Do Dogs Suffer From Vaccine-Induced Sarcomas?


Deb posted a comment in response to my recent article about vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats:

Dr. Barchas,

My 15 year old cat is about to get his yearly shots I will now request that my Vet follow your advice about injecting in the leg by the feet.

I have a question: Is this advice good for dogs too? Or only cats?

Deb, that is an excellent question.

I am not aware of any evidence that dogs develop injection site sarcomas. Most vets still administer canine vaccines between the shoulder blades. Many other veterinarians administer each vaccine in specific locations on the animal and note the locations in the patient’s record. Then if some sort of adverse reaction occurs they will have a better sense of which injection was the culprit. I feel this latter group is the wiser group.

I have two additional thoughts based on your comments.

First, although vaccine-induced sarcomas have not been documented in dogs, many experts believe that over vaccinating dogs can lead to other problems such as autoimmune disease. The evidence on this is hazy–there is lots of anecdotal evidence and individual cases with n=1, but not many scientifically valid studies. Always, always talk to your vet about the risks, benefits, and need for vaccines before your dog receives them.

Second, you mention that your 15-year-old cat is about to go in for his yearly shots. There are very few circumstances under which a cat that age needs vaccines every year. 15-year-old cats generally need vaccines every three years at most. I can think of only one exception: if you live in a municipality that requires annual rabies vaccines for cats, then your cat will, by law, need to be vaccinated each year against rabies. If that is the case, I recommend that you lobby your city council, county commissioners, or state legislature to change the law. I have never seen a shred of evidence that indicates rabies vaccinations need to be administered annually.

When you take your cat in for his annual exam (and I should point out that 15-year-old cats do need annual–or semiannual–exams), ask your vet which vaccines will be administered and also ask why they can’t be given every three years or less.

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