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Early Vaccination Cause Change in Dog Behavior

by George R. Marron
(Scottsville, NY)

Reader Question: Can a recent vaccination cause a change in dog behavior?


Bella is our 5yr old female Golden Retriever. In October 2011 we pulled a tick off the back or her neck after a weeklong stay at our vet's kennel. Approximately 2 wks later we removed another. About 2 weeks after that I took her to the vet for a regularly scheduled visit. She displayed no symptoms whatsoever, but I relayed the info about the ticks to the vet.

Additionally, I needed documentation about her rabies vaccination history to update her license in our community. Her previous checkered history in another community made retrieving the appropriate documents a little difficult, so the vet suggested giving her the rabies vaccine again (one year earlier than scheduled) along with the Lyme disease vaccine.

Additionally, we were given a second dose of the Lyme vaccine to be administered 2 weeks post visit. So off we went with our rambunctious, playful, fast, jump up and lick my face pooch. This is a dog that stands on her hind legs when excited while watching Animal Planet on the flat screen!

In the last 48 hours, approximately 3.5 months after discovering the first tick, as if something happened overnight, Bella cannot sit on her hind legs with front paws in the air (formerly a favorite posture of hers), cannot put her forepaws in my lap as I sit in any chair (come on! let's go for our run in the woods!). And perhaps most telling cannot get up onto the sofa next to us, a habit we encouraged and she loved.

She cannot jump up into the front seat of my F250, a task she enthusiastically accomplished several times a day, and struggled to get into the back seat of a vehicle much lower to the ground to visit the vet yesterday, the result of which indicates she is negative for Lyme disease. This change in her behavior is as if someone flipped a switch and she aged overnight.

I have to believe there is a connection to these changes and the vaccines she has recently received (Lyme and rabies). While she is not deathly ill (at this point), it is absolutely disheartening to think we have generated this in our effort to follow "sound medical advice".

George R. Marron

Vet gives her input on the effect of a vaccination can have on a dog

Hello Mr. Marron,

I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s decline in condition. It is not unusual for dogs to have a few days of stiffness or soreness after vaccination. If you’ve had a vaccine lately, you’ll know that they can cause muscle soreness or malaise for a few days, but then everything returns to normal. It would be very unusual for vaccines to cause prolonged symptoms like the ones you describe.

I’m concerned the ticks that you found might be playing a role in her condition. They can transmit many different diseases, not just Lyme. Has your dog been tested for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrilchiosis and had a general health work up (e.g., blood chemistry, complete cell count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and heartworm test)? I would consider this a minimum database for a dog with the symptoms that you describe.

Keep pursuing a diagnosis. There’s every reason to hope that once you know what is going on, appropriate treatment will help her return to her normal, lively self.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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