Could vaccines cause a puppy to develop skin irritations? Also, which vaccines are recommended for a puppy?

Original Question: I have a 3-year-old Female Boston Terrier with skin issues mainly on her front chest area. She’s had her puppy and first-year vaccines. Read on the Internet that the vaccines might be causing the skin problem so I discussed with her vet and we agreed to skip the second year vaccinations. I also read that dogs only need the puppy and first-year shots and should be good for life. Is this true? Anyways her third-year check-up is in November, what should I do if the vet wants to give her more shots? I had changed her diet from kibble to raw but the skin issues remain. (itchy, reddish and losing fur). Thank You - Douglas

Could vaccines cause a puppy to develop skin irritations? Also, which vaccines are recommended for a puppy? Nov 8, 2017

Hi Douglas,

Thanks so much for your question. Overall, vaccinations are a safe and effective means of preventing life-threatening disease. Adverse events from vaccinations are very rare, and as modern advances occur in immunology and vaccine research, these occur less and less frequently. I would encourage you to take a look at our video ‘Everything You Need to Know About Vaccine Reactions’ as it covers more information on the topic. I cannot say if vaccinations are related to your dog’s skin issues (I would need to examine her and review her entire history). I can however, advise you on standard vaccination protocols, and can offer general suggestions for working up skin disorders. Regarding vaccination — The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) publishes canine vaccination guidelines, which are updated periodically after a thorough review of the best current scientific evidence on vaccinations (latest was this year, 2017). These guidelines are used by most veterinarians across North America to give recommendations and vaccination schedules.

It is recommended that puppies receive a series of “core” vaccines for important diseases (2 or 3 sets depending on age at first vaccination). This includes distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus, all combined in one vaccine (one injection). Parainfluenza is often included in combination with these vaccinations as well (but is not considered a “core” vaccine). You may hear this vaccine called DHPP, DHP or DAP for short. This vaccination should be administered (boostered) again one year later, and again every 3 years or longer thereafter. There is a video that goes over vaccine suggestions, entitled Which Vaccines Should I Give My Dog or Cat?

Rabies is to be given as a single injection at 12 or 16 weeks of age, and it is the other core vaccination. Rabies vaccination of dogs and cats is required by law in almost every municipality in Ontario under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Rabies should be re-administered (boostered) again one year later, and then every year or 3 years later, depending on the product label directions of the product that is used.

There are several other vaccinations that can be added to the basic DHP and Rabies protocol, including leptospirosis, canine cough (kennel cough), and Lyme (borrelia) disease. These are typically considered “non-core,” meaning they are recommended for dogs at a high risk of infection due to their lifestyle or environment. Depending on the formulation, these may require a booster vaccination. I would recommend you to check out our video ‘How Often Vaccines Need Booster & The Benefits of Titer Testing for Dogs & Cats’ for more information on the subject.

I hope this summary helps you. Typically, veterinarians follow these guidelines and administer vaccinations unless there is a medically sound reason not to do so. You will need to discuss this further with your vet to decide what is best for your dog. Regarding the skin issue – if you have not done so, I would encourage you to have a complete dermatological work-up done. This would include skin swabs, scrapes, and possibly, a culture. This will help to determine if there is any infection or parasites contributing to the problem. Referral to a dermatologist for allergy testing is also a potential option, and your veterinarian can facilitate this for you. Skin disease is complex and can be very challenging to resolve – there is generally no “one-size-fits-all” solution – it must be tailored to your individual pet’s situation. I really hope this helps give you some direction.

Best wishes,

Dr. Kim Hester

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