Vaccine Reactions

Our best methods at disease prevention have a down side risk. Here are the facts.



Last year, my standard poodle had a very severe reaction to her annual vaccinations. In fact, she almost died. She was literally unable to move without a great deal of pain and her eyes were glazed. She was treated but barely survived. They told us that they give the same dosage of vaccinations to all dogs, whether Chihuahua or Great Dane. I find that hard to believe.  Now, I am extremely reluctant to chance it again. And why is it necessary to vaccinate every single year! She’s had shots for eight years in a row, surely she has enough immunity to last the rest of her life.


Dr. Nichol:

I can tell from your letter that you’re still upset and maybe a bit angry that this happened. I understand. Our pets mean everything to us. I’ll do my best to give you some answers.


First let’s face it, vaccinations and other medical advances don’t come cheap to the consumer. So why aren’t they safer? The truth is that nothing in medicine is one hundred percent risk free. But the great majority of our work, including vaccinations, is quite safe-for almost everybody. Vaccine reactions like this are truly rare.


Regarding dosage your veterinarian is right. The vaccine manufacturers recommend the same dose regardless of weight because it has long been believed that every dog has the same “size” immune system. It has also been an official recommendation that dogs receive annual boosters throughout their entire lives. If a doctor breaks those rules he or she can be held liable if the pet gets that infectious disease. The veterinary profession has felt that it’s been doing the right thing to keep pets healthy.


Recently the immunology and internal medicine folks have been taking a fresh look. Soon the American Veterinary Medical Association is expected to provide new canine vaccination protocols. We’re waiting for the experts’ advice partly because we don’t want to under-protect dogs. But I don’t blame you for your reluctance to repeat your dog’s vaccinations. At age eight she may have a life-long protection. At the same time I would ask that you trust your veterinarian to stay up to date with new developments. Stay tuned. I’ll publish the new recommendations when we get them.