Pet Tips

Vaccines and Allergic Reactions – Vaccination Reactions in Cats and Dogs – Pet tip 221

Vaccinating our pets is necessary to protect them from harmful diseases. Most veterinarians in North America recommend giving almost all cats and dogs certain vaccines when they are brought in for the first time as puppies or kittens. If they are brought in after that, the vet will want to know what vaccinations they have received in the past. Vaccination is a preventative method of protection against diseases like rabies that normally works well, but is not without risks. We’ve all heard occasional stories of pets that have suffered through traumatic adverse reactions to vaccinations. Although most pets recover from these adverse reactions, sometimes the reaction is fatal. Given this risk, it makes sense to wonder a bit more about what vaccines do and what to look for to spot allergic reactions to the vaccine.

Vaccinations work by introducing a dead bacteria or virus into the body. Because the vaccine is dead, the bacteria and viruses cannot actually cause disease or harm the body. The body does not know the vaccine is dead, and therefore it builds up an immune response. This way, vaccines give the body protection against future infection, so the body will respond quickly and effectively against the bacteria and viruses. There are a certain set of ‘core’ vaccines that almost all puppies and kittens get. These core vaccines will help protect your new pet from some very common and potentially fatal diseases. Your veterinarian will also probably offer you the chance to get some ‘non-core’ vaccines. These vaccines are only recommended for pets that are at a higher risk for uncommon diseases, like pets that will be traveling or will be staying in a boarding kennel. Lyme disease and bordetella are two vaccines that are considered ‘non-core’ for dogs.

Now that we realize that almost all of our cats and dogs need at least certain vaccinations, it makes good sense to ask about what to look for in case our pet has an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Unfortunately it’s difficult to predict in advance which animals may have an adverse reaction, so we must keep our eyes wide open after our pet has received a vaccine. Depending on the vaccine, if a pet is going to have a reaction, that reaction can occur immediately after getting the vaccine or it can take up to a few days or a couple of weeks for the reaction to occur.

Although you want your pet to have no reaction to the vaccine, sometimes the reaction is mild and will pass fairly quickly. Mild reactions can include fatigue, behavioural changes, swelling and itchiness at the site where the pet received the injection and other symptoms. The pet may also get a lump at the site of injection. Serious and emergency reactions would include anaphylaxis where breathing is critically compromised, kidney failure, autoimmune problems and other symptoms.

Given the multitude of different vaccines and potential reactions by different pets in different states of health, your veterinarian will be your best resource to discuss potential problems involving vaccination and your particular pet. Make sure you discuss this matter with the vet thoroughly, and make sure you know where a 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital is in case you ever need it.

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