I often see skin issues like itching, redness, allergies, eczema, yeast infections, autoimmune diseases and so on develop or get worse in dogs who’ve recently been vaccinated (or re-vaccinated).
If you vaccinate your dog and then notice symptoms develop or worsen in the weeks or months afterward, it’s highly likely that the vaccine has damaged your dog’s immune system. It’s not usually acute; it’s a delayed adverse reaction. Your dog’s body, and particularly her immune system, is very complex and sensitive. It’s evolved to be able to react to pathogens in such a way that most dogs in a population survive even dangerous, deadly diseases like parvovirus.
The Natural Immune System Response
Here’s something that’s really important to understand … Dogs’ immune systems have evolved to react to and protect from disease pathogens (virus, bacteria, etc) contracted by a way of natural exposure. Natural exposure to a disease happens when a dog is exposed to virus or bacteria particles in her environment.
These particles then are taken into her body, usually by a way of the mouth or nose. Most infectious diseases attack the respiratory and digestive systems, or gain entry through them and then attack deeper organs. A critical dose of disease particles is required to overwhelm the immune system, reproduce in the dog’s body, and cause overt disease.
If there’s only low level contamination, your dog can be exposed to a disease and mount an immune response without showing any signs of illness that you’d notice, even though the immune system will have been working overtime. Dogs who are exposed to a pathogen and don’t get ill may produce antibodies and then be able to pass a titer test that shows they are protected from that disease (even if they’ve never been vaccinated).
Your dog’s immune system is very finely tuned to react to diseases as they enter their body by natural exposure. The mouth, gut, nose and respiratory system are rich with specialized immune tissues that are designed to sense and respond to pathogens.
Triggering Immune Cells
When these tissues in your dog are exposed to a pathogen, the specific immune cells found there are triggered and respond with intricate cascades of chemical messengers which are then distributed locally and throughout the body, mobilizing all sorts of immune cells that then travel to the impact zone to attack and identify the pathogen.
These first responders then send out more cascades of subtle chemical messages in response to what they have found and this causes very complex chain reactions throughout the body. Immune cells of all sorts are mobilized and activated, and they swarm to the area, attacking, killing, eating and digesting the pathogens. Some of these cells take the information from the pathogen and trigger the production of antibodies. Others emit chemicals that hamper or kill the pathogens. Some of these chemicals may cause fever (a fever is a healing response).
Inflammation Helps Healing
The main result of all of this immune activity is healthy inflammation. The immune system causes inflammation with …
- some heat
These are the main tools it has to fight, kill and dispose of the pathogens. Eventually, the immune response leads to the production of antibodies along with this whole host of other very complex immune reactions. Most times the end result is that your dog gets better, and the healthy inflammation fades away. After this, antibodies are present in the blood stream, and your dog can now instantly stop infection by the same pathogen if she’s exposed again. Any re-exposure to this pathogen in the future also triggers production of more antibodies.
Response to Vaccination
When you inject a vaccine under the skin, this is an insult that your dog’s immune system hasn’t evolved to respond to. It’s an unnatural shock! Suddenly, your dog has to deal with a high dose of pathogens somewhere in her body where she doesn’t have the specialized immune tissues that exist where natural exposure enters the body.
To add insult to this injury, most vaccines given to dogs contain not just one pathogen, but usually four or more (think of the DHPP vaccine that includes distemper hepatitis, parvovirus and parainfluenza). It’s very, very rare for a dog to get exposed to high levels of more than one dangerous pathogen at a time with natural exposure.
Then, to make things even worse, killed vaccines contain adjuvants (a cocktail of chemicals designed to send the immune system and inflammatory response into hyper-drive … but not in a good way). Suddenly, the immune system is on the back foot, scrambling, and it has to pull out everything possible not to be overwhelmed. The response is out of proportion: violent, unbalanced and not elegantly orchestrated like the response you see with natural exposure.
Occasionally, natural disease can also upset the immune system like this, but that’s rare. The shock of this unnatural influx of pathogens in the wrong place often knock the whole system out of whack, causing immune system dysregulation. The immune system still seems to work okay… It will respond to new pathogens, and will usually have made protective antibodies against the pathogens in the vaccine. But … and it’s a big but: The inflammation response caused by the vaccine doesn’t fade away back to normal health. The off switch is broken. It persists, and it’s got a hair trigger. The inflammatory response is out of control, gone rogue, and very reactive.
The Result: Allergic Reaction
Allergens such as pollens that weren’t an issue before may now cause seasonal suffering with severe itching, reddening, and out of control inflammation. A dog that was healthy and well is now chewing and scratching all her hair off, licking herself raw all night, or even chewing holes in her skin to the point of bleeding due to this savage, all consuming itch.
With immune system dysregulation caused by vaccination, over time your dog may develop all sorts of other autoimmune problems along with the itches. These may include …
- digestive upsets
- shifting lameness
- behavioral changes
- food intolerances
- swollen glands
- in the long term, cancer
These are all results of unhealthy inflammation driven by a dysregulated immune system.
A client brought her white Bull Terrier puppy in. This poor little dog had an angry, itchy, red hot brick color over about half of her body. She couldn’t stop scratching, little back legs thumping on the floor, then she’d stitch, jump, and ferociously chew into her skin. She was bleeding and had open sores. The client told me that this had started about a week after the pup’s second vaccination. She’d been pressured into having the vaccination, and was deeply upset for her dog. This is a classic and very severe example of immune dysregulation from vaccination (Bull Terriers are more sensitive to these issues).
What Can You Do For Your Vaccinated Dog
Be wary of vaccinations. If you do choose to vaccinate, use homeopathy before and after (consult a homeopathic vet for the best remedy for your individual dog), and never re-vaccinate without titer testing for antibody levels first. The titer may show that your dog’s protected without having to revaccinate. Learn more about homeopathy detoxes for before and after vaccinating your dog.
How to Help Vaccine-Injured Dogs
What should you do if you have a vaccine-injured dog? If possible, never vaccinate her again, as she’ll usually get a worsening of the problems every time she’s vaccinated. Consulting an experienced holistic vet and using homeopathy, acupuncture or acupressure and carefully prescribed herbs can help, sometimes dramatically. These approaches work on rebalancing the immune system, rather than using conventional drugs that suppress symptoms but don’t cure the underlying problem.
Learn more about these related allergy symptoms and so much more with the ultimate guide to allergies in next weeks post!