Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mudpie's Vaccination Scare...and What We'll Do Differently Next Time

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a time to shed light on one of the most important aspects of being a responsible pet parent. While it can be a controversial subject prone to much debate there is no doubt about the importance that vaccines play in our lives.


“Pets should be vaccinated to protect them from many highly contagious and deadly diseases. In some cases (rabies, for example), vaccinating your pet can also protect you from disease. If an unvaccinated pet develops one of these diseases, treatment can become very expensive and many of these diseases can be fatal, even if your pet received prompt and appropriate treatment. Rabies vaccination is required by law in many states and counties.
“Not all pets should be vaccinated with all available vaccines. “Core” vaccines are recommended for most pets in a particular area because they protect from diseases most common in that area. “Non-Core” vaccines are reserved for individual pets with unique needs. Your veterinarian will consider your pet’s risk of exposure to a variety of preventable diseases in order to customize a vaccination program for optimal protection throughout your pet’s life. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s lifestyle including its expected travel to other geographic locations and/or contact with other animals (such as exposure at kennels, obedience classes, shows, and dog parks) since these factors impact your pet’s risk of exposure to certain diseases. For older pets, make sure your veterinarian is aware of any previous adverse reactions to vaccines.”
The purpose of this post isn't to tell you what to do about vaccinating your pets. That's a personal decision to be made following consultation with your vet. This is the story of a scare we had following Mudpie's most recent vaccination in early December 2016, and what I learned from it to make her safer the next time around.

Scary Times

I had been receiving reminders in the mail since the summer that her vaccinations were due but since her annual wellness exam isn't until December I'd been putting it off to do all at once. While being a cat blogger has given me the opportunity to research and learn so much about caring for our feline friends, it has also given me more things to worry about through that knowledge, and in the weeks leading up to her appointment I found myself reading more about injection site sarcomas than I probably should have.

Photo credit: depositphotos/kaninstudio

I adore our vet and feel comfortable asking questions and sharing my concerns, so when appointment day rolled around I was quick to let him know that I wanted to take as conservative an approach to vaccines as I possibly could. Since Mudpie is an "only child" and strictly an indoor cat he completely agreed with me but state law does dictate that he needed to give her a rabies shot. I took this opportunity to express my concerns about what I'd been learning about injection site sarcomas. His reply was that in 22 years of practice he had only seen 2 instances of a vaccine related sarcoma, to which I gently replied that the year before when I asked him how common a saddle thrombus is in cats he told me that he usually saw one per year. Guess who that "one" was in 2015? My cat.

The rabies vaccine was administered and we were told if she had any problems with it to let them know, and soon we were on our way. Through the next couple days she thankfully didn't have any adverse reactions and before long through the busyness of the holiday season the visit was completely forgotten.

Then on the night of December 28th I was running my hands down Mudpie's sides and felt a hard lump at the injection site. I have no idea if it had been there all along and I had just never touched the right spot, all I knew was it was there now and panic set in immediately. I kept running my hands over it hoping I was mistaken, that it was just her hip bone or something, but over the next few days there was no denying that it was there and no matter how much I touched it I wasn't going to make it magically disappear.

I consoled myself a bit in reading online that sarcomas don't typically pop up that quickly, and that mild swelling is a common side effect, but I was still a bundle of raw nerves and on January 3rd I emailed the vet's office to let them know what was going on. I was advised of the same thing - that it is very common to develop a small bump at the injection site after getting vaccinated - but if it changes in size or shape or doesn't go away within a couple more weeks to let them know.

Photo Credit: depositphotos/ckellyphoto

By that weekend I started feeling cautiously optimistic that the lump seemed to be getting smaller, while still trying to push away the lingering fear that some cruel twist of fate was going to take another young cat away from me long before her time. Then, almost exactly two weeks after contacting the vet (and 6 weeks after the vaccination), the lump was gone and a huge sense of relief followed.

What We'll Do Differently Next Time

I count my blessings every day that it was a false alarm (although I still run my hands over that spot on a regular basis), yet it scares me to death that she had such a strong reaction to the rabies shot and I won't be taking the risk again. The next time around (thankfully this was a 3-year vaccine so she's set for awhile) we will be doing things differently.

1) I will be asking for the non-adjuvanted Purevax 3- year vaccine manufactured by Merial. This is one thing I hadn't informed myself about ahead of time and I was upset to learn my vet isn't offering it at this time. An “adjuvanted vaccine” contains a substance that enhances the body's immune response to an antigen and purposely causes inflammation at the vaccine site in order to alert the immune system to its presence. While safe in humans and dogs, it has been implicated in causing injection site sarcomas. That risk is much lower with the use of “non-adjvuanted" vaccines. They are a bit more expensive and I'll probably have to wait for my vet to order it, but to keep Mudpie safe I'll go through any additional inconvenience.

2) If any other vaccinations are recommended in the future I will be requesting a titer test which measures the amount of antibodies in the bloodstream, offering an approximation of an animal's immunity to a disease. If a cat's titer levels are adequate indicating she is still protected against any future exposure, revaccination isn't needed. (Unfortunately most jurisdictions won't accept a titer test for rabies antibodies in lieu of a vaccine.)

3) I'll always make sure that injections are administered as low on the leg as possible. In a worst case scenario, legs can be amputated, whereas a tumor on the hip or between the shoulder blades will be much more difficult to completely remove.

While vaccinations are an important part of protecting our pets (and ourselves), making sure they're administered in a safe and responsible manner is just as crucial. YOU are your cat's best advocate. Take time to do some research and discuss with your vet the best vaccine protocol for your pet, and after the vaccinations have been administered be extra vigilant about any adverse reactions. Your pet is counting on you to make the right choices for them!

Has your pet ever had scary side effects from a vaccination? 

27 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I am having my annual checkup for my therapy work at the end of the month, plus a rabies vaccine... and I think I will have my human call ahead about the non-adjuvanted vaccine to see if we can get that.

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  2. We've never had any issues wif vaccines, but we get titers done (except for rabies - as you said, it's law).

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  3. Thankfully, we have never had any issue with vaccines here. I've had to make arrangements with my apartment complex regarding Carmine and Lita's situation, but I'm very fortunate that they are understanding about the whole thing.

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  4. While we have never had any adverse reactions to vaccinations, we are thankful for this information!
    Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ

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  5. Very informative post ! We never had any reactions to vaccinations, and our angels didn't either. We're using Purevax vaccines. Purrs

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  6. Wow scary times for you. No owner you are being careful. We don't have rabies here but I know the USA does. I think adverse reactions are not common but you can never tell.

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  7. I'm so glad Mudpie was okay after that scare. It really makes me crazy that some vets still give anything non-adjuvanted vaccines to cats.

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  8. Our tip today is about vaccine reactions, too. They're such scary things. After years of having and knowing cats with no vaccine reactions, a number of my parents cats have ended up with lumps where their rabies vaccines were given, and last year my girl Eddy did as well. (Eddy just had her rabies vaccine yesterday, and I keep checking the site to see if all is well.) It's such a scary feeling finding a lump like that. We're so glad you're okay, Mudpie!

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  9. Very informative post! I've never had a cat have any kind of reaction to a vaccination, but I'm going to start doing more research and paying more attention to the warnings. We're sure glad Mudpie is okay! :)

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  10. We're glad to hear everything was okay with Mudpie. Our vet still gives the annual rabies shot because she said it was the safest. But now we know there is a 3-yr one that is safe as well. We may opt for that one next time.

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  11. It's true here as well that rabies are required, but thankfully my Vet doesn't make me vaccinate. I refuse to. The cats never go outside and they are non aggressive. I certainly understand your feelings and I hope that there is no problems ever with Miss Mupdie!

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  12. Great post, Melissa! Very informative. I never knew all these options.

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  13. I am glad Miss Mudpie was OK. I am shocked that your vet didn't offer a choice.

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  14. As you know, we've been through something similar - and my reaction was the exact same - from the initial panic - to the vet telling me he'd only seen 4 sarcomas in his 40 years as a vet (yeah, okay ... but that's little consolation to those four people!!!) - to almost compulsively rubbing my hands over Bear. There was actually a period where I STOPPED petting him because the fear got to a point that I couldn't tolerate finding another lump. I'm so glad Mudpie was okay - like Bear (though he did have surgery to take out his lump because it was a lipoma). I admit that even with my scare - I still favor vaccinating over not. I haven't boarded Bear much ... but there's that ... or him escaping ... or encounters with another cat- whether temporary or permanent. Our vet claims he'd been vaccinating in the leg for at least a few years before Bear's problems - but I don't remember that - I could've sworn the last vaccination before the scare was in his back - near where the lipoma grew. Thank you for your research into alternatives - I'll ask my vet about them. I'm also rethinking my vaccination strategy. I know I said I still favor vaccinating just in case - but I can't imagine how horrible I'd feel if I knew better but did it anyway.

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  15. Wow, I would have been a basket case when I found that lump on my kitty! I understand that most veterinarian organizations now suggest immunizations be given in the leg, but I don't know how that type of info trickles down to each vet individually. I wonder if any jurisdiction has ruled on whether a titer test result is as good as a rabies shot?

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  16. Thank you so much for this post. It's really scary when your little one is at risk. I know I had to switch vets because they would give my ltitle ones shots that I never asked for and would charge me for them, even when they didn't need specific ones.

    Vets are so hit and miss, but I'm so glad Miss Mudpie is fine! <3 Thank you again for sharing your experience.

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  17. This was a great post! Cody DOES occasionally get a little bump by where I know he has had vaccines given before, but they have always dissipated. I know you remember a few years ago, when I was an idiot and gave Cody not one, not two, but THREE vaccines at once (because I "wanted to get them over with"). I will NEVER, EVER do that again (plus, it looks like now, that Cody is 10 yrs old he will only have to have the rabies vaccine moving forward). Cody became violently ill, he was projectile vomiting, was lethargic and I had NO ONE to blame but me. My Vet had advised against giving him all 3 shots at once and I opted (out of laziness) not to listen. Will NEVER do that again. I am embarrassed to say I hadn't heard about the "titer" test until I think it was Janiss who left a comment on my blog when I was asking about vaccines a month or so ago. I am so happy I know about them. My Vet said they mostly do it just for dogs though but we will see. Also, maybe by the time Mudpie is ready next time, your Vet will do the type of vaccine that you mentioned you want? You never know. Great Post! catchatwithcarenandcody

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  18. thankfully with all the felines and vaccines that go on around here, we haven't ever had (knock on wood) a reaction like that. Mom is pretty careful with us and while rabies is required here too, she does cut back with the older cats here. That said, our habits are a little different since we foster.

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  19. tuna had a bad reaction to the rabies vaccine when I first adopted him; his leg was extremely hot to the touch, red as a crayon and his leg was bald...all for what then seemed like years.

    and while not a "vaccine"; sauce ♥♥♥ received a convenia injection and was gone a month later....long story short; tuna is NOT to be given convenia at any time for any reason; if he lives 10 million years~~~~ I will literally... let him bite my arm off for the taking of an oral medication instead

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  20. How scary! We're so glad Mudpie is OK! The rabies vaccine is a law here as well, and Mommy hates it. Our vet does not offer the three year vaccine, either. Only once both Lexy and I were a little sick after we got both the rabies and the three in one vaccines on the same day. Now Mommy tries to have us get them on different days, even if it means we have to go an extra time. She hates vaccines almost as much as we do!

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  21. We're so glad to hear that Mudpie is all right! One of the reasons we finally left our previous vet and moved to this one was that he was clearly uncomfortable with administering vaccinations in a cat's leg. We may have been his trial patients for it because the head peep insisted.

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  22. Is there a reason not to give injections in the tail? Tail tips are somewhat expendable.

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  23. I'm glad that Mudpie is okay and thank you for the info and tips! Very good to know.

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  24. One of Aunt Pauline's cats years ago got a lump at the injection site. The last time I was vaccinated, I got the Purevac and had fever and lethargy for the next few days. I won't be getting it again. The last one I got was administered by Dr. D. in my tail. Glad you're ok, MP. Your mom sounds like quite the rebel axing for the titer test.

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  25. My cat Tiger died in 1993 from the injection site sarcoma / lymphoma that he had. It was near his neck/shoulder area where they used to give them. That's why I am an advocate for non vaccination as well and will only use the Merial non adjuvanted rabies. Beau Beau and Angie rarely got vaccines because I believe that once they had their initial vaccines that they did not need any more. Do humans need yearly vaccines? No they don't. Animals are no different. But since most people are uncomfortable questioning the veterinarian (and their own doctors) they just follow the vaccination protocol blindly. Most vets are catching up to the new information but there are still a lot out there that are behind. The state may require a rabies vaccine but that is starting to change as well as people are becoming more educated. I'd rather fight that rule than risk my animals health because some "agency" blindly follows old rules from old data. It's all about change. New data comes out of studies every day. It takes time for the updated information to trickle down to the actual patient (or advocate) unfortunately. Thank you for posting this blog. People are ready to receive this information more readily now. It's been out there for some time but look how long it's taken just for people to start accepting it.
    ~Brenda

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  26. You can also read up on the laws of your community as to what happens if you refuse the vaccine.

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  27. I thought I had answered this when I first read it but I don't see my name. I appreciate what you wrote and I am saving the information for the next time Katie has to go, and thank you again.

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