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Dog Vaccinations: Side Effects

Vaccinations have never been perfectly safe; anyone who says otherwise hasn’t read into the subject…

While greatly reducing mortality rates worldwide, those receiving and administering vaccinations are not without their critics. 

There are countless examples in history of their inappropriate use and failure. 

Just as polio decreased across the US in the 1950s, a new vaccine said to cure it (Salk vaccine) was released under great fanfare. Incidents of polio shot up across the country. Despite countless warnings by the National Institute of Health of its inherent dangers, the financial clout of cash-hungry pharmaceutical companies pushed sales into the millions. 

In 1976, Dr. Salk, the vaccine creator, publicly noted his vaccine was “the principle if not sole cause” of all reported polio cases in the US since 1961. The Centers for Disease Control stated that 87% of all polio cases in the US between 1973-’83 and all cases between 1980-’89 were attributed to it—tens of thousands of people affected for the sake of profit.

There are many other studies in this vein, most recently the rushed-out bird flu vaccine. So many so that in 1988, the US formed the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Cases are heard in the “Vaccine Court” under the US Court of Federal Claims. 

To cover the cost of these schemes, $0.75c is added to every vaccine purchased in the States today.

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The Known Side Effects of Dog Injections 

In the far less controlled area of veterinary medicine, the news is unlikely to be better. While still miles behind the human literature, numerous studies are now demonstrating many canine vaccination side effects, including immune-mediated disease and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis).

In 1999, Hogenescha et al. were the first to document a statistically significant link between dog injections and an auto-immune disease termed immune-mediated hemolytic anaemia (where the body cannot produce enough new red blood cells to replace the ones destroyed). More recently, the vaccination of pets and research dogs for rabies was shown to induce the production of antithyroglobulin autoantibodies, a crucial finding with implications for the subsequent development of hypothyroidism (Scott-Moncrieff et al. 2002), an issue so common in dogs today.

Some issues have arisen from contaminated or poorly attenuated batches of vaccines. Others reflect the host’s genetic predisposition to react adversely to the antigen in question. Others still react to the adjuvant (used to magnify the immune system response) and preservatives therein (a lot of vaccines contain bovine serum for all you beef allergy dogs). 

Authors have found reactions ranging from the more common 

  • Fever 
  • Stiffness
  • Sore joints
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • Behavioural changes

To the more serious 

At least 2-26% of Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia, one of the most common autoimmune diseases in dogs, are thought to be caused by vaccinations. 

So, they’re not perfectly safe.

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Timeline for Side Effects of Dog Vaccinations

Moore et al. (2005) found that reactions can occur within three days of a dog’s vaccinations. These range from the more violent (but thankfully rare) anaphylactic reactions and seizures to the more common welts (inflammation) at the injection points.

Vaccinosis, on the other hand (a disease resulting from vaccinations), is more chronic, taking time to develop. Delayed-type immunologic response takes 10–28 days to set in. The onset of any autoimmune disease is expected to occur 30 to 45 days post-vaccination (Dodds, 1983; Dodds, 1995; Duval and Giger (1996). Reactions to canine distemper antibodies causing joint disease and feline injection-site fibrosarcomas can take longer (Dodds 1999). These ones are even less likely to be pinned on vaccinations.

Thus, lacking the evidence and despite the likes of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), who came out with new three-year guidelines for booster schedules in 2006, vaccine manufacturers are still free to push their “for best results boost once a year” message on their products, unperturbed.

…every effort should be made to change laws that require vaccination more often than every three years since annual vaccines cannot be shown to increase efficacy and it is known to include adverse events…   AAHA 2006

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The Breeds Most Affected Are…

All dogs are affected by over-vaccination, but smaller dogs suffer the most. There is a huge size disparity in dogs, yet canine vaccines are not dose-related – it’s the same dose for a Yorkshire Terrier as it is for a Great Dane. Considering vaccines are made ten times stronger to ensure efficacy, that is a lot of pow for a poodle. Small dogs are thus significantly more likely to suffer adverse reactions than larger dogs (Moore et al., 2005; Novak, 2007). There is also a breed effect.

Dodds (2001) cites the breeds most predisposed to react to their injections are 

  • Akita
  • American cocker spaniel
  • Dachshund (all varieties)
  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Irish Setter
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Poodle (all varieties, especially the Standard Poodle)
  • Rottweiler
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Shih Tzu
  • Vizla 
  • Weimaraner 

Also, any breeds of white or predominantly white coat colour or with coat colour dilution, such as blue and fawn Doberman pinschers, the merle collie, Australian shepherd, Shetland sheepdog, and harlequin Great Danes (Day and Penhale 1992; Duval and Giger 1996; Dodds, 2001). These same breeds listed above are also more susceptible to other adverse vaccine reactions, including post-vaccinal seizures, high fevers, and painful episodes of hypertrophic osteodystrophy or HOD (Dodds 1999).

To all the Great Dane breeders or owners who have heard of or even experienced HOD in their Great Dane, look at your records and see how long after our booster the issue occurred. It occurred within one or two months, or I’ll eat my hat. I’ve personally yet to see it occur outside of this situation.

After all this, you might be freaking out, and if so, we apologise for causing you unease, but we must hear the other side of the argument for our pet’s sake. 

We can’t walk around blind, being assured that dry food, chemical flea and worm treatments, boosters and early neutering are all perfectly safe. 

They are not. 

If you suspect that a vaccination, drug or flea/worm/tick treatment has caused adverse reactions in your dog, PLEASE report this here – 

For the UK…/animal-reacts-medicine… 

For Europe…/pharmacovigilance-guidance  

For the USA…/anim…/reporting-adverse-events…). 

For Canada…/adverse-drug-reactions-adrs.html# 

For Australia 

Take me to Puppy and Dog Vaccinations: Everything you need to know

Take me to Yearly Dog Vaccinations: Are they necessary?

References Used

Day MJ, Penhale WJ. Immune-mediated disease in the old English sheepdog. Res Vet Sci 1992; 53: 8792. Dodds W.J. (1983). Immune-mediated diseases of the blood. Adv Vet Sci Comp Med, 27: 163-196.

Dodds WJ.(1995). Estimating disease prevalence with health surveys and genetic screening. Adv Vet Sci Comp Med, 39: 2996.

Dodds, W.J. (1999). More bumps on the vaccine road. Adv Vet Med; 41: 715732. Dodds, W.J. (2001). Vaccination Protocols for Dogs Predisposed to Vaccine Reactions. Guest Editorial for the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association

Duval, D. and Giger, U. (1996). Vaccine-associated immune-mediated hemolytic anaemia in the dog. J Vet Intern Med; 10: 290-295

Hogenescha, H., Azcona-Oliveraa, J., Scott-Moncrieffa, C., Snydera, P.W., Glickmana, L.T. (1999). Vaccine-induced autoimmunity in the dog. Advances in Veterinary Medicine, 41: 733–747 

Horzinek, M. C. (2006). Vaccine use and disease prevalence in dogs and cats. Veterinary Microbiology, 117(1): 2

Moore, G.E., Guptill, L.F., Ward, M.P., Glickman, N.W., Faunt, K.K., Lewis, H.B., Glickman, L.T. 2005. Adverse events diagnosed within three days of vaccine administration in dogs. JAVMA. Vol. 227, No. 7, October 1, 2005. 1102-1108.

Novak, W. 2007. Predicting the “unpredictable” vaccine reactions. Proceeding of the NAVC North American Veterinary Conference. Jan. 13-27, 2007, Orlando, Florida.

Paul, M.P., Carmichael, L.E. and Childers, H. (2010). “2006 AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines Revised.” Schultz R (2006). “Duration of immunity for canine and feline vaccines: a review”. Vet. Microbiol. 117 (1): 75–9

Phillips TR, Jensen JL, Rubino MJ, Yang WC, Schultz RD. Effects of vaccines on the canine immune system. Can J Vet Res 1989; 53: 154 160.

Scott-Moncrieff JC, Azcona-Olivera J, Glickman NW, et al. (2002) Evaluation of antithyroglobulin antibodies after routine vaccination in pet and research dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 221: 515-521. 

Tizard, I. (1990). Risks associated with use of live vaccines. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1990; 196 Vaccination Guidelines Group (VGG) of the (WSAVA) (2010). “WSAVA guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats”. Retrieved 2012-06-24

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