Can Vaccines Cause Cancer in Dogs?

The evidence says no (beyond the rare injection-site sarcoma). But I'm willing to engage in debate.
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I recently received a question from a fellow Dogster writer:

Hi Eric,

More than a few commenters on my cancer story are claiming vaccines cause cancer. It would be great if you could weigh in with your professional opinion.



The timing of this qustion could not have been more apt, because I had just finished writing an article for Catster on injection-site sarcomas (formerly known as vaccination-associated sarcomas) in cats. The link between vaccines (and other injections) and cat cancers is well-known and well-proven. In dogs, the matter is much muddier.

A recent paper in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association stated that vaccines have been linked to injection-site sarcomas in dogs. These tumors appear to be dramatically rarer in dogs than in cats (and they’re already quite rare in cats), but they have been reported. To put things in perspective, I’ve never seen one, and I’ve never met a vet who has.

But do vaccines cause other types of cancers in dogs? I have heard some vets posit that today’s seemingly increased rates of cancers such as lymphoma may be linked to over-vaccination. And I have heard, ad nauseum, plenty of screaming anti-vaccination fanatics claim that vaccines cause all manner of harm in all kinds of species. In these types of situations, I always invoke the modified Jerry Maguire rule: Show me the study!

And that’s where the claims linking vaccines to cancer (other than extremely rare injection-site sarcomas) fall short. I have searched veterinary databases repeatedly — I did a search just today — and have yet to find a study that links canine vaccinations to other types of cancers. If any person reading this can site such a study, I’d be very interested to read it. Note that I’m not interested in reading anti-vaccine propaganda. I’m interested in controlled, well-run scientific studies.

It is noteworthy that when one searches veterinary databases for studies on vaccines and cancer, many results do appear. But they do not describe studies showing that vaccines cause cancer in dogs. Rather, they are papers reporting on the use of vaccines to treat cancer.

Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system, and it turns out that the immune system can be activated to fight cancer in the body with special vaccines. A vaccine for treating certain canine melanomas is already available. Researchers also are exploring vaccines to treat lymphoma, mammary tumors, and soft tissue sarcomas.

This article should not be construed as advocacy for an every-shot-for-every-dog-every-year policy. Quite the contrary. Whether or not over-vaccination causes harm, administering unnecessary vaccines to dogs does them no good. The truth is that nobody knows how often dogs should be vaccinated. Each dog’s needs are unique. Some people advocate using blood tests known as titers to determine whether dogs need to be vaccinated. Titers do provide useful information, but they only measure half of the immune system (they measure humoral immunity, but ignore cell-mediated immunity).

Most well-respected veterinary institutions now generally recommend triennial vaccination for most dogs. For older dogs, I think that might be overkill. My pal Buster most recently had vaccines two-and-a-half years ago. He’ll definitely get his rabies vaccine when it’s due in six months, since it’s required by law. But, at eight years old, I’m not sure I’ll be giving him any others for a while longer.

Further research on vaccination protocols is highly warranted. An honest, well-informed public discussion about vaccines is a very good thing. And people shouldn’t lose perspective: Unvaccinated dogs die from parvo every day. There is no question that, on the whole, vaccines save lives. Every puppy should benefit from a full set of vaccines. Every pet owner should talk with their vet every year about which vaccines, if any, might be appropriate.

Unfortunately, well-informed public discussions about vaccines are very difficult to have. The discussions often are hijacked by anti-vaccination fanatics. These folks seem to believe that vaccines are the cause of all the world’s problems. They spend an awful lot of time on the Internet, and they love to comment on articles like this one. They tend to grasp onto any evidence (no matter how spurious) that vaccines might be dangerous, and they are fond of linking to propagandist websites that promote their cause. In my opinion, they don’t contribute anything useful to the conversation.

Don’t get me wrong. I want to listen to people who have had bad experiences with vaccines. I want to evaluate any solid evidence put forth in favor of or against vaccines. But I don’t want to hear propaganda.

If you feel that you have something productive to add to an honest, well-informed public discussion about canine vaccination, please dive into the comments section.

Or, you can take this poll: Readers, have you ever had a bad experience with dogs and vaccines?

16 thoughts on “Can Vaccines Cause Cancer in Dogs?”

  1. My 6 year old Standard Poodle was in great health. Full round of routine vaccinations – excluding rabies which was not due – and a clean bill of health. 1 week later he developes a "raging" urinary tract infection and is started on antibiotics. 1 week later he is diagnosed with hypercalcemia and large cell lymphoma. 4 days at the emergency vet hospital and his prognosis is poor. Started a regimen of prednisone and antibiotic. 2 months later he is gone. I was told lymphoma is common in Standard Poodles. Too much coincidence for me. Groomers, doggie day cares and boarding facilities all require proof of complete vaccination so there is really no freedom of choice.

  2. We have an older Jack Russell, who had to have 10 teeth removed. She had had a full blood work up. No lymphoma. And they wanted all of her vaccines done before they would pull her teeth. So now four weeks later she’s full of lymphoma and on the verge of death.

  3. Add me to the list of TWO dogs and one cat who died shortly after receiving their rabies vaccine.

    The rabies vaccine in my state is required by law. Just because something is law doesn’t mean it’s logical or for the right reasons.

    Going forward I will NOT be vaccinating my pets for ANYTHING. You humans are a disgrace. I’m sure you’re sleeping comfortably profiting off sick pets and no remorse. Fire yourselves. Or better, set yourselves on fire.

  4. Just starting to look into this, I had an amazingly strong athletic 10yr old dog, had his first jags as a pup 10 yr ago, never recieved any boosters untill age of 8, which started to cause slight digestive problems, urine infections, then one at 9, along with being chipped. He still looked 12month, bouncing around like a pup up untill the end. His MCT started to grow and fast at the vaccination point on his kneck also the same location of the foreign body of the chip. It was so aggressive he was put to sleep 10 days after diagnosis, it was extremly aggressive and had already spread causing many more tumours and through the lymph nodes. Only left wondering if he still be here if he never got them boosters started 2yr ago.

  5. What hogwash this article is. What an egotistical person this guy is. Science is clearly your religion, which is comical because science is based on theories.

    Anywho, I have a paper trail to prove that the rabies vaccine caused my dogs cancer. 3 vets acknowledge it, and a 4th as an ER vet also acknowledges it. For you to be so close minded, you really need to get out of the medical field. It takes one with an open mind and excellent critical thinking to acknowledge that NOTHING is one size fits all. That not all animals have the same genetics, and like humans have mutations that might be triggered (epigenetics) when given a vaccine. These mutations that could be triggered could be cancer causing. It’s a shame Pamela has you come on to answer this question.


    Pro informed choice advocate

  6. Why would you find information that goes against the governments push on something? Did it not seem obvious to you when doctors and people were posting actual information, proof and pictures, And then they delete removed for “medical misinformation” that something fishy was up???? that when a notice was released Saying no one is allowed to post anything that goes against vaccination, might seem fishy to you!? Why would our largest multi billion dollar corporation who runs our CDC department, major banks, politicians, writes our doctors books and makes our baby formula WOULD EVER TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE SELLING IS A PROBLEM??????!!! I can’t believe someone as smart as you literally goes by the PROVE IT method SMH!!!!! A lot of us can prove it and a lot of us have children who died or got encephalitis within 2 hours of them getting their shots but they keep removing our proof and stories as medical misinformation and threatening us with law suits or shutting our accounts down. The internet is highly guarded. By those who create the problems and sell the solutions that create more problems that bring in more money. They were sued for over 15 billion and it never reached the news. Did you know out of the 3 entities that own our news channels, two of them actually fund the CDC and own over 16 patents for our vaccinations? The list goes on.

  7. So answer me this: Exactly WHAT company is going to front the major $$$$ to fund a study proving a link between vaccines and cancer? Who? Nobody that’s who because then no one would vaccinate and there goes all the profits to the vets and pharmaceutical companies! A simple read of the ingredients in vaccines shows the harm being injected into our pets over and over again.

  8. Neil SignorelliOP

    All of our dogs receive regular vet attention. We have had 6 of 7 die from cancer. More research needs to be done. All of our dogs and cats have been rescued. I seldom bring our cats to the vet and they all seem to be ageless after many years. Perhaps there is merit to not injecting dogs so often.

  9. My Boston Terrier got a injection site sarcoma. The blue die from the rabies vaccine was in the center of the tumor!!! Vets don’t care, this is big bucks for them every year or 3!!! The rabies vaccine company right away offered $500.00 towards his medical care, no questions asked. I am thinking about suing them for willful harm.

  10. I had my perfectly healthy Beagle / Terrier mix vaccinated for rabies, Bordetella and DHPAP. 90 days after the injection the same leg became swollen 5 times the size of normal. She also had extreme digestive problems and required immediate vet care. The swelling subsided for a short while but then returned. She then developed 2 large tumors that came thru the skin. After 60 days her blood count had dropped to 1/3 normal. Apparently she had extremely aggressive cancer and we had to end her suffering. Coincidence? I had a bad gut feeling when the vaccination was being administered and should have followed my instinct.

    1. I took my 8 year old perfectly healthy dog inn for a Parvo vaccination due to a news item that scared everybody. My baby was dead, full of tumors, within weeks. The Vets made a grand total of $7k from us and nobody bothered telling me she didn’t even need a shot at 8.

      I then did my own research, which is not propaganda but mostly ages with what ypthe written above, but there s plenty of known research now that shows they have been including cat DNA in dog vaccines etc. And treats ago the experts understood that injecting direct into to dog of foreign matter is making the matter kill the now foreign host.

      I’m surprised ypthe not come across that very important research yet. Try looking at what Australian professionals have to say before calling anything you haven’t read yet, propaganda. I’ll take you to the links, I’ll have Thai discussion right here – in fact, let’s compare notes. I’ll give your everything you’re missing ? Propaganda indeed!! Anti Vaxxers are full of researched knowledge from their own experiences. Wake up!!

  11. My wee Jack Russell and my beloved Rottweiler both died from cancer at the site they were given the rabies vaccine. They had never had boosters their whole lives and they lived in the country and were fed a predominantly organic diet. Within 3 years of having the rabies vaccine (needed to take them abroad) they both had cancer at site of injection. Obviously, I’m absolutely furious at myself for having this poison put into their bodies but more so, sad and sorry to my wee boys for cutting their lives short. I hope anybody reading this will never inject their dogs with any poison (even if your vet tells you they need it).

  12. Does Dogs Have Souls? Pets or animals have souls–and so do plant life. Will this answer appear to be something from the New Age motion? Don’t worry–it isn’t. Be confident we’re not expressing animals and plant life have souls like ours.

    The spirit is the basic principle of life. Since pets and plants you live things, they have got souls, however in the sense where humans have souls. Our souls are rational–theirs aren’t–and ours are logical because they’re religious, not material.

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