We love our dogs and want to keep them in the best health. This means taking them to the vet to have their yearly vaccinations. Most dogs are fine and do not suffer any pain or discomfort at the injection site, but a small number of dogs may show signs of pain. What can you give your dog if he appears to be in pain after getting his vaccinations?
Can dogs experience pain after vaccinations?
Vaccines contain a small portion of either a weakened or dead virus. This triggers the dog’s immune system to start produces antibodies for that disease. If your dog ever contracts the virus for real, his immune system will recognize it and immediately release antibodies to fight it.
It is normal for dogs to experience mild side effects such as:
- Temporary soreness at the injection site
- Lack of appetite
These symptoms should pass within 24-48 hours. Soreness from an injection usually passes after a few hours. Just like when we have an injection, we may feel a little achy afterwards, but it soon passes. If soreness persists for longer, you should speak to your veterinarian to discuss pain relief options.
A small number of dogs may experience skin irritation or swelling at the site of injection. This should pass within 2 days, however, you should contact your vet if you notice the swelling is not reducing or is getting worse. Irritation and swelling are indicators of infection, so your dog may need antibiotics.
How to tell if my dog is in pain after shots
Dogs are great at hiding when they are in pain until the problem is serious. This is a natural instinct passed down from their wild ancestors as a way of avoiding predators.
Fortunately, there are a few tell-tale signs that your dog may be in pain:
- Avoid touch, particularly around the injection site
- Whimpering or whining
- Tail tucked between the legs
While it is normal for your dog to exhibit these behaviors for a few days after getting his vaccine, if these symptoms are still present after one week, you should contact your veterinarian.
What can I give my dog for pain after shots?
Persistent pain at the site of injection can be treated with common pain medication. Diphenhydramine, or Benadryl, is an antihistamine used to relieve the symptoms of allergies. They work by reducing swelling, which will alleviate any soreness. A dose of 1mg per pound of bodyweight is safe for dogs.
There are several over-the-counter medications that a veterinarian may recommend in small doses, but generally, the best options are those specially formulated for dogs. Due to their reaction to the blocking of certain prostaglandins, pet drug companies have worked hard to produce medications that block pain and inflammation, while having no impact on other important prostaglandin functions.
With your veterinarian’s advice, you may give your dog small doses of buffered aspirin, but this should be temporary until you can get a prescription from your vet for a dog-specific pain medication.
The most common NSAIDs designed for dogs are Metacam and Loxicom. Your veterinarian may also prescribe:
- Deracoxib (commonly called Deramaxx)
- Carprofen (commonly called Rimadyl)
- Firocoxib (commonly called Previcox)
- Etodolac (commonly called EtoGesic)
These painkillers have been formulated to relieve pain, inflammation and fever in dogs and cats, without blocking COX-1 prostaglandins. This means your dog is not at risk of developing blood clotting issues, stomach ulcers or kidney damage, which are all common in dogs given human pain medication.
Some people give their dog baby aspirin, but this is often not recommended as aspirin can cause stomach ulcers, kidney and liver disease.
Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any human pain relief medication. Relying on word of mouth from other dog owners is dangerous. Just because their dog had no reaction does not mean your dog will not. Just like humans, every dog is different and your dog may not be able to tolerate the ingredients.