The Pet PT Pit Stop: Vaccinosis – A Vexing Conundrum

February 3, 2016

Depositphotos_41269735_originalAs a veterinarian, it’s helpful to get perspective from others involved in the realm of animal treatment that have training foundations on the human side, like Susan Davis, PT of  In the following article, “The Pet PT Pit Stop: Vaccinosis – A Vexing Conundrum“, Davis brings attention to concerns that I strongly share: the health issues correlated with pets receiving vaccinations that their bodies nor lifestyle necessarily merits.

These articles originally appeared on

Vaccinosis is not a true official diagnosis but a term used to describe an adverse effects of vaccination.

In this article, I will describe various signs, symptoms and P.T treatment for vaccinosis as well as a testimonial of a client. I will not give advice as to whether to vaccinate as that issue extends beyond my professional boundaries as a physical therapist.  The decision whether to vaccinate belongs solely with the pet owner, in consultation with their veterinarian.
Today’s pet owners are more concerned about routine vaccination than in years past and typically use a judiciary, individualized approach.

I am not suggesting an ‘anti-vaccine’ philosophy, but advocate a thoughtful assessment of benefit vs risk.

In an effort to avoid over-vaccinating, many veterinarians offer titer tests for older dogs to determine the number or level of antibodies present in the bloodstream before vaccinating.  Veterinarians may advise against performing multiple vaccinations in a single appointment, instead spacing them at least 3 weeks apart.

If you and your vet determine that vaccination may not be safe, but your local jurisdiction requires it (ex: Rabies vaccination might be mandated where you live), obtain a letter of exemption outlining medical risk, which you can submit to local authorities.

How do you know if your dog might be at risk of a reaction?

First, do research on the breed or breed mix to see if certain known sensitivities exist in otherwise healthy dogs. Be aware that some of the newer ‘designer combo’ breeds of first or second generation (such as Golden Doodle, Labradoodle, AussiePoo, Puggle)) may not yet have documented histories of such risks and sensitivities. It may take a few more years to see if any response patterns exist, but you might discover trends within clubs or local groups of dog owners.

Dogs that are not in optimal health, have compromised immune systems or are currently on immune-suppressive medication and those who are geriatric, may be at risk.

Jana’s note: do not ever vaccinate a sick dog. This is actually in the vaccine manufacturer instructions. And yet, quite often people bring a sick dog to a vet who suggests boosters since the dog is already in the office. That’s the worst idea ever. At best, the vaccine won’t work. At worst, you’re risking a serious reaction.

Vaccinosis symptoms usually occur very soon after the vaccination, often the same day or within 24 hours of administration.

Symptoms may be widespread or localized – usually to the same side in which it was given. Signs can include digestive upset, seizure, tremors, weakness, loss of balance, pain, hypersensitivity to touch, swelling, and lameness. Often, vaccinosis becomes the final ‘diagnosis’ only by exclusion, after other possibilities are ruled out.  Treatments often include medication, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, etc.

A client, Lauren M. L., offered to share her experience with vaccinosis after a rabies vaccination in her Labradoodle ‘Claude’:

“Lauren, what were Claude’s initial symptoms?”

“He was showing signs of limited movement right away after the vaccination. He was picking up his hind leg, near the injection site. He stopped running and jumping. Within a week, he was not able to get up without assistance. He would stand and his legs would splay out in all directions, unable to bear his weight. This was a dog that would jump four feet into the air and go on daily runs before the shot.”

“How was Claude diagnosed and how long did that process take?”

“It was difficult. We visited multiple vets and animal hospitals in an effort to help our dog.  (At this point, her husband Dan adds that finding the right care was extremely hard and they only succeeded because Lauren was so diligent in exploring every avenue and getting a range of opinions.) Some doctors wanted to do tests to rule out everything else, others said right away it was Vaccinosis. The original vet who administered the vaccine blamed us and directed us to contact the pharmaceutical company that makes the shot to file a claim for reimbursement for medical expenses incurred.”

“How did you help your dog receive the right care and treatment?”

“We finally found a vet who approached Claude’s care from both a holistic and traditional standpoint. (I interject to clarify that this would be an Integrative Veterinarian). This helped the most. She treated the Vaccinosis directly and saw immediate improvements.  She did medication and acupuncture initially. Once we were able to combine the medicine with the physical therapy treatments our dog’s health and physical strength were restored.”

Dan adds:” If we had listened to the original vet we worked with, I believe we wouldn’t have Claude with us today”.

“What challenges did you face as a pet owner, in coping with the illness?”

Dan provides this answer: “It was hard adjusting our lifestyles to meet his new needs. We put carpeting around the house to help him get traction, placed ramps on the doorways and made sure an adult was always close by in case he fell.  But it was and is painful to see our friend in such distress”.

Claude became my patient and began physical therapy three months after his rabies vaccination.

He improved within the first 2 weeks of treatment. I believe his rapid response was enhanced by having prior acupuncture. His PT consisted of cold laser, massage, standing over a physio roll, use of quick stretches and limb patterning to facilitate movement, weight shifting and balance exercise, calf strengthening using a rocker board and resistive therabands. The family faithfully performed home exercises, helping Claude up and down steps and daily leash walks.

One year later finds Claude walking 20 minutes per day, running for short bouts in the yard, playing with toys, greeting the mail carrier, and climbing 2-3 steps in and out of the house. However he has residual deficits of elbow pain and is no longer able to climb the staircase to the second floor, but with the help of his family and occasional PT, he is back to loving life!

Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond). Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.
Copyright of this article (2016) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.


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