Symptoms and Treatment for Vaccine Associated Illness in Pets, Part 2

Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ
Vet Reviewed
By Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ on Oct. 9, 2014
Symptoms and Treatment for Vaccine Associated Illness in Pets, Part 2

Thank you for joining me for part 2 of my petMD Daily Vet article covering the important topic of vaccinosis. In case you missed it, you can get caught up by reviewing Vaccinosis: Etiology, Illness, and Prevention Part 1.

Could My Pet Be Affected by Vaccinosis?

Yes, your pet could be affected by vaccinosis. Yet, not all pets that receive vaccinations will develop any form of Vaccine Associated Adverse Event (VAAE) or vaccinosis.

Determining which pet will be adversely affected by the administration of single or multiple vaccinations isn’t realistically probable. Yet, patients that are not currently in a state of optimal health or those having previously shown an adverse response to vaccinations are more prone to VAAEs and vaccinosis.

Therefore, it’s vital that health care providers carefully consider potential adverse outcomes for each patient before the plan to administer a vaccination is undertaken.

What are the Clinical Signs of Vaccinosis?

Clinical signs of vaccinosis include:

  • immunosuppression — susceptibility to chronic infections with bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites
  • immune mediated diseases — immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA, which has affected my dog Cardiff three times in the past nine years), immune mediated thrombocytopenia (IMTP), etc.
  • dermatologic conditions — skin, nose, and footpad changes
  • digestive tract abnormalities — decreased appetite, vomit, diarrhea, etc.
  • organ system ailments — kidney, liver, pancreas, thyroid, etc.
  • neurologic disease — seizures, tremors, etc.
  • behavior changes — aggression, unusual behaviors, etc.

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Pet is Suffering from Vaccinosis?

If you suspect your pet is suffering from vaccinosis, an examination with your veterinarian should be pursued to get a general baseline of whole body health.  Diagnostic testing, including blood, urine, and fecal tests, radiographs (x-ray), ultrasound, and others may be needed pending the evaluation of the overseeing veterinarian.

Are There Any Known Treatments for Vaccinosis?

Yes, there are some known treatments for vaccinosis, including fluid therapy, nutraceuticals (probiotics, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, herbs, etc.), acupressure, acupuncture, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, homeopathic remedies, Chinese medicine food energy therapy, physical rehabilitation, and others.

Thuja Occidentalis is a homeopathic remedy used to support the body after vaccinations are given.  It can be used under the guidance of a veterinarian at the time of and after vaccination administration to help reduce VAAEs and vaccinosis.

How Do I Minimize the Likelihood My Pet Will Experience Vaccinosis?

Strategies to reduce the likelihood a pet will suffer from vaccinosis include:

  • Vaccinating a pet only when there are no known health conditions needing treatment (including periodontal disease, obesity, and others) and no previously history of VAAEs
  • Vaccinating singly instead of administering multiple immunizations in one appointment. Providing single vaccinations may be less convenient to the owner and veterinarian, but it’s a safer plan for the patient
  • Allowing for three weeks to transpire between vaccinations. It takes 14-21 days for the body to sufficiently mount an antibody response to a vaccination. Providing another vaccination during this time potentially reduces the body’s response to the first immunization and could contribute to adverse responses.
  • Performing antibody titer testing to determine the previous response to vaccination administration. VacciCheck provides a beneficial piece of ammunition in prevention of VAAEs and vaccinosis in dogs by testing for IgG antibodies to distemper, adenovirus (infectious canine hepatitis), and parvovirus. If a pet’s antibody levels for distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus are at a level deemed protective, then the veterinarian and pet owner can decide if skipping the distemper vaccination booster is appropriate.

Should I Avoid Vaccinations for my Pet?

No, pet owners should not avoid administering vaccinations to their companion canines and felines. Instead, a judicious approach should be taken, where the owner and veterinarian partner to provide the most appropriate immunization schedule to meet the pet’s lifestyle and the state-governed legal requirements.

A pet’s lifestyle greatly contributes to his vaccination needs. If your pet's potential for exposure to a pathogen is extremely low, then skipping the vaccine is a healthier plan than providing an immunization for an agent that may never be encountered (i.e., Lyme disease vaccine for an urban-dwelling-dog that never visits wooded or grassy locations where tick bites could transmit Borrelia bacteria). Your veterinarian can guide you on what vaccines are most appropriate for your pet based on age, health status, and lifestyle.

If you didn’t read Part 1 of this article, you may not have seen the YouTube webinar I created on behalf of Spectrum Labs (VacciCheck’s manufacturer): Vaccinosis: Etiology, Illness, and Prevention

Please watch the webinar and share it with your fellow pet parents who are interested in alternative strategies to immunizing simply because a vaccination manufacturer’s recommended booster time has been reached.

For full disclosure, I work as a paid veterinary consultant for Spectrum Labs because I’m a believer in preventing VAAEs and vaccinosis in my patients.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Dmitry Kalinovsky / Shutterstock

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Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ
Vet Reviewed


Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ


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