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5 Biggest Lessons From a Canine Adverse Vaccine Reaction

Grieving continues. Amid walking that sad road, I’ve tried to distill the most important lessons – not just for me, but things most likely to transfer into your lives with your pets.

adverse vaccine reaction veterinary cage signs

1. Take any and all adverse vaccine reactions seriously. As I first revealed in What I Didn’t Know and When I Didn’t Know It, I thought Lilly’s earlier vaccination site swelling and short-lived lethargy were not greatly worrisome. I now know that they were precursors to the severe adverse vaccination reaction that ultimately killed her. If any of your dogs experience anything out of the ordinary following a vaccine, alert your veterinarian immediately and have a serious discussion, going forward, about appropriate vaccination plans for your individual canine friend.

2. Long-term immune suppression can lead to cancer(s). Our veterinarian told me early on that something like lymphoma might be possible. Still, I found myself a bit shocked when Lilly developed TWO kinds of cancer toward the end. It’s tough in a complicated case to know what’s scary and what isn’t, but check out everything new, just in case.

3. Protein loss through the kidneys can lead to blood clots. While not kidney disease in the classic sense, finding protein in a dog’s urine – even while kidney values checked via blood work look perfect – is a big deal. I learned the hard way that blood-clotting tests only tell you if a dog is at risk for bleeding, not for clotting. And, clots anywhere in a dog’s body are an emergency.

4. Assume all canine nosebleeds mean nasal cancer. Lilly’s case exploded into such a complicated medical mess. Even though her nosebleeds began early in treatment for her adverse vaccine reaction, everyone – including me – assumed it was something other than cancer. That, it turns out, was a mistake. High levels of immune suppression opened the door for a nasal carcinoma to take hold. By the time the tumor popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, it was too late.

5. Make the best use of human pharmacies. Many of Lilly’s medicines came in a generic form available from regular human pharmacies. I often called the pharmacy to ask about best price point for higher quantities (usually 90 pills), then I would ask my veterinarians to write me a prescription for Lilly’s meds for 90 pills. I saved a LOT of money that way. It also saved a lot of time, running back and forth for refills a lot less often.

Share your hard-won lessons. What has happened to your dog that caught you off guard?


Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

ruth pennebaker - January 27, 2014

It’s scary how little any of us know going into an unfamiliar medical situation. I just hope your difficult, painful experience will help other people, Roxanne.

Jen Donohue - January 25, 2014

My local Walgreens actually has a sign with the pet toys and stuff that you can get pet prescriptions at their pharmacy, which I thought was neat. I’d never-ever heard about dogs having nosebleeds before Lilly, or adverse vaccine reactions, especially to that degree. I’m glad that you wrote about her and your experience as things unfolded, for awareness and education.

merr - January 24, 2014

This is such important information – the breadth and depth of the story include details that relate to not only the issues you’ve dealt with, but dealing with a full range of events with our beloved pets.

Edie - January 24, 2014

Oh, it’s so hard to look back and think what if… I would have avoided steroids for pain in Frankie’s back if it had been possible because he developed diabetes soon after (the correlation is only cited in alternative medical sources). And I might have started Frankie on a dose of anti-oxidants when he got older. I’m sure that his diabetes contributed to his CCD; nothing I could do about that but Anipryl didn’t work for him and by the time I tried anti-oxidants I’m afraid it was too late.

cybele - January 23, 2014

I second the suggestion to use human pharmacies instead of buying meds from the vet. You can save a lot of money on medications if you are a COSTCO member.
As for hard earned lessons we’ve been lucky in that department for the most part. Our fearful and current dog reacted in a hyper reactionary way when we gave her Xanax prescribed by her vet for the 4th of July, so she’ll never get that again.
I used to use Happy Hips for training treats for her predecessor. She would do anything for a tiny piece of a Happy Hip. Then she got very ill and required lots of medical treatment. Right about the same time the American Veterinary Assoc. issued warnings on its use. Dogs who ate them were coming down with illnesses they still can’t explain except to say don’t buy pet treats or food made in China. It amazes me how many pet stores, feed stores, and even the afore mentioned COSTCO still carry the stuff. I always politely bring it up when I see it for sale in a venue that should know better and they humor me as if I’m the “Crazy Happy Hips Lady”.
That’s my two cents. But, know, Roxanne Lily lives in the hearts of all your readers and your humor and courage through it all were truly inspiring.

    Roxanne Hawn - January 24, 2014

    Thanks, Cybele. We did use Costco, as a matter of fact. They really do have the best prices on meds, especially at higher quantities. The only drawback is that our Costco pharmacy is NOT open on Sundays, so it sometimes required some extra planning to make sure we ordered and picked up meds early.

    And, I agree. Every time I see jerky treats in any store, it makes me nuts.

Sheryl - January 23, 2014

So sorry that you have been through so much. What an ordeal. Perhaps your experiences can help someone else.

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