Vaccination reactions

Q: My cat has developed a small hardened lump in the area where she received her rabies vaccine two and a half weeks ago. Is this a cause of concern?

A: Veterinarians see a variety of vaccination reactions in dogs and cats. Fortunately, most are mild and non-consequential. A hard lump, or induration, may occur at the site of injection of any medication, including vaccines. This is the body’s reaction to the foreign chemical. The immune system sends in special cells to investigate the invasion. These immunocytes cause the hardening of the skin. For vaccinations, it indicates a good reaction to the vaccine, and optimum protection for the diseases for which the vaccine was intended is expected. Most of these lumps peak in size and hardness in one to two weeks, then gradually reduce and disappear over the following weeks. No treatment is necessary. In the worst case scenarios, the small capillary blood supply to the lump skin may be damaged, and that section of skin may slough.

If the lump is under the skin, and becomes increasingly tender and large, an abscess is possible. Pain and size increase should be evaluated after one week from the time of injection.

Your veterinarian would be happy to examine your cat and give you an instant determination of the lump. This is often the best solution, for it provides the immediate answer, and gives the doctor feedback on the injection given.

When should my kitten start on the vaccination series?

Q: I have two small kittens and they have had one check up, but I forgot at what age I am to take them back for shots. Can you please let me know the best age? And, as I am unsure of their real age is there a way to tell?

A: Kittens should be vaccinated between six and eight weeks of age. The vaccinations should be repeated at two to four week intervals for two additional sets of shots. The shots are boostered annually after the initial series.

One vaccination is the FVRCPC vaccine. This provides protection for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia and Chlamydia. Another vaccine is for Feline Leukemia. A third vaccine is Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). The first three vaccines are required by all cats. The forth vaccine is for Rabies. If your kitten goes outside, a rabies vaccination after four months will be necessary. It is important to have your veterinarian examine your kitten at each vaccination visit. Your veterinarian can check for normal growth, parasites, dental development, and discuss fleas, diet and behavioral problems.

A kitten’s age is determined by dentition. A kitten is six to eight weeks after the premolars have fully erupted behind the canine teeth, and before any of the permanent incisors have replaced the deciduous teeth. When in doubt, visit your veterinarian. An early visit is never wasted, for, just as in human infants, there is much to examine and discuss in an newborn to insure a long and healthy life ahead.

Shots and flea management in kittens

Q: Hi, how old is a kitten suppose to be to get their first shots? How well does the new type of flea control pill work? Is it just for indoor kitties?

A: Kittens should have their first visit to the veterinarian between six and eight weeks of age. During this visit, the doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, looking for birth defects, tooth eruption, common kitten problems, etc. The doctor will also check a stool sample for parasites, and discuss feeding, fleas, grooming, spaying/neutering and other important topics. The first set of shots are given at this age also. Depending on your kitten’s future plans for living in or out of doors, other cats in your household, etc., the doctor may recommend leukemia testing and different vaccination protocols to suit your needs.

The best flea product on the market is Revolution. It can be given to cats starting at six weeks of age. Revolution is a topical liquid, applied monthly. It is very safe, and kills and prevents fleas, ear mites, roundworms and hookworms, as well as preventing heartworm. Indoor and outdoor kittens should be vaccinated. Flea control may or may not be necessary for indoor cats. Start control when you suspect fleas in the area.

Any problem duplicating vaccinations?

Q: I got a Pomeranian puppy yesterday. I got his puppy shots today. Afterwards I found out he had been vaccinated four days earlier. Will my puppy be sick?

A: Not likely. Most vaccines are so safe, they can be administered many times in excess without a problem. Just keep an eye on the little pup for the rest of the day.

Injection site reaction

Q: My dog received her yearly vaccination a month and a half ago. She has had reactions to shots before so they usually give her an antihistamine shot prior to the injection. Otherwise her face swells some. This time they were using a new injection and didn’t think she’d have a reaction, so they did not give her a shot prior. Everything was fine with an exception of a huge bump at the injection site. A month and a half later the huge bump was still there and now accompanied by another bump to the side of it on her neck. Her neck was stiff and hurts to move. Her eye lids are swollen, and she has had a fever. The injection site has popped and oozed, and looks infected. She acts as if she hurts all over. First the vet gave me an antibiotic for her and gave me anti bacterial ointment for the eyes. The ointment made the eyes worse. The antibiotic seemed to knock the fever but she’s still very ill and the lump on her neck and sore at injection site is still present. They tested her for an auto immune disease.

A: Vaccines are modified germs which stimulate both the local and systemic immune systems of animals. It is common to have reactions. Severe reactions are uncommon. Swellings at the site or local lymph nodes may occur as the local immune system reacts to the invasion of the vaccine germs. Animals with stronger immune systems have greater local reactions. Most swellings resolve and dissipate within a few weeks, and need no treatment. Some reactions leave an abscess at the injection site. The abscess is the accumulation of white blood cells that showed up to fight the invading germs. Some abscesses are absorbed internally, and others break open to the surface of the skin. Ones which break open, need to be cleaned and kept dry. Ointments usually are not desirable, for they keep the site moist and oozing. I prefer daily cleaning with a povidone iodine scrub like Betadyne.

Systemic antibiotics are rarely needed. Any swelling which continues to grow in size past the first couple weeks should be seen by your veterinarian. Swellings which rise up quickly, but remain the same size after a couple of weeks usually resolve on their own. When in doubt, have your veterinarian examine the site.

Reactions may vary from year to year due to the progressive changes of the vaccine manufacturers. Higher quality vaccines are more expensive, but are much less likely to produce vaccine reactions. Low cost vaccination services have more problems than conventional veterinary services.