A Bad Vaccine Reaction…

I’m currently on hold with Pfizer Animal Health reporting a whopper of a vaccine reaction I had on Saturday.  Of course it was a brand new client with a brand new dog.  Cute little Shiba Inu puppy (look them up, they’re neat looking little dogs, tend to be on the aggressive side though). 

I hit it off nicely with the client.  Young guy on his way to LA to live with his girlfriend.  All went well with the exam.  Vaccinated the puppy and maybe 5 minutes later she started to vomit.  Then her gums turned pale, and she got weak in the knees. 

OK, I’ve handled this before, it happens (rarely, like 2 other times in 11 years, and it sucks every time).  

This was one of the worst ones I’ve treated, puppy went into anaphylactic shock (similar to what happens to folks who are allergic to bee stings who pass out after getting stung…) Took Benadryl, Steroids, IV fluids,  2 shots of Epinephrine and a shot of hypertonic saline (super concentrated salt water, a tip I learned Sat. from Dr. Rogers who learned it for her exotic patients) to bring her around.

On a side note:  I have a cricket under my desk who is loudly chirping.  I initially thought it was my computer making awful noises, or some weird window I opened, but no, apparently I have a little friend.

So anyways, the puppy eventually came around and is now fine.  Nice way to meet a new client (not).  FYI: anaphylactic reactions to vaccines (as I mentioned before) are rare side effects to vaccination.  As far as the risk of this type of reaction vs. the benefits of vaccination:  vaccines win (Parvo and Distemper and such are much more common than reactions).  So, I wouldn’t recommend NOT vaccinating dogs or cats on account of the small risk of reaction.  We take this same risk if we take allergy shots (that’s why they make us sit in the office for 30 minutes after each shot) or any other vaccination (its why we have to tell them whether or not we’re allergic to eggs pre-flu shot, etc).  We have to do a risk/benefit analysis for all these things. 

Should a patient have a reaction of this nature, obviously, we will think long and hard about if/when we revaccinate the patient.  This puppy is a particularly bad deal because she reallyneeds her puppy shots or she will be forever susceptible to things like Parvo and Distemper.   If it turns out we can’t vaccinate her at all (we plan on switching vaccine manufacturers and pre treating her with Benadryl for the next booster) the owners will have to be really careful with where they take her and who they expose her to.  Parvo is especially nasty because the virus lingers in the soil for years. 

Vaccination is a medical procedure.  Like any other procedure, there are risks involved.  We do our best to minimize the risks of vaccine reactions through education, antigen selection (picking the vaccines given based on the lifestyle of the dog), maximizing vaccine intervals (we are on a 3 year schedule for the major antigens now). 

We took an oath to do no harm, and it’s upsetting to us, as it is to you when these things happen.   I’m well aware of the whirlwinds of controversy involved with vaccines in canine, feline and human patients. 

I’ll just tell you that I’ve looked at piles of data, and in my heart that, given at proper intervals, with custom protocols for each patient based on their health status, age, and lifestyle,  vaccines  overall, are safe and necessary. 

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


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