The benefits of having your dog vaccinated typically far outweigh the risk of reactions to the vaccines. That said, some dogs do react to getting their shots. Here's more from our Rock Hill vets on the most common reactions to vaccines in dogs, and what to do if your dog reacts.

Why should I get my dog vaccinated?

The best chance for your dog to live a long, healthy life is by making sure they receive their vaccinations early in life and on a regular basis as adults. Rabies, hepatitis, and parvovirus are three illnesses that can be very costly for pet owners and even be fatal, especially in puppies. It is always preferable to vaccinate against these diseases than to treat your pet for them after they have already manifested.

Typically the risk of your dog having a severe reaction to a vaccine is very low, and in most cases well worth the risk. 

Does my dog need all the available vaccines?

Your vet will consider the risk factors facing your dog based on your dog's breed, age, and lifestyle, then advise you on which immunizations are suitable for your dog. 

What are the most common reactions to vaccines in dogs?

With medical procedures, including vaccinations, adverse reactions are always a possibility. Seeing how their beloved pet responds to vaccinations can be upsetting for pet owners, but it's important to remember that the majority of reactions are mild and transient. It can be less stressful for both you and your dog to receive vaccinations if you are aware of the symptoms of a reaction and what to do if your dog exhibits them.


Dogs generally feel lethargic and uncomfortable after receiving their vaccinations, and their mild fever is frequently present as well. The word "off" comes to mind when most of us describe this feeling.Your dog's immune system is functioning well and is appropriately reacting to the vaccine in this reaction. It should only take a day or two for these minor symptoms to pass. Contact your veterinarian if your dog doesn't feel better within a few days.

Lumps & Bumps

Lumps and bumps are common reactions to vaccinations in dogs, just like feeling 'off'. Following the vaccination, a small, firm bump may form where the needle was injected into the skin or muscle, leaving the area tender. These bumps form as a result of your dog's immune system rushing to resolve the localized irritation.

Sneezing & Cold-Like Symptoms

While most vaccines are administered via injection, the Bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus vaccines are administered via drops or sprays into the dog's nose. Reactions to these vaccines can resemble a cold, with coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose. Most dogs recover from these symptoms within a day or two. If your dog develops more severe symptoms or does not recover within a few days, it is time to consult a veterinarian.

Serious Reactions To Vaccinations

While most dog vaccine reactions are mild and short-lived, our canine companions can have more severe reactions that require immediate medical attention in rare cases.

Anaphylaxis - This severe allergic reaction can involve facial swelling, diarrhea, itchiness, hives, vomiting, and breathing difficulties. This type of severe reaction will usually occur very soon after your pet receives the injection, (typically while you are still at the vet's office) but can happen up to 48 hours after the vaccine is given.

Shock - The symptoms of shock following vaccines can include a slow heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and generalized weakness. You may also see a gray tongue and pale mucous membranes.

Can I prevent my dog from reacting? 

Vaccines help to protect the long-term health of your dog, and the risk of your dog having a serious reaction to a vaccine is very low. 

That said, if your dog has had a previous reaction to a vaccine, it is important to inform your veterinarian. Your vet may advise you to skip a particular vaccination in the future.

When multiple vaccinations are administered at once, there is a slight increase in the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations. Smaller dogs may be especially susceptible to this. Your veterinarian might advise spreading out your dog's vaccinations over a few days rather than all at once to help lower the risk of adverse reactions.

To learn more about vaccinations and preventive healthcare for your dog, contact our Rock Hill vets today to book an appointment.