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Vaccination Side Effects in Pets

Last Modified on Nov 16, 2015

Distemper (Cats)
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Posted by Oleander (South Carolina) on 10/15/2013

[SIDE EFFECTS]  We are fostering a mother cat and her 2 kittens. We have had this little family since they were less than a week old. The 2 kittens; one girl and one boy, have been totally healthy and fine. They are now 8 weeks old. We were told to get them their first "Distemper" vaccine at 4 weeks old, but since they had a mother and were not orphans, they could wait til 6 weeks. We had their shots done at 6.5 weeks, 11 days ago. Well. Within 3-4 days the little girl started limping on her front leg. I thought this was weird so I planned to call the vet in the morning. The next morning she was limping on her BACK leg. So I talk to the vet and they said this was a vaccine reaction and should clear up pretty fast, and that I could give her a few drops of baby benydryl. So I did that, and continued to watch her. She was eating fine, drinking normally, peeing and pooping normal with no signs of any other issues except her back, left leg.

So, last night, on day 10, I was doing the daily check of her leg to make sure it wasn't getting worse, and I notice it was really swollen at the upper joint, nearly the size of a golf ball!! So today I called the vet and they said to bring her in. I did, and when the vet saw her they said it looked like her back leg and front leg were broken! I said NO WAY and they did X-rays and of course, NOTHING was broken or fractured or injured at all. They said there was a lot of swelling in her back leg joint and a little in her front leg (right) lower joint. They said she had a slight temp. They first said maybe it was DISTEMPER?? I said NO, she has been only with her mother and brother, no where NEAR any other cats and none of them are sick. Plus she has been vaccinated. They do not believe me that it is a vaccination reaction. I said, but don't you give the vaccine in the rear left leg?? and they said No, it's given in the upper back. Which is NOT true. So now my little baby girl is being hospitalized at the vet on multiple antibiotics when I believe all she needs is something to counteract the reaction to the vaccine. What a mess. I have had many foster kittens, have done tons and tons of kitten vaccines and have never seen this happen. I also am pretty positive the shot was given in the left rear leg, not the upper back as they now are stating.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn
Hey Oleander!

I am sorry for your experience. Was this experience with a vet with whom you were familiar, or a newer partner? I certainly would have a frank talk with the owner if a partner treated you in this manner, or seek a new vet if this was the owner. Veterinarians are *generalists* and wise vets understand that breeders and rescuers are *specialists*, often with far more experience in a particular niche than their own. Of course they poked the lil' kiki in the leg and NOT the upper back - you are not mis-remembering this; that is the new protocol as a leg is easier to amputate should cancer develop at the site of vaccination [sad but true].

It may help to give this baby some homeopathic Thuja, along with probiotics and additional cleaners such as activated charcoal or milkthistle. Poor lil baby ki. Kudos for rescuing and fostering!

Posted by Benji5781 (Freehold, Nj) on 04/16/2013

[SIDE EFFECTS]  My chihuahua had a reaction to distemper vaccination. Her face became swollen and she became lethargic. Pretty scary.

Posted by Christa (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) on 07/04/2012

[SIDE EFFECTS]  My 3 year old cat got his first distemper vaccination yesterday. Starting from about 5 hours after the shot, he lay down in a closet and didn't seem to move from that spot for about 16 hours. I got him to get up and walk around a bit after that period, but he was being very lethargic - not meowing at all (he's usually very vocal) or chasing a laser pointer (which he usually loves). After being up for about an hour he eventually went and hid under the bed. At that point I decided to call the vet because he never hides under there and I know cats do that when they're dying. The vet said these are all normal side effects from the vaccine and that he should be fine by this evening. He's come out from under the bed now, but he's still pretty much just laying around. I did get him to meow a few times though. He seems to be getting a bit better, but as he's an indoor cat I doubt I'll ever put him through this again.

Posted by Nancy (Lincolnshire, Il) on 12/10/2010

[WARNING!]  Per your request for info re animal vaccination reactions:

My DSH [domestic short-hair feline, a b/w tuxedo female, age approx. 15 yrs. , had her first negative reaction to a vaccination. A distemper booster turned the white skin on the back of her neck black. Nothing further happened, and that condition dissipated; however, that small section is now bald. Her vet, who is very good, was alarmed by this result and checked with the manufacturer - which claimed no other such reactions. The vet entered into my cat's files: NEVER EVER AGAIN GIVE THIS CAT A DISTEMPER SHOT. FYI. Thank you for this forum.

Posted by Jenn (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) on 09/11/2009

[SIDE EFFECTS]  This past April we took our two cats into our new vet to get their distemper shots done. This new vet required us to get those shots for our pets to be seen by them. For the whole time I've had my cats, one for 14 years and one for 7 years they have only ever recieved their distemper shot, not the rabies vacination. So we took our cats in for their shots and there was a BIG mis-communication between us and our vet. When the vet came into give the shots they gave our cats both the rabies and distemper shot. I honestly didn't think to ask why they had two needles. I know this was a big mistake on my part and it was our fault for not saying anything or asking why two needles. So after the shots when we paid we realized that we paid for rabies shots. I was very suprised and said to my husband that well it can't hurt them but next time we won't get those for them since we never had before. Well a week after the vacinations were given our younger cat who is 7 years old came down with a Urinary Tract Infection/UTI. He had never had a UTI ever in his whole life until a week after the vacination. My husband and I immediately both thought that it was related to the rabies shot since he had never had one before and now all of the sudden a UTI! So we took him in to be treated and I asked the vet could it be related to the rabies shot. Well naturally the vet said no, that it would have nothing to do with it. But then why would they say anything different? They make money off of it! Both of our cats are indoor cats, and have been their whole lives so this is why we don't get their rabies shots. I will not be so irresponsiable again when it comes to vacinations for my pets. I personally feel it was because of the rabies shot but who knows. I know my pets and I take very good care of them so I personally feel that the UTI was caused by the rabies vacination.

Replied by Kyrie
Dickinson, North Dakota
[SIDE EFFECTS]   Well I got my kitten vaccinated about three weeks ago now, and she has been slowly losing the use of her back legs. It was the panleuk combo vaccine (not sure what brand) and I didn't notice it at first. She just stopped jumping around. I assumed it was because she was depressed at the loss of our other cat a short time before, as she was also sleeping more. But now? She doesn't seem to have any feeling. You can pinch the left hind leg and get no response, and the right one twitches but little else. I am not sure if this is a reaction to the vaccine but it seems too coincidental not to be considering she is an indoor only cat. If anyone has any advice please let me know!
Replied by Michelle
Calgary, Alberta
I went to my holistic vet and I was suggested to see a homopathic that he works with and she recommented silicea 30C homopathic medicine for 3 days 3 times a day 1 pill crushed between two spoons. It worked great! If you can check with a homopathic vet or write to Dr. Pitcarn for help.

Posted by Ashley (Endicott, New York) on 09/09/2008

[SIDE EFFECTS]  My cat got his first distemper vaccine yesterday at the ripe old age of 3. He's been acting like he can't even hear me like he's mad at me, because I call his name and he is unresponsive, very lethargic, sick to his stomach, walking very slowly, having a hard time jumping up in places where he has never had any problem before, and all he wants to do is sleep. He is a very vocal cat and he hasn't made a sound since we came home from the vets office. He is also very cautious with where the injection was given, he seems sore in that place. If you have any idea if this is from the distemper or rabies shot or from something else please let me know because my cat is one of my best friends to me, because he is always there, and never judges you haha =] thank you.


Posted by Julie (Madison, WI) on 07/18/2008

[SIDE EFFECTS]  I had a 4 month old kitten die of cat distemper because I didn't get it's vaccines. I think that telling people not to get vaccines is wrong - it was the death of my little Angel.

Replied by Mary
Southaven, MS
Julie, I think if you read all the stories here, the overall message is not saying to stop all vaccinations on all pets. However, if these reactions were happening in children, someone somewhere would be conducting a study and there would be massive publick outcry. Pet owners should research and decide which vaccinations are needed for their pets. If an animal is immune to rabies from a prior vaccination, for example, giving it boosters will not make it "more" immune. Also, the dosage should be adjusted in most cases, and combo vaccines are especially hazardous. I'm thankful I found this site before I blindly followed my vet's advice to give unnecessary additional vaccinations.

Like I saw in one comment, I believe "less is more.

Replied by Fran
Spartanburg, SC
To Mary: Mary, many children DO have severe reactions to vaccines, but so far there is still no public outcry. Like most vets, most doctors will not admit that the symptoms are related to vaccinations. Our health care system - people & animals - does NOT put the interest of the patient first. Just an f.y.i.
Replied by Joyce
Joelton, Tn
Hello Mary, Just thought I'd let you know that there is a lot of hullabaloo going on about children and vaccinations. For starters go to and read about vaccinations - then travel on to International Medical Veritas Assn. (IMVA) and read "The Terror of Pediatric Medicine", a free down-loadable book. Are you aware that our federal government has made it a "no-no" to sue the vaccine manufacturers for damages from their vaccines, however I recently read in the newspaper that our federal government had settled a suit filed for damages to their child from vaccines. Yesterday I read in the The Tennessean (Nashville) a news release by federal health authorities in Atlanta (CDC?)on Thursday, which stated that measles cases were at highest level in decade. Of the l3l measles cases reported in the first 7 months of this year, "nearly half" of these cases were children of parents who rejected vaccines for fear that the vaccines cause autism. Worried doctors are concerned about the trend causing a further increase. If my grade school math is still intact, what I get from the above is that if "nearly half" of these measles cases are unvaccinated children, then more than half of these l3l children must have been vaccinated. If this is so obvious, how could those worried doctors have missed this, because it would indicate that the unvaccinated children's immune systems were functioning at least slightly better than the vaccinated children's were. Now I am very concerned that these worried health authority doctors are making health decisions for you, me, and all our loved ones.
Replied by Jae
Spanish Fork, Utah
In response to Mary's post that "many children DO have severe reactions to vaccines, but so far there is still no public outcry. Like most vets, most doctors will not admit that the symptoms are related to vaccinations. Our health care system - people & animals - does NOT put the interest of the patient first. Just an f.y.i."

I completely disagree with this comment. Prior to the administration of any vaccine in children, a parent or guardian must be given a written information sheet on the risks, benefits and alternatives to vaccines. This includes verbage on the side effects of vaccinations, and includes even rare side effects. At that point, the parent has the option to decline the vaccine. Further, prior to the vaccine being administered, the guardian must sign that they have received information on the vaccine and its side effects. This does not occur in animals. I have never been told of side effects of vaccinations in animals. Furthermore, there currently IS a public outcry by parents who are fearing that vaccines cause autism in children (which hasn't been validated). Although new to the subject of veterinary health, I am not new to human healthcare, and with transparency in quality and cost becoming the overwhelming focus, there is no alternative to putting patients first.

Replied by Mary
Southaven, MS
To Jae: The comment you refer to was not mine, but rather was made by "Fran". However, the public outcry you mention is not nearly loud enough. Handing parents a piece of paper before vaccinating children is not enough. I know of many parents who do opt out of many vaccinations for their children, but it is extremely difficult. Many, if not most, public schools will not allow a child to attend if their vaccination records are not current and complete. Most parents are not able to home school, and other options can be equally impractical. While I do see the necessity to protect children against crippling diseases such as polio where the benefit clearly outweighs the risk, I feel the government has taken a good thing too far and now mandates vaccinations against practically everything that we have vaccines for. My grand daughter (5 y.o.) was recently vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B (with her mother's approval, not mine) per her pediatrician's recommendation and (possibly) the school's insistance. What are the chances of her contracting either form of Hepatitis? Slim to none. While some parents are finding alternatives, the VAST majority blindly follow their doctor's recommendations, still unaware of the potential threat of side effects -- despite a piece of paper or verbage given to them in haste. I suspect if the same cautions were given to pet owners in this fashion, most would still find out the hard way like myself and many others have.

I suppose my point is that vaccinations in pets could and should be made safer. Doses need to be adjusted for weight, not "one size fits all". Vets also need to talk with pet owners as to which vaccinations their pets actually need rather than give them all "just to be sure". Vets make big bucks on shots, though, and until enough animal lovers are aware of (and angry about) the potential side effects, pet owners will blindly follow their vet's advice. Look at the original post that sparked this particular debate: "my kitty died of distemper and you're wrong to tell people not to get shots". So I reiterate, I feel pets should not be indiscriminately vaccinated -- we're over-doing a good thing. Some vaccinations are a necessary evil, but all are not without risk. We, as pet owners, must weigh the risk against the potential benefit.

As for humans, we're over-doing on that front as well, in my most humble opinion. My husband contracted a disabling auto-immune disorder at age 48 one month after a tetanus booster, and three months after the flu shot. Coincidence?? Try convincing a doctor of that.

Posted by Cindy (Clintonville, Wisc) on 06/10/2008

[SIDE EFFECTS]  hello! I just want to share what terrible results I'm having today after a distemper shot for my kitten,"1st one at about 12 wks".My kitten is a "plain jane barn-yard long-haired, that , I rescued after being abanded from the mother at 5 wks". Its been a tough 7 wks,"thanks to fleas,ear-mites, worms, & full-blown ring-worm, with the kitten has been on medication for a month for:! so,, today, I was very happy,, my cat was as healthy as hell & has been growing all her hair back & finalley "being a kitten". Until 3 p.m. today when she got her 1st shot,"the 1st hr. home ,: she was fine, 2 hrs later she was limping & meowing funny,,then ,, she just layed down & has"nt been up since,"& if you touch her,she is ready to bite you! I just forced a little water down her & she started to wake-up abit & actualley treid to play while staying in one spot,,"so,, things are looking up",, BUT,, this is nuts,, I was not told of any side effects at all!!!,, Shes still on an anti-biotic , but,, I'm not going to give that to her tonite, this poor kitty has already used about 5 of her 9 lives,,I want her around for awhile. I will be asking LOTS OF ??? before her booster shot & rabies shot!,, good luck to all of you & your pets!!! This web-site was a real eye opener & tear-jerker for me,, good-luck all!! Sorry,, no remedy from me except "ask tons of questions before a vet visit", bye!

Posted by Mike Curran (West Chester, PA) on 05/14/2008

[DEATH REPORTED]  My cat went in for her distemper shots yesterday afternoon. She was eleven weeks old. Today, the vet called us to see how she was. She would not walk, eat, or drink, and she could not stand up. She had to go to the emergency vet and went into cardiac arrest. The first vet told us that there was no possible way that it was an allergic reaction but the emergency vet said that it was very possible. I have never heard of a vet calling to check up on an animal. The kitten has died now, but it is still weird that no one can seem to find a reason for the sickness.

Replied by Rose
Wilmington, De
[SIDE EFFECTS]   Mike, I'm so sorry for your loss and have a similar story. They gave my 15 year old female cat a distemper shot and within 1 week, she became totally lethargic, wasn't eating or drinking and at the end of the week could not walk. They put her on steroids and I have to say they did help her but I don't want her to have to be on steroids the rest of her life. I found a holistic vet and she is doing accupucture and chirocpractic treatments on her. She was doing better for a while but mentally, she's just not the same and I'm afraid she never will be. She was 15 and extremely healthy. She was still a bit playful, had bright, shining eyes, ran, jumped, and played hide-and-seek with me. Now she lays around all day and night and basically only gets up to eat and barely eats at that. I miss her so much and could just cry every time I see her. I feel like I poisoned her and it's taking its toll on me.

I've since found out that the vaccines they are giving our pets (and children) have mercury in them -- the worst toxin on our planet and they are shooting it right into their bloodstream -- and telling us they need it. And why do they use mercury in our vaccines -- because it increases the shelf life.

They over vaccinate under the guise that it's necessary and I've since found out it's not. After a certain age, they just don't need it anymore and in fact, it builds up in their system and actually can hurt them.

Posted by Carmen (Silver Spring , MD) on 03/27/2008

[SIDE EFFECTS]  My cat (4 years, female, indoor-outdoor) got three days ago her distemper shot( renewed after 3 years) and for the first time the feline leukemia vaccination. Hours later she appeard tired, apathic, lack of appetite, desinterested and had a feaver. The vet gave her then shots of benadryl and steroids. Within hours she was better. But after another 24 hours she is now again tired, no appetite, hiding under beds, desinterested. I am veryconcerned. I am going back to the vet tonight.

Posted by Samantha (salem, WI) on 10/24/2007

[SIDE EFFECTS]  re: Distemper Vaccinations: One of my kittens [10 weeks] is having some sort of reaction to a distemper shot. He is very drousy, doesn't want to move, and has a sore abdomen. He mews when you touch a spot on his back & pick him up. He also will not purr and looks very uncomfortable. My other kitten who received the same shot has no visible side effects & is her usual energetic self. I'm really worried about my little boy kitten, he isn't acting normal. Please let me know if you know what's happening to him & how it can be fixed!!

Distemper (Dogs)
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Posted by Dianne (La Crosse, Wi) on 06/02/2013

[DEATH REPORTED]  Okay, I have to tell our story of our beloved lab named Mo. We took him for his distemper shot and he got so sick from it. He could not walk or eat. He was vomiting and jerking. We called the vet and he said he must be allergic to the shot. So we said please make sure that it is on his record for future shots. It took almost 2 weeks before he was better, but he was still acting a little strange. He would take off on us (we live in the country) which he NEVER did before. There is a campground about a quarter of a mile away and he ended up there and they called the Humane society to pick him up. We called over there and they said they had him and they were getting his vet record. We said he was current on all shots which the record would show and we would be over to pick him up. They said we had to pick him up before a half an hour or it was an "extra" charge after noon. We got there before noon and they had given him ANOTHER distemper shot EVEN though they had his record and it showed he was allergic and current and that would be $90 please! What? you have his record and it says he's allergic and you gave it to him anyway? He was so sick, he went blind. We took him for emergency vet visit and they said he had brain cancer. Well if he did it was from the freaking shot! Some "humane" society!! They killed our dog-period and I will never forgive them. He was a happy vibrant just fine dog before those two shots! There is nothing "humane" about giving a dog a shot he didn't need and already had when it clearly showed on the vet report he was allergic to it for a stinking $90!

Posted by Linda (Medina, Ohio) on 11/13/2011

[DEATH REPORTED]  My 11 1/2 year old springer spaniel, Abby, had a distemper shot on Oct. 13, 2011 and we had to put her to sleep on Nov. 1. I think it is from the shot. We took her and my other dog, an irish setter named Butch, to the vet for their shots. Also, my irish setter had enlarged lymph nodes. At the vet he didn't get the shot but had other tests. She had a slight limp from jumping off our deck. But 12 days after the shot her limp go really bad and her face got droopy. We took her back to vet and she said her shoulder showed atrophy and she had bell's palsy. She gave us something for the shoulder and gel for her eye on the bell's palsy side. That was a friday. Over the weekend she got worse. On Monday she couldn't walk. Her back legs gave out. We took her back to vet and they kept her overnight. The next day she couldn't move from the neck down. They had given her steroids. She had to be put to sleep. It was heartbreaking. I love her and miss her so much. She did have some arthritis issues but no like that. The other dog that was diagnosed with lymphoma is still around taking medication. I think this all was from the distemper shot.

Posted by Danni (Ambler, Pa) on 11/07/2011

I took my 2 year old perfectly healthy pomeranian in for a routine vaccination this past saturday. 3 hours after he recieved his distemper vaccine his left leg went lame. I brough him to the ER, they gave him benadryl and steroids and kept him for a few hours, I called to check on him and was told his right leg went lame as well. He now is paralyzed from the waist down and cannot control his legs or bladder. I moved him from one ER to the next to try to get some answers--no one believed me that it was from the vaccine.

They insisted that he must have a disc or spinal cord injury. They did a CT scan and an MRI--no disc problem was present. They found that his spinal cord was dying off rapidly. They are monitoring him now hoping that it will not travel up his spinal cord. They want to do a spinal sugery but I will not let them because I know in my heart my dog was not injured. It has to be a side effect of either the vaccine or the needle. Does anyone have any insight?? I am truly devastated. I have already spent $6k and no results. I will try anything for him. Please pray for my little Carlos and send any helpful information my way!!!

Replied by Linda
Toronto , Ontario, Canada
See a homeopathic vet right away!!! Thuja is supposed to help with reactions to vaccines. I'm sure they have more helpful remedies. Also one that knows animal acupuncture. Good luck!!!!
Replied by Linda
Medina, Ohio
My dog died recently. We had to put her to sleep. I know it had to be from the distemper shot. I am going to say something to the vet this week. I would like the name of the company that the vaccine came from. I want to contact them. Dogs and cats are being vaccinated too much. I am going to pursue this so my little dog did not die in vain. I think you should do the same. We have to do something. These companies and the vets are making loads of money and putting our precious pets in jeopardy.

Posted by Delaine (Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts) on 11/05/2011

My toy poodle is running around like crazy and has been whining for several hours off and on. He must be in a lot of pain from a distemper booster shot he just received. He keeps digging and burying his head. How do we calm him down?

Replied by Pia
Frankston, Vic. Australia
11/05/2011: Delaine from Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts: I want to know if your dog surrived, I have a small toy breed and she is having reactions and this is some of them!