Vaccination has prevented serious diseases and saved the lives of thousands of dogs, cats and rabbits in the UK. However, any veterinary procedure, no matter how commonly it is performed, carries some level of risk. When deciding what is best for your pet it is vital to balance the benefits of vaccination against the risks. For the majority of pets the benefits far outweigh the risks. Your veterinary team can help you understand the benefits and risks, and help you to decide upon the best strategy for your pet as part of an overall preventative healthcare programme.
Vaccination is not a completely risk-free procedure. In the majority of individuals, however, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. Vaccination reactions are thankfully rare, with adverse events being reported once every 200-250 vaccinations given the vast majority of these reactions are mild and short-term, and indicate that the vaccine is effectively stimulating the immune system. Common signs reported are swelling at the injection site, mild fever, tiredness and lack of appetite lasting 24-48 hours.
Given that illnesses can occur at any time, they may sometimes develop shortly after vaccination; this does not mean that the vaccine caused the disease. There have been a number of studies investigating whether diseases in which the immune system malfunctions, such as haemolytic anaemia in dogs, may be more common in the months following vaccination (when the immune system is being stimulated), than at other times. To date these studies have not shown a significant link, but a previous history of immune-mediated disease should be taken into account when deciding on a vaccination schedule for an individual pet.
If you have any concerns about your pet’s wellbeing following vaccination, always contact your veterinary practice.