What are Vaccine Reactions and Sarcoma in dogs?
Vaccine reactions in dogs can occur in a number of ways, including immediate reactions as well as long-term responses. Recognizing the signs of a reaction or other vaccine response is key to preventing issues. The most common vaccine reaction occurs shortly after a vaccination has been given.
Dogs may experience symptoms such as swelling or redness at the injection site or pain when touched in the area. Larger reactions may progress to full body or facial swelling, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and can be life threatening depending on the location of swelling.
Vaccine reactions occur when the body has an over the top immune response to the vaccine given. Many vaccines are given as either a live-strain or killed-strain, which may cause the body to react in different ways. The body then mounts an immune response to the location of the vaccine, much like it would for a bug bite or sting. The body swells as cells filled with histamines reach the area. Vaccine reactions can be life threatening, especially if the swelling is near the face or throat, blocking the airways.
Sarcomas are a long-term cancerous reaction to a vaccine. The exact mechanism as to why a sarcoma may appear is unknown, however it is less common in dogs than in cats. Sarcomas are a tumor that appears at the site of previous reactions, and can be deadly if it is allowed to spread to other parts of the body. The most common vaccine associated with sarcomas in dogs is the rabies vaccine.
How can I prevent Vaccine Reactions and Sarcoma in my dog?
Several things can be done to help prevent a vaccine reaction from happening in your dog. Usually these measures are taken after an initial reaction has been spotted. Dogs that react to vaccines are usually given an antihistamine 15-20 minutes prior to their set of vaccines, to prevent the body from reacting. Owners are then advised to watch out for any signs of a reaction.
Sarcomas are not as preventable, mainly due to their unknown mechanism, however some steps can be taken to minimize the spread of them. Many vaccines are now given in a set location such as a limb, with the rabies vaccine usually given in the right hind leg thigh. This is beneficial for tracking what vaccines cause sarcomas as well as for their removal. A leg with a sarcoma can be amputated to prevent the spread of the cancer if a sarcoma appears, whereas a vaccine given in the back of the neck has little that can be done.
What should I do if I suspect Vaccine Reaction or Sarcoma in my dog?
Minor vaccine reactions can be given an over the counter antihistamine to help stop swelling. Your veterinarian can provide the dosage appropriate for your dog’s size. Major reactions should be brought into a veterinary clinic or emergency clinic for care immediately, to prevent or stop any life-threatening reactions. Most vets will administer an injectable antihistamine that works more quickly than oral medications, and can also provide any life saving techniques such as CPR, oxygen or other medications in the event of a severe reaction.
If a growth appears in the location where your dog has been vaccinated, it is best to bring it to the attention of your veterinarian. Your vet will most likely perform tests such as a skin scraping (to check for bacterial causes), or may aspirate or biopsy the lump if a tumor is suspected. These tissues are then sent to a lab for analysis. If the tissue is found to be a sarcoma, your vet can suggest several options including removal of the sarcoma itself, or possible amputation if the tumor is spreading. Your vet will also examine the rest of the body to make sure the tumor has not already spread. If the tumor has spread, more aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy may be recommended.
Natural remedies for Treating Vaccine Reactions
Sweet Violet and Red Clover can be used as an herbal remedy for minor vaccine reactions in pets. The two herbs help to detoxify the body and clear it of the histamines that cause the reaction. German Chamomile can also be used to soothe the body and any skin irritation from the vaccines. Natural antihistamine remedies may also be useful if given prior to a vaccine, however your veterinarian should be alerted if they have been given prior to any vaccines. Many naturalists also recommend the use of a killed-virus vaccine rather than a modified-life to decrease the chances of a reaction.