My Dog Is Shaking After Shots

Photo by julie on Flickr

As a loving pet parent you try to do what’s best for your dog. Vets strongly recommend vaccinating your puppy against several infectious diseases, yet your little buddy seems to be quite miserable after his shots.

The dog might be lying in his corner, shaking and refusing to be touched. A myriad of questions pop into your mind. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to help? Is he going to be OK?

To put your mind at ease, let’s just say that yes, such reactions are common after a dog gets his shots and in most cases he’ll be fine in a couple of days.

However, you need to keep an eye on him and be ready to go to the vet if his condition worsens.

In this article, we’ll have a look at the most common vaccines for dogs, their side-effects, and what you can do to help your dog feel better.

Why is my dog shaking after shots?

Shaking or shivering are common side-effects to canine vaccines and there are no studies to indicate that some breeds might be more susceptible to such a reaction.

According to experts, in many cases all that distressing shaking is directly linked with the pain and inflammation at the injection site

Some types of vaccines may cause a firm swelling at the injection site, which should subside in a few days, maybe even longer.

At the same time, some dogs get a bit of fever after a vaccine. This is a sign that his immune system is reacting to the vaccine and it’s starting to produce antibodies.

If the dog has a fever, some shivering is to be expected.

Another possible explanation for your dog’s shaking is stress. Few dogs like going to the vet, but some are more sensitive and they’ll need more time to get over all that handling, poking, plus an injection or two.

However, if your dog is shaking uncontrollably you should watch him very carefully as this might be a symptom of an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

A bit of shaking is nothing to worry about, but if your dog starts vomiting or gets diarrhea you should definitely call the vet. Check his body for any suspicious rash and examine his head for any sign of swelling.

Any sort of puffiness around the eyes, muzzle or ears might indicate your dog is about to go into anaphylactic shock.

This is very serious, as his throat might swell up as well and he’ll stop breathing. Should you notice any swelling in your dog’s face, head straight to the vet or an emergency clinic as your dog will need antihistamines to deal with the allergic reaction.

What should I do?

A dog that’s not feeling well probably wants to be left alone. After a vaccine many dogs are lethargic and just want to sleep.

Let him lie down wherever he feels like, he deserves that much. If he’s shivering, try covering him with a light blanket. He might throw it away, though, in which case you shouldn’t insist.

You should offer him his favorite food, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have much appetite. Also, make sure he has clean water nearby, but once again he might not care about that either.

Do not try to play with him if he’s clearly not in a mood. His body needs time to recover. When he’s feeling better he’ll probably come to you.

Make sure he’s not disturbed, tell your kids to leave the dog alone and just let him sleep it off.

Check on him constantly, but do not try to get too close to examine him if you don’t see any additional worrying signs.

What can I give my dog for pain?

When you take a baby to get some shots, doctors usually recommend giving them Tylenol or Ibuprofen for pain and fever.

However, common OTC pain medication can be toxic to dogs even in a small dose. You can give him aspirin, but be very careful with the dosage. The current advice is that dogs should get no more than  5 to 10mg per pound of body weight every 8 hours.

Aspirin should only be used as a temporary pain reliever as prolonged use might cause internal bleeding. If you want to give your dog aspirin, look for coated tablets which are easier on the stomach.

Try hiding the aspirin in a juicy treat you know your dog cannot resist.

To relieve the pain at the injection site, try applying a cold compress. Putting an ice pack on the swelling might be complicated with a dog, but you can wet a towel with ice cold water and gently place it over the painful area.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing a mils allergic reaction, you can also give him Benadryl or another antihistamine drug like Zyrtec or Claritin. Check out the correct dosage for each of these drugs.

What are the most common vaccinations that dogs have?

When you first get a puppy you might be confused by the many shots he needs.

Everybody understands a dog needs a vaccine against rabies and in some countries these shots are mandatory. What’s with all the other shots, though?

The first two vaccines highly-recommended for puppies aged 6-8 weeks are those for distemper and parvovirus.

Distemper is a highly-contagious viral disease which affects the digestive, respiratory and nervous systems.

Parvo is a virus that spreads easily among dogs. It attacks the GI tract and can kill a dog in a matter of days. It tends to affect German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Rottweilers more than other breeds.

By the age of 10-12 weeks, puppies should also get their first shot against leptospirosis, an infectious disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria.

A dog can get lepto by direct contact with the urine of an infected animal. High concentrations of bacteria in the dog’s kidney and liver can cause severe damage to these organs, and this can lead to death.

Vets also recommend shots against hepatitis and parainfluenza, the virus that causes kennel cough. If you’re planning to take your pet to doggy daycare or training sessions, he might be required to have his parainfluenza shot.

Coronavirus shots are recommended for dogs starting with the age of 12 months. It’s not the coronavirus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic, but a canine coronavirus that attacks the digestive system.  

There are several other types of vaccines available for dogs and if you’re going to follow the complete vaccine schedule, you’ll be doing a lot of trips to the vet.

At the same time, most of the vaccines vets recommend require several boosters.

Will my dog feel bad after the booster shots?

If your dog was unwell after his first shots, he’ll be even worse after the boosters. Actually, allergic reactions are more common after a booster.

It’s very important to monitor your dog after the first shots and talk to the vet about all the symptoms, including shaking. In some cases, the vet might advise against boosters.

At the same time, the vet might decide to space your dog’s booster shots, allowing one or two weeks between injections.

The problem is that many dog inoculations contain several vaccines in one injection and this can be too much for the dog’s immune system.

The problem is more severe for small dogs who receive the same dose of vaccine as large dogs. Obviously, a German Shepherd will be able to tolerate the vaccine better than a little Chihuahua.

However, experts insist it’s perfectly safe for small dogs to get the same shots as large ones.

If your dog had a bad reaction after his first round of shots, you need to talk to the vet about the canine diseases most common in your area.

If there’s little risk of catching one or another, the doctor might decide which vaccines you can skip.

What are the other side effects of vaccinations?

Many pet owners are extremely worried when they notice their pet has trouble walking after a vaccine.

In many cases, this is caused by the lump formed at the injection site. Your dog is probably in pain so he tends to avoid putting pressure on one leg. His walking troubles should go away in a few days.

If the swelling at the injection site hasn’t subsided after a month, you should see a vet about it.

On the other hand, you should know that some vaccines, especially rabies shots, can cause paralysis in one or both of the dog’s hind legs.

This is a reaction that can appear even after three weeks after the injection. In most cases, this type of paralysis is temporary and will resolve itself in 7-10 days.

However, there are situations when this type of paralysis progresses towards the front legs and the dog might die as he won’t be able to breathe normally.

Why do dogs shake?

Dogs shake for a variety of reasons which have nothing to do with vaccinations. A frequent problem with dogs is the Generalized Tremor Syndrome, also known as Shaker Syndrome, which tends to manifest itself in between 9 months and 2 years of age.

GTS causes shivers, shaking and general tremors. This disease, which tends to affect small white breeds, requires corticosteroids treatment and the symptoms usually disappear in a week or two.

Nausea can also make a dog shake. The nausea can be associated with motion sickness, but it might also be a symptom of kidney or liver disease.

Various types of toxins can cause shaking in dogs. It’s not just poison, but also things like chocolate, xylitol or nicotine, if your dog decides to munch on your cigarettes.

If the shaking is associated with symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, drooling or seizures you need to take him to the vet as soon as possible.

Closing Thoughts

Shaking is a common reaction to canine shots. It might be caused simply by the pain the dog feels around the injection site, particularly if there’s significant swelling.

At the same time, the dog’s uncontrollable shaking might be a symptom of a mild or more severe allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Monitor the dog closely and if you notice an unusual puffiness in the head area, take him to the vet immediately as he might go into anaphylactic shock.

If the dog is sleepy and the shaking doesn’t seem to bother him much, just leave him be. He should be just fine in a day or two.

On the other hand, if your dog had a severe reaction after the first shots, talk to the vet and see what vaccines or boosters you can skip.

Or at least, have the vet give him just one vaccine at a time instead of three or five as is usually the norm.