I’m apparently still on this immunology kick, because I seem to be finding it everywhere. Heck, I recently learned that we’ve cured the allergic response to peanuts and eggs in lab mice. Check out the link, the author is hilarious and the material is interesting.
These two articles offer a great look at the overall prevalence and risk factors associated with vaccine-associated adverse events. The components within the vaccine that cause these events are the antigen itself, adjuvants, preservatives, stabilizers, and residues from the tissue culture used to grow the vaccine (Moore, 2005). Vaccine reactions are similar to any acute allergic reaction, and can present with a variety of mild to severe symptoms. The mild being lethargy, anorexia, fever, edema (generalized or local to the injection site), pruitis, uticaria (hives or wheals), and pain at the injection site; the severe being vomiting, dyspnea (labored or shortness of breath), and anaphylaxis. There’s a lot of information about when certain symptoms tended to occur at intervals after the vaccines were given, but any reaction that isn’t within the first 3 days is pretty much never going to be life threatening. If anaphylaxis is going to occur, it’s going to be immediately following vaccination.
The really useful information was the breakdown of risk factors that can be used for client communication. I’ve decided to discuss them here, broken down into cat and dog categories.
First, let’s start with cats. I almost like these numbers more because you don’t have to take into account bias based on animal or breed size, as most cats fall into the <20 lbs category. Nonetheless you still have to remember that a 4 pound kitten does way only a fraction of that 5 year old chubby (BCS >5 on a 9 point scale) longhair it will grow to be.
So the first two risk factors require a little bit of thinking in context to explain the numbers. It seems that cats weighing 2-4 Kg (4.4-8.8 lbs) and approximately one year of age are most at risk compared to other weights and ages. The high numbers for these groups can be explained by the number of first encounter events that occur. If you’re recording vaccine reactions, you will record less in older age groups and higher weights (low weight under 10 lbs is going to be suggestive of a young age rather than a smaller cat), because if an adverse event occurred at a young age, either the animal is no longer vaccinated or steps are taken to reduce its risk (medication, strict scheduling, vaccine selection). That being said, just because the numbers are higher by circumstance, this information is very relevant in a clinical setting. Knowing the epidemiology of these events can help technicians at clinics determine when the discussion of vaccine reactions is “routine” or “protocol”, or when it really needs to be a time to educate the client. Vaccine reactions may need to be just a bullet point when Schrodinger is there for his 4th rabies booster and a discussion when he’s receiving his kitten series.
Sex and neuter status have a large impact on reaction risk as well. Intact males actually have a lower risk of adverse events than neutered males and spayed and intact females. Apparently, estrogen has an immune boosting effect, while testosterone has an immune suppressing effect. This benefits intact males when it comes to all allergic reactions (and possibly auto-immune disorders).
Here’s the big one, and the one clinics have the most control over. With each additional vaccine given in a single visit, the risk of an adverse event increases by 28% in cats. That’s huge. Any cases of severe anaphylaxis or death recorded in the study were preceded by the animals receiving 3 or more vaccines in one visit. So clearly the biggest thing any clinic can do to prevent adverse events (or at least severe ones) is to adopt a vaccination schedule that prevents multiple vaccinations from occurring within the same visit. This can be difficult as clients will not want to end up paying for multiple exams throughout the year, but with boosters outside of rabies, exams shouldn’t be necessary unless an annual or other scheduled exam is due. As far as specific vaccines being more prone to adverse events, the only suggestive evidence was when both FVRCP and FeLV were given within the same visit. This is explained by both having two concurrent vaccinations given, and also the theory that vaccines containing multiple antigens or covering multiple serovars (multivalent) are more likely to illicit reactions. Interestingly, while clients are often scared by the potential for vaccine caused neoplasia from the rabies vaccine, it was among the lowest reaction rates observed with the administration of a single vaccine.
Dogs had much more biased data within the age and breed groups because there is an obvious relationship between body mass and the potential for reaction. When looking at the dog population, a chihuahua can be as little as 6% of the weight of a bullmastiff, yet they receive the same 1ml dose of vaccine. This means that an 8 lb Chihuahua is going to receive proportionally 15 times more vaccine than a 120 lb bullmastiff. Not surprisingly, this causes a bit of inflation in the number of reactions in groups that are smaller in size, such as toy breeds and puppies. The highest risk group in size was 0-10Kg (0-22lbs) and the highest risk age was approximately 2 years of age (with higher rates for <2 than the rates of >2).
Just like I mentioned before when talking about cats, the greatest risk factor for reactions in dogs was the amount of vaccines given in one visit. The difference though, is how the large weight distribution in dogs makes this even more important. Small dogs (<10Kg) are similar to cats in that their risk increases by 24% with every additional vaccine administered that visit, while large dogs (10-45Kg) increase their risk by 12 percent. All 3 dogs in the study that suffered fatal reactions received 4 or more vaccines at once.
Breed dispositions were difficult to pinpoint, as the suspected breeds are all small breeds which suffer a higher rate of reaction already due to their size. There is suspicion that dachshunds may be predisposed to allergic reactions in general, but so far the evidence is inconclusive concerning vaccines. Only the Lyme vaccine appeared to carry a higher risk than any other, showing again that, with the exception of neoplasia concerns, rabies does not carry with it any additional risk. Spayed and neutered animals, as in cats, are more susceptible to reactions; however the difference between intact and spayed females is much larger in dogs than in cats (where they are nearly identical). Dogs do seem to display an interesting trend where vaccine reactions are more likely to occur on the 3rd booster in a series, likely catching clinicians and clients off guard as they have received the first two without incident. This just states again that the puppy and kitten periods (and new patients) are of much more relevance when discussing vaccine reactions with clients.
The articles are both great, and contain an excellent statistical analysis of millions of animals. They provide a great overall picture of the epidemiology of vaccine-associated adverse events, and are definitely worth a read for both veterinary doctors and staff. Knowing a couple of the more important statistics can reassure the client and lend credibility to technicians that are responsible for discussing these issues.
Moore, G., DeSantis-Kerr, A., Guptill, L., Glickman, N., Lewis, H., & Glickman, L. (2007). Adverse events after vaccine administration in cats: 2,560 cases (2002–2005) Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231 (1), 94-100 DOI: 10.2460/javma.231.1.94
Moore GE, Guptill LF, Ward MP, Glickman NW, Faunt KK, Lewis HB, & Glickman LT (2005). Adverse events diagnosed within three days of vaccine administration in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 227 (7), 1102-8 PMID: 16220670
In 2004, we had a 5 year old female husky to die within 2 hours of receiving her vaccination. She’d had shots every year (DA2PP) without any problems. This year the vet added the Corona Vaccine which is what we think killed her.
We took her for an necropsy immediately to UGA Vet School. Receiving vet said there was no doubt she died from vax reaction. The vet doing the necropsy had the cell phone number to my vet (they knew each other), made personal calls to each other. I think to protect my vet from a law suit or what-not, the vet doing the necropsy reported her death inconclusive, died from swelling in brain (encyphelytis). Thus, this tragedy could not be reported to the vaccine companies!!!!
The same day, a 3 year old Shih Tzu had what I call neurological effects. He was despondent and screamed if we touched him for 3 days. Its like all his nerves were very sensitive. For an addl 7 days he was distant and a touch-me-not and whimpered if we touched him. He had never had any reactions to a vaccine before. I also contribute this to the corona that was added to the vaccine.
The vet REFUSED to believe that his vaccine caused either of these. Yet, on the same day I had 2 dogs severely affected.
I have since learned that corona only affects puppies; thus, no need to ever be given to an adult dog. Yet, most vets include this in the vaccine protocol. I now buy my own vaccinations and give the shots myself on a more conservative protocol due to the new findings of how we are way over vaccinating our pets.
I encourage all to learn about the vaccines their pets are getting and do not accept a vets word that all are safe. He’s in business to make money. When adding the corona vax in 2004, the vet charged an addl $30 per vaccine!!!!!
I’m sorry to hear about your animals, that must have been terrible. I do want to maybe provide you with more information on some of these vaccines, as you yourself say “I encourage all to learn about the vaccines their pets are getting”, which I wholeheartedly agree with!
I do agree that it is unusual for an adult animal to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Primarily because the efficacy of the vaccine is very low (my clinic doesn’t even keep it in stock), and that, yes you are correct in saying that coronavirus is much more dangerous to puppies than adult dogs.
I don’t have the information to say that your husky died as a result of a vaccine reaction, but if he did, that still does not make the coronavirus vaccine any more dangerous than the vaccines he had received previously, it was just what he was specifically allergic to. Clearly your dog (or dogs) may have been allergic to something within the corona vaccine that was not present in the others, but that doesn’t mean that it is dangerous for all dogs. Imagine your dog had a peanut allergy, just because he can have a dangerous reaction from eating peanuts doesn’t mean that they aren’t safe for the rest of the population.
It sounds like unfortunately your animals may have won the lottery in terns of susceptibility to reaction from the coronavirus vaccine. Just like those three dogs in this study that unfortunately died from reaction. But remember that that was three dogs out of 1.2 million, compared to thousands of non-vaccinated dogs that are killed by diseases that could have been prevented by proper vaccination.
I admire that you still vaccinate even after such a traumatic event, and fully support your decision to vaccinate at home. It is true that more and more vaccines are switching to a three year protocol to avoid over vaccination, just make sure you do understand when the efficacy of your home vaccinations wane, and that you booster accordingly. And make sure that if you ever do see signs of a reaction again, you do immediately take your animal to the vet.
One more thing, vets do not report reactions to vaccine companies, a lot of research into reaction rates is done before the vaccines are ever sold (which has it’s own sample bias, but sufficient enough for safety), and anything after production is primarily through research done by the AVMA and the like (just like this article!). Each vaccine comes with a warning about anaphylaxis just like ibuprofen comes with a warning about stomach ulcers, which doesn’t make them unsafe, but reminds us that any reactions are serious and that you need to be ready to have a vet intervene if something does occur.
I’m sorry to hear about Joe’s pet. I think we pet owners should be aware on what type of vaccines should we give to our pets. It is important to take note of the date because that will determine the next vaccine schedule. I have 2 dogs, just had their vaccines 3 weeks ago, good thing they are still okay and never experience any negative effects.