Dog vaccinations – what not to do

Thank you to Jana Rade over at My Dog’s Symptoms for providing these tips. When it comes to vaccinations and dogs, do your own research and ask your dog’s veterinarian plenty of questions.

Last time we tried to decipher whether or not too many vaccinations are bad for adult dogs. There are some people who don’t vaccinate their dogs at all (and that includes puppies). Frankly, I am not that brave. It might work for them, but I am not ready to risk it.

So until something profound changes my mind, I believe vaccinating dogs is important.

We covered some of the different vaccines, boosters and titers for dogs. You did your homework and made your decisions about what you’re going to vaccinate your dog for, how often and whether you’re going to titer.

The whole idea is to make sure your dog is protected, but his system shouldn’t have to contend with vaccinations that are not necessary.

What not to do when it comes to vaccines for dogs

There are some things I would not do when it comes to vaccinating my dogs:

1. I would not give vaccines my dog doesn’t need.

Or that don’t have a good record of being effective or safe.

With some vaccines it is a question of the lesser of two evils. For example, unless your live in an area highly infested with ticks, you’re probably not too concerned about vaccinating for lyme disease.

And some vaccines just don’t have a good enough track record to bother with, such as the rattlesnake, periodontal disease, giardia and coronavirus vaccines.

Jasmine the Rottweiler wearing a purple harness

2. I would not repeat a vaccine to which my dog had a reaction to.

It is kind of a no-brainer when your dog experiences a severe reaction, but I would think twice even if she had mild adverse effects.

I would rather titer instead, or insist on a different brand of vaccine at the very least. And sometimes antihistamine is given to mitigate a potential allergic reaction.

3. I would not have my dog given multiple vaccinations in one visit.

I believe that vaccines are safest if there are at least three weeks or a month in between them. The more vaccines your dog receives at once, the higher the risk of a negative reaction. It is also a huge strain on the immune system to deal with all those things at once.

The combination Parvovirus, Distemper and Adenovirus would be an exception. But if your dog had a reaction to it in the past and you still want to vaccinate against these, you might want to consider splitting them up.

4. I would never vaccinate a dog that is ill.

That is just asking for trouble. Clearly a sick dog’s system already has enough to deal with; vaccinating would be adding oil to the fire. The immune system just might not be able to handle all that.

I never had our vet argue about this, but I also know people who brought in a sick dog and the vet was trying to vaccinate at the same time. Not a good idea. Plus, with the over-burdened immune system, the vaccine might not even be effective.

5. I would never allow my dog to be vaccinated for things I did not discuss with my vet first.

You think that doesn’t happen? Believe it or not, it does. This might be simply because of poor memory or bad organization, but it is not a good thing.

For example, our daughter brought her Chihuahua to be given a rabies booster. She specifically stressed that she wanted her dog to get only a rabies vaccine.

Yet, they gave her the leptospirosis vaccine also, and as luck would have it, the dog had a severe reaction and almost died right there! After that happened the vet said that such a reaction to a lepto vaccine, particularly in small dogs, is not unusual!

6. I would not vaccinate during high-allergy season.

So many dogs suffer from allergies these days. The sense behind this decision is the same as the earlier points. Why add additional burden to an already agitated immune system? We vaccinate our dogs either in early spring or late fall when there is less potential for environmental allergies.

7. I would not vaccinate on a Friday afternoon.

Just as luck might have it, that’s when your dog might get an adverse reaction, just as the vet’s office is preparing to close or after it has already closed for the weekend.

We had these things happen in the past, not with vaccines but with other disasters; we prefer to do all these things early in the week, early in the morning. And so far, as it often works with Murphy’s Law, when you’re prepared, the disaster doesn’t strike.

8. For the same reasons, I would not vaccinate before a trip.

Some reactions might strike quickly, but some of them take awhile. It’s just not worth the risk of your dog experiencing a medical emergency on the road or while she is at a boarding kennel and you are out of town.

Has your dog ever had a reaction to a vaccine?

We hope your dog has never had a reaction to a vaccine, but if she has, let us know in the comments.

Related posts:

When can I walk my puppy after vaccinations?

40 thoughts on “Dog vaccinations – what not to do”

  1. Belle had a reaction to her last rabies shot which was given with another shot. After having a noticable bump for two weeks I am more pro active in the shot department for both dogs and horse. Next time around I will schedule them so that the shots will not be given at the same time and I will not drop her off for the day to get the shot.

    Thanks for the great guest post! Most people don’t think about vaccines only the fact that their animals have to get certain ones at certain times.

    My one question, and I will have to find a horse blog, is why do horses have to get rabies vaccines every year and dogs can go for three years before a booster?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Our vet will give all the shots at once. So I just make a point to leave about a month in between each one.

      Ace has never had a reaction that I noticed.

      I don’t know why horses are required to have a rabies vaccine every year. Seems over the top to me. Is rabies more common in horses? Or do they have a higher risk of being bitten by a rabid animal? I wouldn’t think so. I would think dogs or cats would be at a higher risk.

      1. So I talked to one of my horse vets and he actually does not vaccinate horses for rabies. I guess in Alaska there aren’t a lot of cases that show up and he is a believer of not over vaccinating horses!! WOO HOO!!!!

        Thanks again for this guest post!

  2. We’ve never had a problem with any vaccinations as far as I know. One time the vet would not give one to our springer Sophie because she had a fever. So be sure your dog is healthy and has its temp taken before receiving a vaccination. Maybe this is standard practice among vets, I don’t know. We do all the required vaccinations because we do kennel our dogs from time to time and the kennel requires it. Sometimes I do wonder if so many vaccinations are harmful, but…

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Our vet gave Ace vaccines before when he had an ear infection. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, and he didn’t seem to have any kind of reaction. These days I won’t let the vet give him a vaccine if he is sick.

      I also have vaccinate Ace for bordetella because I choose to leave him at a boarding kennel from time to time. They also require the typical rabies, distemper and parvo vaccines which I would have him vaccinated against anyway although maybe not as often. I did decide I am going to titer next time around, which will be in a few years.

  3. My 7 week old puppy had a bump and diarrhoea after her vaccination. I did not feel that she would have any immunity from the 7 week vaccine due to maternal antibodies, so wasn’t inclined to titre. I decided to skip the 12 week vaccine and did a vaccination at 18 weeks, as a final vaccine that hopefully is effective as maternal antibodies will be gone. So far, no reaction… Hope it stays that way! I will definitely titre test if I’m ever inclined to vaccinate her again.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Good question. I’ll see if I can track down Tegan to answer that for you. I haven’t raised a puppy in a long time.

  4. Tarski was so lethargic and could barely walk after the Lyme booster… I had to give him food and water out of my hand that evening, and although a baby Tylenol and some Benadryl helped, I was really worried. What I really didn’t like was how flippant the vet’s office was about the reaction. We found a new vet here in town that focusses much more on tick prevention, and doesn’t even carry that vaccine because of safety concerns.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ace has ever had the lyme booster. Lyme disease is not something I am concerned about. I do use flea and tick prevention, though, for peace of mind.

      I’m glad you found a vet you are more comfortable with.

  5. Our Panzer did as a puppy! Mostly he would just sick and throw up a lot. One time it was so bad that we took him right back to the vet and they kept him for an hour and looked after him. So since then he gets Benadryl-ed up and in we go when vaccines are due. He hasn’t needed vaccines for a while but the last time couple times I was annoyed… They told me to give him Benadryl 20 minutes before coming in. I let them know how much I gave him and then they charged me to give him a Benadryl shot! So the next time I went in, they told me that I could have just given him Benadryl myself. *doh!* Minor issue, especially compared to your daughter’s Chihuahua… but still. Really?!

    We gave him oral flea treatment once and he got sick. The vet said it’s normal for the first time you give it, made me think… how is this good for my dog?! With topical treatment he usually gets some sores on his back which take a couple weeks to fully recover (about the time you have to re-apply). So because of this, we stopped giving flea treatment. We’ve never seen a flea on him. He doesn’t go running through long grass or anything… so it’s worth the risk of a potential flea bomb should he get some. He sleeps with us, so we’d notice before an infestation (ouch! bug bites, gross). This summer we plan to spend time in dry areas, and go hiking in the tall grass and tick infested areas where we do body checks when we get home. He WILL get a flea/tick treatment before that adventure. 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have you tried a natural brand of flea/tick prevention? I use Natural Defense on Ace. Seems to work. I’m not too concerned about fleas, either, so I only put it on him once or twice in a summer if we will be camping or something like that. I’ve never seen a flea on him, either.

  6. My two 4 month old chihuahua/feist mixes just got their rabies shots on a Friday morning. (Great point on how Friday vaccinations are NOT a good idea!)
    One of my pups was fine. She is stockier, heartier and has more meat on her.
    My lanky tall energetic pup was miserable. Not only were they in a lot of pain, in particular the lanky one (Tokio) it actually resulted in a trip to the emergency vet at 5:30 a.m. the next morning.
    Tokio was in so much pain from getting both the distemper vaccine and the rabies vaccine (one on each hind leg) that a mere touch would yield an excruciating whine. We chalked it up to the injection site and left for work with my sister watching the two of them. When I returned Tokio greeted us without jumping and with minimal tail wagging, we could tell she wasn’t feeling great. Then she retreated to a corner to cower and shake uncontrollably! On every inhale she was shivering and we were afraid she was having trouble breathing.
    She was acting so oddly that I couldn’t sleep for fear she was going to get an allergic reaction and possibly go into anaphylactic shock. Finally by 5:30 I had scared myself into believing she may have been having an allergic reaction and we went to the emergency vet.
    It turns out she was fine, but pretty shaken up (literally) by the strength of the vaccine and was prescribed medicine to alleviate the pain.

    As I don’t want my dogs to get rabies I feel that it’s a necessary evil but it worries me that manufacturers could produce a less than satisfactory product that could cause an adverse reaction in dogs.

  7. Hello all – as an immunologist & a doggie-lover – it concerns me to hear statements like “I believe it’s better to space out vaccinations.” These sorts of things aren’t something we “believe” in. I think most of what was stated above is scientifically reasonable, but we live in a time where vaccinations are under siege. What is stated about vaccines shouldn’t be anecdotal, but should be something that rigorous, unbiased empirical tests have shown. Vaccines are, by and large, very safe. The truth is- severe reactions – ones that are dangerous for you, your child, or your pet, are rare. You know how tetanus vaccines make your arm hurt? Your dog reacts the same way – they scratch their shoulders, they hurt, and they are puppies (when they get a majority of their vaccines) so they squeal and make a fuss. Fusses don’t constitute a severe allergic reaction.

    Of course, when it comes to you and your pet’s health, you should use common sense. Don’t vaccinate against something unnecessary. However, it’s important to maintain science as a the bottom line in vaccination decisions – it’s important for public human and veterinary health. Vaccines are not going to hurt 99% of your dogs or your people.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Jen, thank you for weighing in. Good to hear your side. I agree that vaccines are for the most part safe. Most dogs are not going to respond with an allergic reaction. Still, I believe it is better to take the advice Jana offered. For example, I am always going to space out my dog’s vaccines. I’m also going to go with a titer text next time around. Why give unnecessary vaccines?

      I’m just curious, do you get the flu vaccine each year?

    2. I am wondering what you consider to be a severe reaction. My dog suffered from severe hives in addition to his muzzle swelling to triple its normal size following immunizations. This resulted in a trip to the emergency room as I chose not to wait around to see what other parts of him might swell or possibly sieze up next. My dog is due for his shots again and as a result of his past reaction I am wondering what in the world to do.

  8. Wendy Morlewski

    I just added a shih itszu puppy to our family, she is just a little doll. I am worried about taking her in to the vet for vaccinations. I had a golden receiver puppy that passed from compilations from vaccines. Three years later we added our little princess to our family. Our puppy is now 9 weeks old and about 3 pounds. What should I do?

  9. My 8 year old golden retriever went from a seemingly vibrant & healthy to gravely ill in the 2 weeks following an annual visit to the vet where she was administered a lyme booster and a distemper booster. The day before the appointment she seemed under the weather, not wanting to eat or go for a walk, which was very unusual & out of character. But that evening & on the morning of her vet appt. she seemed fine and back to normal. I reported these symptoms to the vet, who could find nothing wrong with her and said she seemed perfectly healthy and that, “everyone is entitled to an off day”. With that, I agreed to let them go ahead with her booster shots. The day after the shots she was very lathargic and when things hadn’t improved by the day after, we were back at the vet, who said her leg was swollen at the injection site and was probably having a reaction to the vacine. I was told to bring her back in a few days if she didn’t improve. During the days that followed we had some signs of improvement followed by signs that the condition was persisting. I made another appointment to bring her back to the vet and the morning of the appointment (6 days after her initial visit) she was unable to get up, experiencing partial paralyzation of her hind legs. She was admitted and put through a battery of tests and treatments. Following an MRI and spinal tap, 13 days after her initial vet visit, she was diagnoses with an abnormality in her lower spinal column with the presence of cancerous cells. Her rear legs remain partially paralyzed and she has lost control of her bodily functions. The vet does not want to acknowledge any possibility of a corrilation between the illness and the vacines, and I am not convinced. Ironically, I had a friend who told me of someone he knew who had a similar experience with his dog following a lyme booster. Just wondering how many more cases may be out there, and wondering if this & other cases are being swept under the rug by vets and pharmasutical companies. What do you think?

    1. I took Parker my 3 year old chihuahua mix for his shots. They did the DHPP shots and also did the lime (which I don’t freakin get since its January). Anyways, I didn’t notice much of a change because I guess I was too busy dealing with my other dogs paralysis issue..he had a slipped disc and ended up needing an operation. So my brother ended up taking Parker for his 2nd lime booster 2 weeks after his first. 12 hours after he received his 2nd lime booster I noticed a marked difference in him. He was drinking loads of water and asking for the door a lot. Then last night he peed on the couch which is not something he has ever done. I had to take him to the emergency because he felt extremely warm as well. Turns out his temperature was at 40.8 and was shaking. After many tests and a lot of money they tell me he has a urinary tract infection which he is now on antibiotics for but they said I should go back to my normal vet in a week to retest his blood, I guess to completely count out diabetes. Also I am to keep tract of how much he is drinking for a few days which is difficult because I have two dogs. In any event I guess the point of my story is that I’m not sure if his shots caused his tract infection and I guess I’ll never know but I will never vaccinate my dog for lime, Lepto (my other dog had bad reaction to it a few years back) and the remainder of the shots I will get them administered separately as this site suggests. I will only get the DHPP shots and rabies but I think from now on will only have them vaccinated once every 3 years. After my experience with vets the past month I have serious concerns. Is a pets life really worth the $20 bucks that they make off of shots?? Physicians get paid to give out pharmaceuticals so why wouldn’t’s sad really.

  10. my dog got a vaccination injection when my mother took her. Three months later i took her to the vet and she got the injection again because i didn’t know she already got it this year… Is something going to happen to her, is it bad? :,(

  11. WE took our two Golden Retrievers for their 5 in 1 and bordatella shots yesterday. Today they started vomiting off an on. They seem ok otherwise, eating and drinking. Should we be concerned and should they get shots next year?

  12. Lindsay Stordahl

    I hope your dogs are doing better today. They could be sick from anything, not necessarily the vaccines. I think it’s unlikely they would both react that way to the shots and more likely they both got sick from germs they picked up at the vet or from eating something gross in the yard as dogs tend to do!

  13. We just got the yearly shot for my Yorkie Bella…she is 1 yr old…she is shaking and her leg where one of the shots is hurting her really bad yelping and hollaring has a lil fever… i am so scared!! What should I do is this something serious????

  14. My Akita was given TWO 3year Rabies shots back to back in 2002 ( an accident by the vet tech) and has suffered seizures and auto-immune deficiency ever since. Please,please please do not vaccinate your pets without first getting a titer and challenge your health dept/ animal control and the CDC to change the rules for Rabies vaccinations for our pets and to ACCEPT TITER RESULTS! Write your representatives and your congressman for change! It is pitiful to see what has happened to this beautiful dog!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      My cat was also given two three-year rabies vaccines on the same day with permission from the vet. I wish I would’ve said something, but she was unsure if the first one went in all the way, so she gave it again. He is aggressive at the vet’s office, so it’s very difficult for them to vaccinate him. He’s been fine since the vaccines, but I do feel bad he was vaccinated twice. He’s 7 1/2, and I don’t think he’ll need another rabies vaccine for the rest of his life. I’ll maybe do a titer test in a few years.

  15. Hi,

    Please could someone help advise me. We gave our 2 year old Goldie her vaccination on Saturday and the vet injected her in the hip. Almost immediately after she wasn’t walking well and keeps sitting down. We are now on Monday and she still can’t walk more than a few steps without sitting down. I will take her back to the vet but please let me know if anyone has experience with this. Am so worried about her.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t have experience with a dog reacting to a vaccine, but I know some dogs are more sensitive than others. It’s pretty normal for mild soreness to occur, but sounds like your dog is in more pain than that. I’m glad she’s going back to the vet. I hope she feels better soon!

  16. I had my little 3.8 pound Yorkie vaccinated with Lepto and she is paralysed on her left side. Any help is appreciated- I am heartbroken- can hardly stand to talk about it 🙁 pls help

  17. I am very good about medicating my dog every month with flea and tick medicine, prescription from vet. I’ve never seen a flea or tick on him so I am confident it is working. So, why is my vet always trying to give him the lyme disease vaccine???

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Betsy. That would be a good question to ask the vet. I know my parents’ dogs’ vet is the same way and says it is an extra “precaution.” Lyme disease is common where they live. In my opinion (and I’m not a vet), it is not necessary to do both no matter where you live. My dog’s vet has never recommended this, even when I lived in an area where Lyme disease was somewhat of an issue.

      These days I live in an area where there aren’t many ticks (just fleas) so I still use flea & tick prevention but no lyme disease vaccine. Have you gotten a second opinion?

  18. Per the vaccine inserts, only healthy dogs should be given shots yet more vets than not give them to unhealthy dogs. My sister’s dog has allergies that they cannot figure out and so the poor dog itches and itches and licks skin off. So instead they medicate the poor dog and never try to dig further. And of course they keep vaccinating. My sister and her husband say the vet knows what he is doing and the dog is the one that suffers.

    A healthy dog is not a dog with allergies (this means the immune system is compromised).

  19. Thanks for mentioning that you should either vaccinate your dog in the spring or in the fall to reduce the chances of allergy complications. Now that my wife and I have adopted a puppy for our daughter’s birthday, we would like to make sure that he stays healthy since he was born only a few months ago. We’ll consider getting a vaccination for the puppy when the time is right.

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