Is shaking a side effect after dog vaccines?

Staying up to date on dog vaccinations is very important for pet owners. There are various vaccines your dog can get, some are required and others are only recommended. Just like in humans, your dog can experience vaccine side effects. Your veterinarian will discuss these side effects with you before deciding on which vaccines to administer to your dog and the level of risk. The most common side effects from vaccines include mild discomfort near the injection site, a slight or mild fever, and a runny nose. In rare cases, your dog may experience a serious reaction. Severe symptoms after vaccination may include anaphylactic shock, signs of swelling, kidney failure, or possibly high blood pressure.

Your dog may be at a higher risk for a serious side effect if the dog’s immune system is already weakened or if they have underlying health problems. Regardless of the risk to your pet, vaccines are an important part of making sure your dog stays healthy in the long term.

A commonly recommended vaccine is the lepto shot, which can cause shaking in your pup or swelling. I know this because Wes experienced this side effect when he received his first lepto shot. Luckily, he was fine after some Benadryl and a late-night trip to the ER. 

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red golden retriever mix dog receiving a vaccine at the vet's office

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is from leptospira bacteria. This bacteria can be found in soil, water, and food worldwide. Lepto is not that common in urban areas where many dogs are already vaccinated and are most commonly found in dogs in more rural areas. Think farmland and forests!

Dogs that are more at risk for lepto are hunting dogs, dogs that live on a farm, or dogs that have spent a lot of time in a kennel. The bacteria are often spread in animal urine and can live in water and soil for months. Rodents are usually the culprit in carrying the disease and spreading it around. So keeping dogs away from mice and skunks is important for lepto and of course for many other reasons! Also, those who live in well-matured neighborhoods (with lots of grown trees) even in urban areas should know that squirrels also carry the disease. 

Does my dog need the lepto vaccine?

The lepto vaccination protects against leptospirosis disease in dogs. This vaccine is not a required vaccine like the rabies shot is though. So is completely up to the pet owner to decide if their dog will receive the lepto vaccine. It’s something you should discuss with your vet to review the pros and cons.

dog covering eye while getting a shot

What other recommended vaccines should be considered for my dog?

Below are the most common vaccines that every dog should have, those are below:

Rabies vaccination: Most states require this vaccine for household pets

Canine Parvovirus: Highly contagious virus, especially for puppies. This is a serious illness and if you suspect parvo in your dog, you should seek

Distemper: Highly contagious virus, especially for puppies. This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.

Canine Hepatitis: Liver disease

Other recommended vaccines, depending on your dog’s environment and exposure to other animals include:

Bordetella bronchiseptica: Affects the dog’s respiratory system and is very important for dogs to have if they are going to be boarded, in doggy daycare, or around many other dogs.

Borrelia burgdorferi: Lyme disease

What are normal vaccine reactions for dogs? (including the lepto vaccine)

The most common reaction after a dog has its vaccine is lethargy. Your dog may sleep longer than usual and the injection site might also be sore. I remember when Wes had his first rabies vaccine as a pup, he had a firm bump where the shot was given to him. As a new pet owner, I freaked out. I called my vet immediately and thought something had gone wrong with the vaccine. They reassured me that this was a normal reaction and it should go away in a couple of days. And after about a week, the firm bump was gone. 

And then Wes received the lepto vaccine

Next up, Wes received the lepto vaccine. Wes was found in a wooded field and we lived by the woods so the vet recommended the vaccine. I remember the vet also had spoken about squirrels being all over the place in Virginia. This was something I was used to having grown up in Michigan. Honestly, I never considered squirrels in the rodent family with mice until I had to think about the lepto vaccine for my dog. Wes did fine with the shot at the vet’s office but the vet did say that it was common for many dogs to have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. The lepto vaccine is a series of 2 shots so we would not go through with the second shot if Wes had a bad reaction.

Later that evening, Wes was shaking and noticeably uncomfortable. Having been through the rabies vaccine with him already, I thought the lethargy and shaking were likely mild side effects. Later into the night around 2 am, Wes was whining in bed and when I turned on the light, his entire face was swollen and he was shaking and itching himself uncontrollably. I panicked and rushed him to the veterinarian’s ER. Thankfully, it was a mild allergic reaction to the lepto and they gave him a heavy dose of Benadryl and he was good to go. I was told by my vet to give Wes Benadryl for the next week to be sure the facial swelling did not return and to help with the itching. And obviously, we never did end up getting the 2nd dose of the lepto vaccine. 

white golden retriever getting a shot at the vet's office

What is considered a severe allergic reaction to a dog vaccine?

Not all dogs will have an allergic reaction to lepto, but if your dog is shaking, their face swells or you feel something is off, please call your vet to consider the next steps and monitoring criteria. 

In Wes’s case, had I not taken him to the vet he may have been fine. But it also could have turned into him having difficulty breathing because he was swelling up so much. Like humans, severe reactions for dogs after receiving their vaccinations are usually respiratory-related. You might notice that your dog is having difficulty breathing or their face wells up which might cause their airway to be constrained. If your dog is experiencing a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or you have any concerns at all, please contact your vet immediately. It’s always best to be more cautious and give your vet a call rather than wait and see.

Vaccines will protect your dog

Regardless of the side effects of dog vaccines, most of the time the benefits will outway the negatives. Be sure to discuss with your vet the right vaccines and the right time for those vaccines for your dog. Another great resource for dog vaccines can be found here on the American Kennel Club website.

Whenever Wes went to the vet for a routine vaccine, I would get him something special. Shockingly, I do the same thing with my kids now! We would go and grab a doggy ice cream or I would have ordered him a fun toy from chewy or bark box. If you click on this link here, you will find a fun subscription box for your furry friend or a great gift for a family member or friends’ dog.

Has your dog received other vaccines that you feel are important? Please comment below on what those are for other readers to look into. Keeping our dogs healthy and up to date on their shots is so important not only for them but for their doggy buddies too!

Disclaimer: As pet parents, please make sure to receive medical advice from your veterinary clinic. The post above is for informational purposes only based on personal experiences. We want to make sure your dog receives the proper treatment recommended for them specifically.