In the hubbub of changing homes and getting Thor settled in here, the date for his third distemper/parvo vaccine came and went. He was about a month late in receiving it when I took him in last Thursday. I had read information provided by the breeder about adverse reactions to vaccines in weimaraners which included the recommendation not to combine vaccines. Armed with that info, I asked if we could separate the distemper and parvo into two shots separated by a week in time. The vet told me that they don't get them that way so it wasn't possible. As long as we weren't doing the DP and rabies together, from what I read, it should be okay. So he had the vaccine. The vet also told me that, because of the delay, he would need to have a fourth shot.
Within a few hours of the injection, Thor had blowout liquid diarrhea. I thought back to hearing he'd been sick with diarrhea and vomiting in his previous home. So I contacted the previous owner to ask about the timing of that illness in relation to his DP vaccine. She verified that he had gotten sick within 48 hours of the injection. Later, I bumped into Thor, and he held his back leg up as if in pain for several moments. Turns out, painful joints and pain-to-touch are among the symptoms of an adverse reaction to vaccine along with diarrhea. Fever and lehargy can also occur. More serious reactions include seizures, muscular atrophy, incoordination and weakness. In the worst cases, death may result. Luckily, Thor did not exibit any of the severe symptoms. Still, the diarrhea was alarming to me in its severity. According to his previous owners, it was the earlier episodes of diarrhea that lead to Thor soiling his crate. No wonder.
Dr. Jean Dodds cites a recommendation to "refrain from vaccinating these animals [those who have had an adverse reaction to vaccine] until at least after puberty." The rabies vaccine is known to bring on neurological reactions in susceptible animals; the Weimaraner Club of America says that no weimaraner should receive the rabies vaccine prior to 6 month old. Thor was vaccinated at 4 months. His previous owners had presented the vet with the breeder's recommendation to wait another 2 months, but the vet insisted he have it earlier. Thor had a similar reaction (vomiting/diarrhea) to that vaccine.
Dr. Dodds conducted a study of weimaraners in which adverse reactions to vaccination included high fever, cyclic episodes of pain, diarrhea, lethargy, anorexia, enlarged lymph nodes, coughing, pneumonia, depression, seizures, refusal to stand or move. Most cases were in male puppies. Outcome for Dodds' subjects were good for half the group; other puppies died or remained chronically ill as adults. Going forward, measurement of titres is recommended along with avoidance of unnecessary vaccines and "tailoring a specific minimal vaccination protocol for dogs of breeds...known to be at increased risk for adverse reactions." The puppy series should be started later, at 9-10 weeks, according to Dodds. Avoidance of revaccination in dogs who have already had an adverse reaction is recommended. Needless to say, I called my vet and canceled the appointment for DP #4.
Thirty-six hours after the vaccine, Thor was much improved although he did vomit once beyond that time frame. During the first day and a half following vaccination, he ate significantly less than usual. For a puppy who normally doesn't notice pain (he does wipe-outs on the ice in my yard regularly and jumps up to keep on running), he was particularly sensitive to a minor bump. All in all, I wish I had investigated sooner the special needs of weimaraners and vaccination. I certainly will take a protective/proactive role in dealing with any veterinarian who questions the research.
Now two and a half days later, Thor seems to have fully recovered. Keeping my fingers crossed.