Booster Shot Side Effects in Dogs

| Modified on Feb 05, 2023

There are at least ten different vaccines available for dogs. Puppies often receive their first Parvo shot at the age of 5 weeks. Shots are sometimes given as single shots (as an annual Rabies shot is commonly given) and sometimes vaccines are combined. Combination shots are meant to protect dogs from as many as 7 different diseases. The more diseases covered in a vaccine, the more likely it is that a dog will react to his vaccination. Some vaccines are more likely to cause a reaction than others. The Leptospirosis vaccine is commonly known to cause side effects. The Lyme and Rabies shots are more likely to cause reactions than Bordetella, Parainfluenza or Parvovirus. But even shots that are considered to be "low risk" shots have still caused serious side effects and death in many pets.

Earth Clinic readers have reported many side effects from booster shots. These side effects include lameness, unusual odor, cold symptoms, pain, lethargy, panting, diarrhea, vomiting, hives and loss of appetite. More serious side effects include seizures, shock and epilepsy. It is not uncommon to have a reaction at the site of the vaccine. In the long term, cysts or tumors have been known to form at the vaccination site.

Reducing Risks of Booster Shot Side Effects

To avoid side effects from booster shots in your dog, avoid getting multiple shots or combination shots. It is less convenient to take a pet to the vet multiple times to space out vaccinations, but this decreases the risk of side effects and also will allow you to know if your dog reacts badly to a particular vaccine. Dogs should never be vaccinated when they are sick, or recovering from surgery. Receiving vaccinations when the body is already compromised will make side effects more likely. Educate yourself so that you know which vaccinations your pet really needs. Show dogs or dogs that have frequent contact with other dogs are at a higher risk than perhaps a farm dog that rarely is around other dogs to contract certain diseases, like Bordatella. A farm dog on the other hand is more likely to come in contact with Rabies or Lyme disease than most dogs that live in the city.

Remedies for Booster Shot Side Effects

If your dog does experience side effects from his booster shots, there are natural remedies that Earth Clinic readers have found helpful.

Homeopathic Thuja is commonly used for pets when they react badly to a vaccine. This is a good remedy to keep in the home ahead of time, to be ready for a vaccine should it happen. Homeopathic remedies generally have a long shelf life.

Ted from Bangkok recommends DMSO if seizures are a side effect of a pet vaccine. 10 cc's of DMSO added to the drinking water.

Children's Benadryl is used for reactions that appear to be allergic reactions in nature.

For vomiting and diarrhea, activated charcoal powder can be mixed in food or water and given every couple of hours - 1/4 teaspoon for a 25 pound dog (1/2 teaspoon for a 50 pound dog, etc.) Activated charcoal powder also helps to detox from the vaccine.

An dog with severe vomiting and diarrhea may need to be feed liquids with a syringe very often to avoid dehydration. A child's oral re-hydration solution would provide electrolytes and would be better than plain water for a very sick dog.

"Timh" from Kentucky regularly recommends Milk Thistle to detoxify the liver. Milk Thistle capsules can be opened and sprinkled onto the food.

If your dog has had side effects from a booster shot, please be sure to send us feedback.

Scroll down to read Earth Clinic reader's experiences with booster shots for dogs, their side effects, and cures.


1 User Review

Posted by Coleen (Brandon, Fl) on 10/16/2013

I took my chinese crested powderpuff in for his booster shots, heartworm test, dewormer. He has a bad case of hives now which I am treating with 1/2 a benedryl. It does seem to help some but he has been terribly uncomfortable. He is 101/2 and I am considering not having any more yearly boosters. I do hope this is only temporary.

Side Effects

26 User Reviews

Posted by ph0t0journey365 (Camano Island, WA) on 02/04/2023

Our now 6 year old GSD has had side effects to his booster shots EVERY time, especially the rabies and distemper one, even if it is the three year booster. We have had him since he was four weeks old. He didn't seem to have any adverse reactions to his first set of shots, which was great. That last series of first shots where he was old enough to get the rabies and distemper shot was not fun. He exhibited flu like symptoms for months and had an ear infection that would not go away for almost six months. Then, he turned a little over a year old and had to get his booster rabies shot. Ear infection came back in less than 12 hours after the shot and did not go away for more than a year. Happened again with his third year rabies/distemper shot at age four. Now, we have gotten him his final booster set, including parvo/lepto and bordatella that an adoption agency made me get so we could bring home a beautiful Pyrenees boy last year and, after being ear infection free for almost another year or so, he is in pain all the time again with the ear infections. We are not talking something mild here, but an ear infection that has him yelping and crying every time he moves or scratches his head. We have been treating it with Olive Oil and Tea Tree Oil, gently warmed and rubbed into the ear, which seems to help, but we already know it isn't going to go away probably for another six months to a year. Aside from just plain rabies shots because we have to by law, I am not getting ANY of my dogs any other vaccines. This insanity has to stop. They are essentially making us kill our kids and pets.

Side Effects
Posted by Patricia (Texas) on 01/09/2020

I have a Chihuahua he is 2 years old he had his D.H.I.P Booster and Parvo/Corona on 1/8/2020 and his back right leg is real sore he can't jump, he want eat and he is throwing up but he still wants to ride in the car and be hug on.

Side Effects
Posted by Patricia (Texas) on 01/09/2020

I have a Chihuahua he is 2 years old he had his D.H.I.P Booster and Parvo/Corona on 1/8/2020 and his back right leg is real sore he can't jump, he want eat and he is throwing up but he still wants to ride in the car and be hug on.

Side Effects
Posted by Shanon (Las Vegas, Nv) on 01/05/2016

Our 9 year old Boxer received several booster shots recently (approx 4 to 5 weeks ago).

My boyfriend's daughter works at a dog daycare/vet clinic and gets some services for free. She had mentioned this to us and said to let her know next time Roscoe needs anything. So we asked her about having his nails trimmed and she suggested she take him to work with her to have the service done. We said fine and off he went for the day.

When she brought him home she announced she'd had several boosters given to him and the vet had checked him for arthritis in his hips and blah blah blah. We were not thrilled and we've already decided next time we'll just pay someone to clip his nails because we feel she way overstepped her boundaries, but anyhow...

Beginning about a week after this all happened we noticed he smelled different. Not really foul, but different. He smells kinda like peanut butter with a dash of "dog needs a bath" smell on it.

Also we have noticed him occasionally dragging one foot (on the injection side) slightly and being a bit clumsy though his hind end. These symptoms neither of us have ever seen him exhibit before. We BOTH noticed.

Replied by Theresa
(Mpls., Mn)

Hello Shannon,

Sorry to hear about the over stepping [step]daughter :-(

The catch all term for what has occurred with your boy is 'vaccinosis'; this is a series of events and not just one thing. Commonly an adverse reaction to vaccination results in yeast over growth, often in the GI tract, which then manifests outwardly with skin funk and funny odors.

First things first: make sure you are feeding high end groceries - grain free kibble or home made or RAW.

Dosing with homeopathic Thuja Occidentalis is also a good idea.

Organ cleansers such as Milk Thistle [1 pill am and pm for 10 days], and bentonite clay and activated charcoal also a good idea.

Given that there very likely is a systemic yeast infection in the works, Ted's borax protocol for dogs would be my next step.

Topically I would consider Ted's Mange Remedy as a start for one dip, and then follow up with weekly or twice a week dips in Ted's Anti-fungal/Anti-staph dip - you can use this to flush the ears when you do the body dip.

Lastly, after the borax protocol, I would begin supplementing probiotics/acidophillus - perhaps starting with DDS w/FOS or PB8, and then rotate among several brands so the various strains of bacteria are varied. Typically you would dose 1 brand for 3 weeks and then alternate to a different brand, and keep on in that way.

Please report back!

Replied by Phyllis
(Tuscumbia, Alabama)

Hi Shanon,

First of all yes she overstepped in a big way. Secondly the vet should not have been giving shots to a non patient without the OWNER'S permission and should be reported. The only vet giving medications to an animal is their own vet who knows whether they may be allergic to certain medications.

Second, take him to his own vet, it sounds to me like the foot dragging and clumsy movements could be serious. The smell may be as simple as yeast build up which is easily dealt with but check with his vet to be sure.

Side Effects
Posted by Monie (Co) on 08/11/2015

My maltese died within 5 days of receiving vaccines.

Side Effects
Posted by Diana (California) on 05/08/2015

I will never agree with any vet who wants to give my cat multiple shots. Possibly they no longer do it. But my great 16 pound LynxPoint Siamese whose big heart personality won over everyone who ever met him, was given multiple shots at a traditional vet and ever after that, came down in failing health until he died a few months later. During that time, I took him back to the vet and my cat tried to attack the fellow who gave him the shot. (He was good at this because he had practiced on dogs. For some reason, though he was a big mushball, he had it out for dogs and whenever he saw one, he would run and jump on their backs and dig in his claws. The dog would be in full alarm not knowing where the attacker was! My big cat got away with this multiple times. One day, when he was inside the house, a huge German Shepard came to the window. He was the largest G.S. I'd EVER laid eyes on. My cat saw him from a bedroom and took off like lightning heading for the dog. Fortunately, there was a sliding glass door window between the two. My cat didn't let that stand in his way. Leaping up towards the dog, he ended up spread-eagled on the window like a pancake. I gave thanks ...)

Later I read that multiple shots confuse the immune system and that down months later, cats come down with a problem. Owners don't make the connection back to the shots and the vet is never questioned or held responsible.

Side Effects
Posted by Marleyspark (Ozark, Missouri) on 05/31/2013

Our 12 year-old black tom-cat (12.4lb) was taken for his booster shots FELV, FVRCCP RABIES FELINE 1 YR BOOSTER. He was also given 2 worm pills and Frontline. This is usually an annual visit but last year I opted him out - with the opinion that, at his age, booster shots every year didn't seem 'right'. Today the vet told me that it would not be a problem that we had missed a year, so we went ahead and got the shots. First side effect (and least worrying) is that he got a ravenous appetite and went straight to his food bowl once home. Can put that down to nerves (he is nervous in nature).

Of most concern: 7 hours sleep later... At 6pm he is weak. His back legs are not supporting him very well and his back-end keeps keeling to one side; accompanied with rapid breathing. He looks very tired. His eyes seem a very teensy bit crossed. He is also 'swallowing' as if he has a sore throat (maybe this is due to the long implement placed down his throat to administer the two worm pills) - and he is Not interested in drinking water, but he ate some cat food. He managed to jump up onto a chair and doesn't seem to be feeling ill. The vet's response to these symptoms was, 'feed him and if he doesn't improve by tomorrow bring him in and we'll take a look at him'. I pray he's okay! Our other cat 'same age but female' had all the same treatments and she is completely fine.

Side Effects
Posted by Kris (Las Vegas, NV) on 05/08/2013

I took I my 11 yr old sharpei mix for "annual vaccines" and within 7 days she had exploded with cancer and was dead. A year earlier, she had a hanging cancerous growth removed from near a nipple. The vet believed it had not spread. She showed no signs of any mammary involvement and was a healthy, active dog until the vaccines. Within 24 hours of the vaccines, she had labored breathing which worsened day by day. Within 4 days, large mammary masses appeared and her back legs swelled. One week to the day of the vaccinations, she died in the back seat of my car on the way to the vet for the 4th time that week (not the same vet that did the vaccines! ) I believe her immune system had been healthy and had kept the cancer at bay, but the vaccines affected her immune system and allowed the cancer to explode. I miss her terribly and blame the "4 in 1" for her death.

Side Effects
Posted by Mermaid7c (Naperville, Illinois) on 11/30/2012

I took my dog Josie to a vaccine clinic and she got a 3 way lepto/parvo/distemper shot (3 year). This was at 8PM August 1st. The next morning she was limping (on the leg whose shoulder got the shot). By noon her paw was curled up to her chest and here at the end of November she still can't use her leg. She's been xray'd, and treated with multiple medications. It seems to be nerve damage. She also started itching and her coat is very dry. The itching seems to be getting worse. Don't know if it was the shot or one of the treatments. I wish I'd read about these vaccines. I would have never taken her in. She doesn't live in the back yard with the skunks and raccoons, she sleeps on a pillow next to my bed. Anybody know anything that might help? She's a cocker spaniel/border collie rescue. I've had her 6 years, and she never had a problem or sick day in her life.

Side Effects
Posted by Susanne (St. Joseph, Mo Missouri) on 06/12/2012

I just got my 4 yr old mini doxie revac'd this Spring. He had rabies, distemper and bordatella(nasal). On my way home, the dog puked all over the car and all over me when I tried to help him out onto the grass. He was sick for several hours, slept most of the evening and was a little lethargic when he did go out to pee. He seemed fine the next day. I thought it might be a reaction to the shots but never thought of an allergic reaction. I just thought that maybe it was a little too strong for a mini guy. He was a rescue and I didn't know much about him and my other dog was much bigger.

Yesterday, I took my 12 yr old yellow lab to the vet for her shots... Same ones. We were going out of town and I needed to board both dogs so I got the bordatella(nasal) for her too. I was 5 blocks from home and she puked all over the back seat. Big dog, big mess. I pulled over and let her out and we stayed there thru 3 more upheavals. After about 20 minutes, there was no more and we headed home. Things promptly got worse after we got home. More puking was followed by my beloved Angel not being able to breathe normally. Her body was wretching while she strained so hard to get oxygen. Her tongue was hanging out, slobber everywhere and then her tongue turned purple. I had already realized this was a severe allergic reaction and we were in the car headed back to the vet. I didn't think I was going to make it in time. She was given an iv of prednisone and put on oxygen. For 2.5 hours I watched my old girl desperately try to get oxygen and there was nothing I could do but be there. Finally I saw some pink come back to her tongue and the breathing distress she was in, lessened. We bounced back and forth with breathing labored and getting calmer for another half hour before she finally was able to lay her head down and stretch out with minimal discomfort. Her breathing still wasn't right but she was so much better than before. The vet thinks that it was the nasal bordatella because it was her lungs that shut down. She has never had one before because I have never boarded her before. He put a red flag on her chart to make sure she was never given the nasal dosage again and told me there was a shot that could be given. I told him she would never have another shot for the rest of her life. NEVER! The prednisone was supposed to work in about 20 minutes.... NOT SO MUCH! She had 2 hours of oxygen with a very caring young man that laid on the floor with her to make sure the tube stayed near her mouth so she had pure oxygen. He even kissed her head and pet her as he could see the terror in her eyes also. I know that I almost lost my Angel Face and am very grateful that I had thought to look up symptoms these shots might cause(because of the puking) and happened to read this site. All it took was reading one story and we were on the road to the vet.

Thank you all for sharing and helping to save my dog, my best friend. Her "brother" Jax, the mini doxie will not ever have to go thru any of this either.

Side Effects
Posted by Cinderella (The Villages, Florida) on 03/16/2012

I just want to say that last year I took my 11 year old poodle to the vet for her yearly shots, rabies, etc. And when I got her home she went into shock, I called the vet and he said bring her right in and they had to do something to save her life. I do not know what they did. She seemed fine after a few days, so once again I took her in this year and the same thing happened and now they are saying she has a thyroid problem, kidney problems, she is on an antibiotic and liver meds to the tune of 80.00 just for that. I can tell you that there is no question in my mind that it was the vaccines and I will never take her to the vet and get them again!!!!!

She is 12 years old now and I will let her live her life without them. She only goes in our yard to go potty and otherwise except for her walks is never out of the house and on her walks she is on a leash with us. So I am not worried about rabies, or kennel cough, etc. when I was a young lady growing up 50 years ago there was no such thing as taking your dog in for vaccines and they lived to be old old dogs of 14 yrs or more, so please watch those vaccines something is going on.

Side Effects
Posted by Laura (Lees Summit, Mo) on 01/23/2012

My dog Xander had a bad reaction to his yearly rabies and distemper vaccination. He is a German Short-hair Pointer, 11 years old, 66 pounds. He has been treated for several years for hip dysplasia, arthritis and urinary incontinence. This is the first time he had a bad reaction to rabies and distemper vaccinations. He got the shots in the morning. For the rest of the day and evening he would not walk without assistance and would not eat the food he loves in which I put his medicines. He lay down all day and night and held his head at an unusual angle. We thought he was going to die. The following day he seemed back to normal and we are grateful for that. In the future, we won't repeat these vaccinations for this particular indoor dog.

Side Effects
Posted by Brian (North Providence, Rhode Island) on 12/12/2011

The vet gave my dog ( pitbull) 5 year old male a canine booster shot knowing that he was ill. He had a lung disease called canine influenza and she still gave my dog the booster shot. The next night he stood up, cried, and then dropped to his death. I am wondering if you know if I have any options or recourse with this vet. I feel they killed my dog.

Side Effects
Posted by Niki (Atherstone, Warwickshire, England) on 11/05/2011

I have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (boy) who is 22 months old. We bought him when he was about 9 weeks old. His skin and coat were in great condition. We took him for his first set of puppy jabs and shortly after that, he developed a skin rash, which got worse and covered his whole body. We spent 100's on him at the vets including skin scrapes, which did not reveal any problems. The vet then suggested biopsies, which after the skin scrapes and state I got him back in, I declined. I researched the net and thought that perhaps he was suffering from a poor immune system. So I started feeding him spirulina, echinacea and goldenseal tincture and biotin. After a couple of months of this, his skin and coat were in absolute tip top condition.

We decided that as he was not going to be stud, it would be fairer for him to be castrated which was done at the end of August this year. He was due for a booster so he had this when his stitches were taken out which was about two months ago. Within a week or so of having the booster, he started to get a couple of spots around his neck and head again, which have spread all over him and he constantly licks his feet. I have read some articles on the net, which suggest that maybe the booster was the cause. I have since phoned the vet, who was quite positive that the booster would not cause this reaction.

I just feel that it is too much of a coincidence that the all over body rash happened after his first booster then the second. It took ages to get him back to full health the first time round, which involved hypo-allergenic food (which he still eats), herbal treatments and trying different bedding, also buying a steamer to steam clean the house. I feel exasperated as I am back to square one with him. He is spotty, itchy and uncomfortable and I am bathing him and applying neem oil, continuing with the herbs and generally trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

I am wondering if there are any other herbal treatments I can try. I think that there has to be some connection with the booster as nothing else in his life has changed.

Any comments or advice would be appreciated. Thanks for listening.

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