At Ranger’s yearly wellness appointment, his veterinarian warned Sophie to watch out for any vaccine reactions. The vet explained these possible reactions can vary— some dogs experience soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site, and others might experience lethargy, loss of appetite, or mild fever the next day. She compared it to how some humans don’t feel well after a flu vaccine, and assured Sophie many of these reactions are not life-threatening and often don’t require additional treatment. She said that if any of these symptoms persist for longer than 24 hours or become increasingly severe to please call the clinic.
While many vaccine reactions are mild, Ranger’s vet stated the less common severe reactions such as anaphylaxis require immediate treatment. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include a sudden onset of vomiting, extreme lethargy, pale gums, difficulty breathing, and occasionally facial swelling. Ranger’s vet emphasized that anaphylaxis is an emergency, so if Ranger experienced any of these signs Sophie should bring him straight back to the clinic.
As Sophie navigated through rush hour traffic on the way home, Ranger suddenly vomited all over the back seat and laid very still, his legs limp. She recognized the signs of anaphylaxis and headed straight back to the clinic. She paced anxiously around the lobby while Ranger was in the treatment area with the doctor. The doctor soon came out to the lobby and confirmed Sophie’s suspicion that Ranger had an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine. Fortunately, he was going to be alright because Sophie had taken him back to the clinic the instant she noticed something wasn’t right. The quick trip back to the vet prevented Ranger from going into respiratory or cardiac failure.
Now that Ranger has had a severe reaction to a vaccine, an alert on his medical record reminds veterinary staff that he will require special treatment during his vaccine appointments. Due to his severe reaction, he now only receives the rabies vaccine because rabies is always fatal, is zoonotic, and the vaccine is required by law. Every three years when he is due, his veterinarian pre-medicates him and monitors him after vaccination. Just like any medical procedure, vaccination is a risk for any patient— especially Ranger. But the risk of vaccination is still safer than the possibility of Ranger contracting rabies without vaccination.
The severity of vaccine reactions can vary. Some are mild and don’t require additional treatment, while others are serious and require immediate treatment. If your pet has experienced a vaccine reaction in the past or is receiving their first vaccine, monitor them after vaccination. The worst vaccine reactions usually occur within one to two hours after vaccination, and others can occur at any time within the first 24 hours. An anaphylactic reaction is rare, but serious.