Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing

Written by Jan on September 30, 2009 – 12:01 am

At last, a smoking gun … discovered pointing directly at Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Maltese, Yorkies and other small dogs … in fact, pointed at all dogs receiving multiple vaccines during one clinic visit.

Many scientific studies and taskforce reports have altered my view of vaccination over the years, but none have stunned me as much as “Adverse events diagnosed within three days of vaccine administration in dogs” by Drs. Moore, Guptill, Ward, et al.   This two-year study of vaccine reactions (from data gathered at 360 Banfield clinics in 2002 and 2003) concluded: “Young adult small-breed neutered dogs that received multiple vaccines per office visit were at greatest risk of a VAAE [Vaccine Associated Adverse Event] within 72 hours after vaccination.” And that’s not all the report revealed.

In the study (published in JAVMA, the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association in October, 2005), 1.2 million dogs received almost 3.5 million vaccine doses.  Reactions reported within 3 days (as designated by computer codes) included nonspecific vaccine reactions, allergic reactions, urticaria (hives), anaphylaxis (severe, whole-body allergic reaction), cardiac arrest, cardiovascular shock and sudden death. For each 10,000 dogs vaccinating, 38 adverse reactions were reported.

You’re probably thinking: just 38 reactions per 10,000 dogs?  That’s not too bad.  But bear in mind that this study did NOT include:

  • Reactions reported more than 72 hours after vaccination (thus eliminating reactions taking longer to develop or be discovered, such as injection site cancers, autoimmune diseases, skin diseases and other major conditions).
  • Reactions that occurred but were never reported by clients.
  • Conditions not recognized by the vet as vaccine reactions.
  • Conditions not selected for this study. (Seizures weren’t on the list, nor were countless other common reactions.)
  • Conditions not recorded by the vet.  The 2007 World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Vaccine Guidelines reports “gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events ….”
  • Reactions in dogs also getting a heartworm shot, presumably because of the increased risk of reaction. (Currently,vets are warned not to give Proheart 6 with a vaccination.)

The study’s researchers (6 of 7 were vets) recommended that veterinarians should communicate the increased risk of multiple vaccines to clients before obtaining their consent to vaccinate. At this writing, a full 4 years after the study’s publication, I suspect few clients have actually been warned about the risk of multiples vaccines at one visit, or about special risks to smaller dogs. Were you ever warned?

Factors Increasing The Risk of the Vaccine Adverse Reaction

Body Weight. The reaction rate increased significantly as body weight decreased. That is, small dogs were at greatest risk for a reaction. Risk for dogs weighing 11 pounds or less was 4 times greater than the risk for dogs weighing 99+ pounds. Medium-sized dogs also had increased risk over larger dogs.

For all vaccines and for the rabies vaccine given alone, the reaction rate for dogs weighing 22.2 to 99 lbs. was approximately half the rate of dogs weighing less than 22.0 lbs. Little dogs had 32+ reactions per 10,000; medium-sized dogs, 15+; large dogs, none.

Neutering/Spaying. Neutered dogs had a 27% to 38% greater risk versus sexually intact dogs.

Age. Dogs 1.5 to 2.5 years of age had a 35% to 64% greater risk of reactions (with rates increasing up to 2 years and declining thereafter) than puppies 2 to 9 months old. The risk was least for dogs 6 years of age and older.

Number of vaccines per office visit.The risk significantly increased as the number of vaccines given at each visit increased. In little dogs (under 10 lbs.) each dose increased risks by 27%; in dogs weighing more, each dose increased risk by 12%.

Taking all dogs into consideration, each additional vaccine given at each office visit increased the rate of vaccine reaction by 24.2%. All 3 dogs in the study with recorded deaths had each received 4 or more vaccines at their last office visit.

3 or more vaccines given at once increase the risk of a vaccine reaction 50% over the risk of a single shot.  Giving 5 simultaneous vaccines doubles the risk!

Breed. Among breeds with 5,000 or more dogs vaccinated during the study period, the most vaccine reactions per 10,000 dogs were found, in order, in Dachshunds, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Miniature Pinschers and Chihuahuas.  Next came Maltese, Miniature Schnausers, Jack Russells, Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers.  Mid-size dogs (like Lhasa Apsos, Bichons and Beagles) followed.  At the bottom of the list was Chow Chows, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

Purebred Status. The vaccination reaction rate for mixed-breed dogs was in the bottom fifth of all rates.  The researchers state: “safety trials that use such dogs may underestimate the reaction rates that would occur in purebred dogs.”

Why Does a Dog’s Weight Have Such a Big Impact?

The researchers report: “Vaccines, in contrast to virtually all veterinary pharmaceuticals, are prescribed on a 1-dose-fits-all basis, rather than by body weight.”

I have always been shocked that a Chihuahua puppy and an adult Great Dane are given the same dose shot: 1 mL. They get the same volume of virus or bacteria plus the same volume of adjuvants (boosting agents like aluminum), preservatives (like mercury), antibiotics, stabilizers and foreign tissue cultures (like fetal calf serum).  All these ingredients are known to cause vaccine reactions. (Learn more about vaccine ingredients at the CDC.)

The study’s researchers go on to say that during a vaccine’s pre-licensing trial, manufacturers investigate the safety of excessive doses of vaccines “but only in a limited number of dogs. The results of this study suggest that trials in dogs that weigh [22 lbs.] underestimate the expected VAAE rate in smaller dogs.”

The risk of a vaccine reaction in this study population was inversely related to a dog’s weight. This weight/response relationship was also suggested by a study in which toy breeds had significantly more reactions than other dogs, although body weight was not evaluated.

How Do You Avoid Reactions to Vaccines?

The study detailed here reports the problems, but not the remedy.  They only recommend that veterinarians advise clients of the risks.

Regrettably, I have been unable to find you a link to the study on-line. Your vet may have on-line access if he/she subscribes to JAVMA ( J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2005 Oct 1;227(7):1102-8).  You can read a short summary or have your non-subscribing vet request the article for a small fee at or Note: A smaller study for cats entitled “Adverse events after vaccine administration in cats” turned up similar results to the dog study.

If your vet gives multiple shots in a visit, you should insist that he/she read this study.  If your vet has already read it, he/she should explain to you why you weren’t informed of the risks to your dog of multiple shots, especially if your dog was small or medium sized.

Please read my article on Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions for my recommendations for avoiding adverse reactions in all size dogs. Sign up for notification of  future articles and our free dog care e-newsletter (delivered quarterly). Follow K9Author at Twitter.

This is an important study. Please bookmark this article and send it to friends.

Related articles:

Visit our new website just on vaccination:

Watch our new video on pet vaccine reactions:


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Tags: dog, dog shots, dog vaccinations, puppy shots, puppy vaccination schedule, puppy vaccinations, rabies, rabies shot, reactions, small dog vaccination risk, toy dogs, Vaccination, vaccine, vaccine reactions
Posted under Small Dogs, Uncategorized, Vaccination | 222 Comments » Email This Post

222 Comments to “Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing”

  1. kelly Says:

    Hi I have a one year old Chihuahua Gizmo popawheelie and a 5 month old Chihuahua Summer Girl. Gizmo is tiny and weighs 3-4 lbs Summer weighed in today at 6 lbs. Summer had both set of puppyshots over past two months in two visits 4 weeks apart she had a reaction to both . Ive had Chihuahuas and Ive never seen any of them have any reaction to the vaccines but today I told the vet that summer had a pretty bad reaction last time to the puppy set of shots he nose swelled up she was red on her head her nose her neck her tummy and her paws . so I asked if she would be okay if she got this rabie shot the vet did seem very concerned so she gave her the rabie vaccine and then benidryl and said she would be sleepy all day.

    she was right but summer just woke up and was acting really weird she was shaking and acted like she was afraid of me like when I moved my hand towards her she flinched really hard like I was gonna hit her :( she acted very scared and she is shaking a lot harder than normal and she kept turning her face away from looking at me like all the way around. she feels very rigid like very tense I called the vet emergency they said to keep an eye on her if she gets worse to bring her in. so I get online and I find this…I cannot believe what I am reading.

    My little summer has had 3 vaccines in 3 months shes 5 months old today. I have told my husband that she seems different like I get this feeling something is wrong. and when I feel this way summer gets really sick I had to rush her to animal hospital after her last vaccine her heart rate was very very high she couldn’t stop moving her head back n forth for 2 days I sat up with her thinking I was gonna lose her. Im so afraid now because she just got this vaccine for rabies at 10 am this morning so shes still showing signs of a reaction I just don’t know how bad it will get.

    I love my little fur kid so much I don’t want to lose her I couldn’t deal with that. People don’t realize sometimes these dogs are our family I lost my dad my brother my best friend and my 7 yr old Chihuahua all within 2 yrs summer is the first dog ive had since and Im just so fussy over her I guess because Im so happy I could still be close to another dog this much after all that stuff. I didn’t know about the risk of all these vaccines but I certainly don’t think that dogs like summer who is prone to a reaction should have to have the vaccine. I literally keep my dogs at home they play outside but mainly inside we take them on trips with us but they do not get out on any dirt because I know parvo lives in dirt for 20 years. I just hope summer is gonna be okay shes all shakey and tense and red and puffy nose and her eyes look funny to me but they said its normal. I don’t think so..

  2. Jan Says:

    Kelly, somehow I didn’t see your post until today. I’m sorry. Please write me and let me know how Summer is doing. I hope she got through what sounded like a severe allergic reaction. You’re right. It’s not normal. Trust your instincts — not that vet.

    Please read this: If you even think about vaccinating again, read this:

    Do you let me know how things are going.

  3. JANA Says:


  4. Why Vets Don’t Recognize Vaccine Reactions - Dogs Naturally Magazine Says:

    […] 8.3% and 5.5% respectively of reactions reported to the USDA.  It also doesn’t include vaccine reactions happening within three or more days after vaccination – despite a major study published in the AVMA’s own Journal in 2005.  And what about […]

  5. Jan Says:

    Jana, your post was somehow lost. Please read this: If you need more information, please let me know. Also read

  6. Barbara Says:

    About 8 days ago, my friend took her beloved 9 year old Boston Terrier to the vet for Parvo, Rabies, and Distemper vaccinations. Approximately 1 hour after arriving home, the dog began showing signs of distress and my friend took the dog back to the vet. The vet administered pain meds and put her on an IV, while having my friend wait in the outer office. The dog was sent home that night but continued to show signs of distress, prompting a visit to the emergency clinic last night. Again my friend was told to wait in the outer office. The vet then told my friend the dog “might have a brain tumor” since it appeared to be neurological. Not wanting her pet to suffer, my friend agreed to have the dog put down.

    My questions are as follows:
    1. The dog was healthy prior to the vaccinations: does this sound like a “brain tumor” or an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccinations?
    2. Should the vet have informed the owner of the risk of administering multiple vaccinations in an older, smaller breed dog PRIOR to administrating the vaccinations?
    3. Should the 9 year old dog have been administered the Parvo and Distemper vaccinations as she is never kenneled and has little or no contact with dogs other than her sister (from the same litter), and has built up an immunity to these diseases due to her age?
    4. Is it possible the vets may have been unaware of the multiple vaccine risks in older, small breed dogs?
    4. Should the Parvo, Distemper, and Rabies shots have been administered at separate visits, if at all?
    6. Is the vet required to report the death to the manufacturer of the vaccines?

    I will be asking these questions of both of the vets tonight as we do not want this to happen to her litter mate next year when she is due for her vaccinations.

    Thank you.

  7. Jan Says:

    Barbara, thanks for writing. Here are my thoughts to your questions:

    Q1. The dog was healthy prior to the vaccinations: does this sound like a “brain tumor” or an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccinations?
    A: A brain tumor, which would be very rare, would be quite a coincidence! Vaccine reactions aren’t rare. And excuses aren’t rare, either.

    Q2. Should the vet have informed the owner of the risk of administering multiple vaccinations in an older, smaller breed dog PRIOR to administrating the vaccinations?

    A: Yes. It’s called informed consent. The vet should inform the client of risks and then get their permission to proceed. Most of them don’t.

    Q3. Should the 9 year old dog have been administered the Parvo and Distemper vaccinations as she is never kenneled and has little or no contact with dogs other than her sister (from the same litter), and has built up an immunity to these diseases due to her age?

    A: In my opinion (I’m not a vet), no. If there was any question of waning immunity, the vet could have recommended a titer test.

    4. Is it possible the vets may have been unaware of the multiple vaccine risks in older, small breed dogs?

    A: The study of 1.5 million dogs was published in 2005 in the AVMA Journal. It has been mentioned in numerous articles since. It is possible that the vet didn’t read it, but in my opinion, the vet should have. Most vets turn a blind eye to the dangers of vaccination.

    4. Should the Parvo, Distemper, and Rabies shots have been administered at separate visits, if at all?

    A: I don’t believe that the parvo and distemper shots should be given at all unless there was proven need. The dog, according to expert Dr. Ron Schultz, says that the dog had a 95% of having lifetime immunity.

    The rabies vaccine should have been give at a separate visit. Live virus vaccines, like p & d, should not be given with killed virus vaccines. And the rabies vaccine is known to be more likely to cause reactions. And, of course, the more vaccines given at once, the bigger the danger. Most vets don’t take these precautions.

    Q6. Is the vet required to report the death to the manufacturer of the vaccines?
    The vet should, but they often can’t be bothered. Your friend can and should report it to the manufacturer and elsewhere.

    A: Here are some articles of interest by the top expert in the field: And

    I hope this helps. I’m sorry for your friend’s loss.

  8. Stella Beard Says:

    Help. We have a 15 month old Bischon/Shih-tzu that weighs 8 lbs. We have always taken him on time to get his shots at the vet. This last time he had a rabies and distemper shot at the same time. I took him back one week later since he was scratching uncontrollably and it was not time for his flea meds. The vet gave him a steroid shot. We had also noticed that he has become extremely aggressive and is now obsessed with “humping” our male cat (he did not do this before). He has not been neutered. He use to love to play at night with my husband but now he just bites and growls and doesn’t want to play. He shakes when going to sleep and doesn’t want to let us pet him and he doesn’t wZnt to lay with us at night in bed like he use to. He just seems to be so restless. After reading this blog, I think he is experiencing a adverse reaction to his rabies vaccine. Can you give me any help on what I can do to help? We just want our Nook back.

  9. Yvonne Hudson Says:

    Why do you not talk about the dangers of spaying and neutering too early. New information shows this comes with a whole lot of health problems, from heart problems to bones not growing properly.

  10. Jan Says:

    Yvonne, I do talk about it. See Thanks for bringing up the subject again.

  11. Jan Says:

    Stella, find another vet. Your vet doesn’t even recognize the reaction let alone know how to treat it. Check out the holistic vets at Several consult by phone if you can’t find one near you.

  12. sally Says:

    My 3lb 9 oz chi dog had rabies and Dapp vaccines. the vet gave both at same time. she had hives neck and face swelling within 6 hours took her back in before closing. the gave her a steroid shot and told me to start giving her antihistamine 3-4 times. seemed ok for two days then broke out in hives again. another steroid shot, liquid in the shoulder for dehydration and more histamine. two days later throwing up and blood in stool. emergency vet twice more fluids and nausea meds. went back now lower GI med. next day back to my vet more fluids. It does go on and on. she is put on low fat diet for GI, loses a lb, now add high protein, her tummy hurts from med so now on pectolin. She still gets hives and I give her small amount of histamine. I will get an apt with a holistic vet but that is 2 weeks out at the earliest I could get her in. Also seems like she pees a lot but I was told that is not to worry about because she is on canned food from the vet and has water in it.

  13. Jan Says:

    Sally, there are holistic vets at who consult by phone. Especially try Dr. Loops. He knows a lot about vaccine reactions.

    Your present vet should have known better than to give two vaccines at once to a tiny dog. Also report the reactions to the manufacturer and have the vet do the same. Then dump the vet.

    You may be able to get an exemption to rabies vaccination the next time out. Keep all your records.

  14. Christina Says:


    I have three chihuahua’s. One named Bella (8.5 lbs) who is a rescue from NSAL, one named Lexi (6.5 lbs) who is a chihuahua from a pet store in town, and another named Minnie (2.5 lbs) who we got from the same pet store in town after she was returned by a family because they didn’t take proper care of her. My bella just had her shots on 10/7/15 and on 10/17/15 I noticed she had a hard lump near where she had the shot. I was concerned so I brought her back to the vet where they did an xray and said nothing showed up on the xray besides her microchip which is near the same viccinity but not where the lump is. The vet tech who held her while she received her vaccines stated the lump is 99% likely from the vaccine because it’s in the same spot he gives the vaccines and it showed up a little over a week after the shot was given.
    Normally my dog has a reaction within a day or two of the shot. Can this be normal?

    I get so nervous now due to my other chihuahua terrier mix Ralphie that was only 9 passing from cancer that spread through out his body without a single sign. Also, my little Minnie the 2.5 pounder has a lump that moves around under her skin that feels a little bit bigger than a pea but is not as hard as my Bella’s and she just recieved vaccines too. I’m pretty sure he altered the amount given because he is very caucious with that kind of stuff, not to mention he made a statement about how tiny she was and how he was going to have to barely give her any vaccine. I’m wondering if this lump on Minnie can be from the vaccine or could it be her microchip because its on her back near her shoulder blade/neck area and shes so tiny and thin you can feel everything. Please advise!

  15. Jan Says:

    Christina, the lump could be from either the chip or the vaccine. Rabies vaccines are supposed to be given in the right hip and I wonder why it wasn’t. Also, the exact location should have been recorded in your dog’s file.

    Don’t worry. A lump after vaccination is fairly common. Experts have told me they should be biopsied if they’re still there in two months. A sarcoma is relatively rare, although possible. You should make sure the lump is reported to the drug maker. And make sure it’s in your dog’s file.

    And please read this before vaccinating again.

  16. Cindy Says:

    Our dog is not a small dog, but a GSD. Approximately a couple of weeks.after getting his vaccines he began losing weight, had large yellowish running piles of stool, an increased appetite and began eating paper towels and napkins. We took him to the vet. After many tests, me looking on the internet, a younger vet in the practice contacted a classmate.who was a GI specialist. He suggested we contact Texas A and M. A blood test was sent to them and it came back he had Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. He is on enzymes now, he was diagnosis almost 2 yrs. ago, and is doing well. I’ve always wondered if the vaccinations affected his pancreas.

  17. Ellen Says:

    My dachshund/Chihuahua ALWAYS had immediate sneezing and itching after shots. Fortunately for us, the mobile clinic where we first started getting his shots knew that both of those breeds are prone to allergic reactions to vaccines and gave him and his brother an antihistamine shot and 15 minute wait before they got their actual shots. Unfortunately I took my dog to another clinic and even told the vet tech that he had allergic reactions, and their response to me was “we don’t have those shots here” and after his shots he immediately had an allergic reaction. Luckily I brought Benadryl for my baby just in case something like this happened. I was so mad I said something to a friend I know who worked there and the owner was livid because they should have given him an antihistamine. Sometimes the vets don’t know or don’t care. I’ve learned that research is my best friend.

  18. Jan Says:

    Ellen, I’m sorry to say you might be missing the forest for the trees. Your dog likely shouldn’t be vaccinated at all. Would you eat peanut butter if you were allergic, or would you do research to see if you need peanut butter at all. He/she probably isn’t if your dog is over 4 months of age.

    Please read this: And please make sure all your dog’s reactions are recorded and recorded in your dog’s file. You may want to try for a rabies vaccination exemption.

  19. Sandra Says:

    I have a mini Dachshund she is 12 weeks old. I took her to vet to get a Booster shot. He gave her DA2PPV and with in an hour I was rushing her back to the vet because her dark brown eyes were grey and almost swollen shut. He face was very swollen and her heart rate racing and throwing up. I was sure she was going to die at any moment she could not stand at all she just fell over.

    The vet acting like no big deal and gave her a shot of Benadryl and told me to keep giving her benadryl 3 times a day for 2 more days. Oh and my puppy only weighs 4 lbs. I am very worried now that she may have liver damage or other issues. What should I do for her. She seems fine on day two but long term will she have health issues ? Should I ever get her vaccinated again? Like a booster or rabbis?

  20. Jan Says:

    Sandra, a life-threatening allergic reaction is definitely a big deal and your vet knew it. Such a reaction was a possibly all along. Were you warned?

    Let your vet know that the adverse reaction continued and make sure it is noted in your dog’s file.

    You ask if your dog should be vaccinated again. Rabies is legally required, although in some states you can get an exemption. Fortunately, a bad reaction to one vaccine will not necessarily mean a bad reaction to another vaccine, especially if it is given alone. Wait as long as she can legally.

    In theory, your dog will need another distemper and parvo vaccine. If you can’t afford it, please get a parvo/distemper titer test to see if another vaccine is needed. Learn more about titer testing here: Your vet may offer to just give the vaccine with Benadryl, but that is not a safe solution.

    You will be legally required to give a rabies vaccine. You may or may not be able to get an exemption, depending on where you live and your vet’s support. If you can afford it, please see a holistic vet who may help you keep your dog safer. Clearly your vet is not sensitive to the problems that vaccines can cause.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about long term problems yet. But find a better vet. And read this before vaccinating again.

  21. Christine Says:

    I have an 8 year old yorkie that I had taken to have his yearly routine vaccines, and by mistake he also received a rabies vaccine that was not requested and was not due yet. I am now told he has impaired liver functioning, and I have to take him to a specialist and have an ultrasound done. The more that I read about the dangers of these vaccines, the more I am convinced that it was what caused his liver impairment. When I paid my bill for his vaccines, is when I realized they had given him the rabies vaccine by mistake, and I questioned them about it. The girl checking me out said that it only cost $13 and it would not hurt him. My question is, “should I have taken some kind of further action at that time? Is there something that could have been done to reverse any kind of damage? “I am very scared and worried for my little dog. He means the world to us.

  22. Jan Says:

    Christine, FIRST get your dog’s file, making sure all the vaccines given were listed, along with where on the dog they were given, what other vaccines or medicines have been given. What kind of vaccines and what brands? Be nice for now.

    There’s really nothing you could have done when paying the bill. This vet would not have know how to treat a reaction. He/she doesn’t seem to even think they exist.

    Write again when you have the info requested. I am not a vet, but if your Yorkie were mine, I’d consult a holistic vet first unless your dog is in distress now. The vaccine assault likely caused the liver problems.

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