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Rant: 3 Reasons This Joke About Adverse Dog Vaccine Reactions Makes Me Livid

Imagine your Canine Soul Mate died from an adverse rabies vaccine reaction a bit more than 18 months ago. You fake it really, really well when you have to, but you’re still a grieving pile of goo on the inside. Now, imagine you’re scrolling through your social media newsfeed and come across a meme (photo with text overlay) that essentially makes fun of adverse dog vaccine reactions. It has been posted in a large community of veterinary emergency hospital professionals, and clearly, many of them find the joke hilarious. Stick with me, kids, I feel a rant coming on …

Here is the meme.

adverse vaccine reactions in dogs

A Corgi in a suit and tie? Darling. Truly.

Joke about lawyers, like the ones who advertise on TV? Still pretty funny.

Making fun of vaccine reactions? Um, how about @#$#@ you?!

I understand blowing off steam griping about veterinary clients. I even get gallows humor required to survive emotionally in the high-stakes world of veterinary emergency hospitals. And, goodness knows I’m a big fan of the veterinary profession. These are good people doing amazing work.

This joke crosses a major line for me … because I hear from people all the time who believe their dogs are experiencing adverse vaccine reactions. In most cases, they tell me that their veterinarians won’t even consider the possibility that a vaccine is the cause. 

I give these people who contact me the best advice I can about how to find a veterinary specialist (usually neurology or internal medicine) for help. In most cases when I check back, the dog has died.

I’m so THANKFUL that our large team of veterinarians took Lilly’s case seriously, when she went from PERFECT to CRITICAL CONDITION following a routine rabies vaccination in January 2012.

For the record, I did not call her condition vaccine induced until our board-certified veterinary neurologist had ruled out every other possible cause and wrote her diagnosis as vaccine-induced.

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Reason #1 This Joke About Adverse Dog Vaccine Reactions Makes Me Livid

It lumps all adverse vaccine reactions into the autism bucket, as if that disproven link means ALL other possible vaccine reactions are also bunk.

The only things anyone ever mentions around vaccines are autism and anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), but there are so many other things that can go wrong after a canine vaccine. In dogs, the ones I hear from people most about are IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) and what happened to Lilly, essentially encephalitis (brain inflammation) … but her case was more complicated than that.

Reason #2 This Joke About Adverse Dog Vaccine Reactions Makes Me Livid

It paints people who are worried about adverse vaccine reactions as money-grubbing crackpots.

Oh, I asked for financial help from the rabies vaccine manufacturer. They offered me money — a whopping (sarcasm) $3,423.75, but it came with an iron-clad gag order that even my primary care veterinarian (who gave Lilly the rabies vaccine) called “hush money.”

I declined.

All told, we spent nearly $31,000 trying to save Lilly. The truth is that I felt nearly as victimized by the adverse vaccine reaction settlement offer as I did the fact that the reaction happened at all.

In human medicine, such cases are handled by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. There is no such thing for veterinary vaccine reactions. My choices were to accept the offer and give up my Right to Free Speech, or to try and sue the vaccine company … which I certainly didn’t have the time or money to do when I was spending SO much time, energy, and money trying to save Lilly’s life.

Reason #3 This Joke About Adverse Dog Vaccine Reactions Makes Me Livid

It’s an insult to the extreme financial and emotional strain of doing the “right thing” by vaccinating your dog … then facing life-threatening results.

Think about the guilt and regret of that for a minute. Now, think about living with that knowledge as you make decisions for all current and future dogs in your life.

If you want to call me “anti-vaccine” (which I am not … I’m simply opposed to over-vaccination), then it’s fair for me to call YOU an adverse vaccine reaction denier. 

Vaccines do cause some individuals trouble — sometimes life-changing or life-ending trouble.

To deny that, to imply anyone who talks about vaccine issues is anti-science or a crackpot,
to make fun of anyone who finds themselves in the terrible position of watching a loved one
go from FINE to NOT FINE after a vaccine …
feels painfully unprofessional to someone like me who lived through it.

People LOVE to point out how RARE what happened to Lilly is, and it is indeed rare, but it doesn’t feel rare when it happens to your dog. And, it feels dismissive to point out the rarity or to make fun of all vaccine problems as if they don’t exist.

If your dog ever experiences problems after receiving a vaccine, I hope you don’t end up in an emergency veterinary hospital where someone who posted, liked, or shared this meme works … because I doubt they will take your concerns seriously.

And, that’s NOT funny.

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.

Earl Lover - September 20, 2015


Oh god, this is horrible! 🙁

merr - August 6, 2015

Totally, completely unfunny. I agree with you. There is a place for humor, but this is not it. I absolutely get how you feel.

Patricia - July 29, 2015

I usually ignore the hurtful and nasty postings. I fully understand your anger and hurt. There are some people who will do anything to make a buck. Give it a little thought and you can come up with the perfect reply. If you do post a comment I am not sure the person(s) who posted would understand. Only you can make that decision.

Jane Boursaw - July 29, 2015

It’s just horrible, and you have every right to be livid. Seeing that meme must have felt like a giant punch in the gut – so sorry, Rox.

Sheryl - July 29, 2015

I’m so sorry this hit you so hard and was so offensive to you. I can certainly understand why. There will always be those people who disagree, but in my opinion, they should keep those opinions to themselves.

Brette - July 29, 2015

And it’s not funny either. I think it’s stupid. And I can see why you are annoyed. People don’t understand this until it happens to them I guess.

Dawn darkes - July 29, 2015

You should post this on the same page. Maybe it would actually touch someone and create a slight chance for attitude change. Or at least give a pause for some reflection. One can hope.

Comments are closed