I have a six-year-old Golden Retriever who is generally healthy minus getting a few hot spots occasionally after swimming. Although we are working with our vet to minimize the number of vaccines he gets he still had a reaction to one about two years ago. He developed a large hard lump at the injection site in his hip where the injection was about 3 to 4 weeks after his shot.
Everything turned out fine until recently when he had an antibiotic shot in his shoulder which the vet gave him to help heal his lip fold infection. About a month after the shot he developed a huge bump (which seemed to come up in a matter of hours) the size of a grapefruit at the injection site. We had it biopsied and everything was fine but now I am quite concerned about getting anymore shots in the future as we often hear that dogs can die from vaccine shots.
Is there anything I can do that would boost his immune system so he can handle these shots? Also, should I avoid all or specific shots in the future?
It is not uncommon for dogs to react to vaccines in the way that yours did. Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to fight bacteria and viruses. Some individuals react to vaccines excessively, causing lumps (called granulomas) to develop at the site of injection. These lumps generally are not life threatening. However, I always recommend minimal vaccinations in any pet that develops these sorts of lumps.
Although lumps at vaccination sites are not especially uncommon, lumps at antibiotic injection sites are much more rare. The fact that your dog reacted to both implies that his body may have a low tolerance for injections of all sorts. Perhaps the trauma of the needle penetrating the skin caused an exuberant immune system response. Or maybe the antibiotic and the vaccine both triggered inflammation at the injection sites, causing lumps to develop later.
Although I don’t know what exactly is causing your dog’s lumps, I definitely think you should avoid giving him injections if possible. Use oral antibiotics, and keep working with your vet to develop a minimalist vaccine protocol.
One final note. Pets can die from vaccines, but it happens very rarely. It is much more common, in my experience, for pets to die from lack of vaccines. I am aware of six dogs who died of parvovirus (which is preventable with vaccines) in one neighborhood of San Francisco last week. In my career I have not seen even one pet die from a vaccine reaction (although there have been two close calls).
Photo: Ginger has no known history of injection reactions.