your dog can help to keep both of you calmer while they receive their shots and as they recover. Here are some common side effects from dog vaccinations. 

Lumps & Bumps

Lumps and bumps are fairly common vaccine reactions in dogs. A small, firm bump may develop near the injection site following the vaccination. No need to worry - while the site may feel somewhat tender, this is simply a result of your dog's immune system trying to resolve irritation in the area. 

However, any time skin is punctured there is a risk of infection so examine the injection site closely and look for signs of swelling, redness, pain, or discharge. 

Untreated infections may lead to more serious health concerns. If the area continues to redden, swell or become irritated, get in touch with your vet. 

Sneezing & Cold Like Symptoms 

While your vet will administer most vaccines by injection, Bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus vaccines are given in the form of drops or sprays into a dog's nose. Cold-like reactions can result from these vaccines and may include coughing, runny nose and sneezing. Most pups will recover from these symptoms within a day or two, but if your dog is showing more severe signs of a reaction, contact your vet. 


By a wide margin, lethargy and general feelings of discomfort are the most common reaction dogs tend to experience after receiving injections. A mild fever may accompany these symptoms. While many people would describe these experiences as feeling 'off', if your dog is lethargic after shots are administered, this is actually a sign that your pup's immune system is responding as it should to the vaccine. 

These mild symptoms are deemed normal and typically only last for 24-48 hours. If you notice that your dog hasn't returned to normal within this timeframe, speak with your vet. 

Having Trouble Walking After Shots

The injection site may be painful or swollen after your pooch receives their shots. Therefore, you might see some limping and paralysis. Rear (posterior) end paralysis - a condition most common in dogs that have had a Rabies shot - mean that a dog's hind or back legs cease functioning as a result of a reaction. 

As unnerving as this sounds, the paralysis is not permanent and will probably improve on the tenth day after symptoms first appear. If your dog is having trouble walking after getting his shots, monitor any paralysis or limping symptoms closely and ask your vet for advice. 

Yelping or Crying After Vaccination

You might feel concerned if your puppy is yelping when you pick him or her up after their vaccination. Your instinct may be to ask your vet, 'Why is my puppy crying when I pick him up after his shots?'

However, this reaction is also natural and not something to worry about. Yelping will usually stop in a few hours, or a day or two at the most. If your puppy is still yelping beyond the 48-hour timeframe, contact your vet. 

Serious Reactions to Vaccines

Most vaccine-related reactions are mild and short-lived, however in rare cases severe reactions do happen and will require immediate medical treatment. Anaphylaxis is one such severe reaction and can lead to itchiness, swelling in the face, vomiting, diarrhea, hives and difficulty breathing. If any of the symptoms above appear in your dog, contact your vet or your nearest emergency veterinary clinic immediately. 

Can I prevent my dog from having a reaction?

Remember that your dog's risk of having a serious reaction to vaccines is very low. Notify your veterinarian if your dog has previously experienced side effects from vaccinations - he or she may recommend skipping a specific vaccine in the future. 

Particularly for smaller breed dogs, risk of vaccine reactions increases somewhat when multiple vaccinations are administered on one day. To help reduce risk of reaction for your dog, your vet may recommend scheduling your dog's shots over the course of several days. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Are you seeking more information about vaccinations and preventive healthcare for your dog? Contact our experienced Murfreesboro vets today to book an appointment.

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