How Should My Puppy Act After Shots

If you’ve read any of my other blogs about puppies, you probably know that I’m a big proponent of getting your puppy vaccinated. In fact, I believe they should have all of their shots before being brought, for example, to a family member’s house, a dog park, or anywhere else they may encounter another puppy or dog.

On a recent trip to my local big-box pet store, I met someone nice and listened to them talk about their new puppy. It struck me when they mentioned how their puppy was acting “weird” after getting their first vaccination.”

That conversation got stuck in my mind for a few days until I finally decided to do some research and find out more. In my Google search, the question I posed was simply this; how should my puppy act after shots?

The answer, in the majority of cases, is that your puppy will be lethargic after their shots, which is to say that they will look and act tired.  Typically, your puppy won’t want to eat very much, and, in some cases, they will sneeze or cough more than usual.

In rare cases, a puppy might have a moderate reaction to getting any or all of their shots. Also, their reactions might not be easily detectable, including difficulty breathing. If you notice your puppy is acting very differently than normal after getting their shots, it’s best to seek the help of a veterinarian.

Lastly, I must mention that occasionally a puppy will have a severe reaction to a vaccination or shot. In severe cases, the reaction your puppy is having will likely be very easy to see, including:

  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea.
  • A high amount of difficulty breathing that eventually leads to them collapsing.
  • Severe swelling around their eyes, face, or neck.
  • Skin that feels bumpy or is causing severe itching.

If your puppy has any of these severe symptoms after getting a shot, you should immediately take them to your local veterinarian. If your local vet isn’t available, taking them to an emergency veterinary hospital is your next best step. 

One bit of good news is that if your puppy does suffer a severe reaction to a shot, it usually starts within the first few minutes. That means there’s a high probability you will still be in your veterinarian’s office when their adverse reaction begins. If it does, your vet will be able to give your puppy something to either reverse or control the allergic reaction they’re having.

Now that you know how your puppy should act after shots, I bet you have other questions about vaccinations and the reaction they can cause. If yes, please read on. I have the answer to those questions, several more, and some excellent and helpful advice below.

Do Puppies Feel Unwell after Vaccinations? 

Yes, it’s rather common for puppies to feel unwell after being vaccinated. In most cases, the negative effects of a shot will last from 1 to 2 days. Some puppies might recover faster, while others will recover more slowly. Remember that all puppies are different and will react differently to their shots.

The fact is, it’s rather common for puppies to experience some type of mild side effect after having been vaccinated and, as I mentioned earlier, to feel the effects relatively soon after their shot. As long as the symptoms subside within 2 to 3 days and aren’t severe, your puppy should be fine.

What Symptoms Should I Watch for After Puppy Shots?

Several symptoms and side effects are commonly associated with getting your puppy vaccinated. Below I have listed the most common and what to look for, including:

Localized Ski Bumps and Swelling 

Typically, a small but hard bump is common where the vaccination was injected into your puppy. This bump is completely normal, but you can watch it for a day or two if you’re worried. That way, you can make sure it doesn’t get bigger, become inflamed, or start oozing any sort of pus.

Lack of Energy (Lethargy)

A noticeable lack of energy is one of the most common side effects of getting your puppy vaccinated. Your puppy will want to sleep more than usual and won’t be nearly as excited as they usually are during the day. As with other effects caused by vaccinations, your puppy’s lethargy should subside completely after one to three days.

Symptoms that Resemble a Cold

While most vaccinations are given via injection with a hypodermic needle, some are given via sprays and drops put into your puppy’s nose or eyes. With these types of vaccinations, it’s common for your puppy to have a reaction similar to the common cold. They will have symptoms that include coughing, a runny nose, sneezing, etc.

Signs of Discomfort

One final symptom you might notice after your puppy has had a vaccination is that they will whine or cry, especially if you pick them up. You might notice that your pupper is also walking around with its tail tucked between its legs. Like most other symptoms, this is normal and will subside within a couple of days. If it doesn’t or seems to get worse, I recommend you visit your local veterinarian to have them examined.

What Can I give my Puppy for Pain after Shots? 

My opinion about giving a puppy pain reliever after a vaccination is that it shouldn’t be necessary in the vast majority of cases. Yes, your puppy might have some pain for a day or two, maybe three, but it shouldn’t be severe and will subside quickly. If the pain doesn’t subside or gets worse, treating them at home might not be a great idea. Better to bring them to your local veterinarian and have them examined to determine why they aren’t getting better.

All of that being said, if you want to give your puppy something for pain, a common OTC pain medication like Benadryl is a good choice. An antihistamine, Benadryl, works by reducing the swelling around the injection site and reducing any pain your puppy might feel. 

The recommended Benadryl dosage is 1 mg per pound. That means a 20 lb puppy should get 20 mg of Benadryl,  a 30 lb puppy 30 mg, etc.  You can also go to your local big-box pet store and get an over-the-counter medication specifically formulated for dogs. 

Many pet companies have developed excellent pain medications that reduce inflammation, block pain, and, most importantly, don’t affect your puppy’s prostaglandin function. (Prostaglandins are compounds with hormone-like effects.)

Can I Walk my Puppy after he Gets Vaccinations? 

Unless your puppy is in great pain after their shots, they should be able to go for a walk. However, one caveat is that you should avoid contact with any other dogs and that your puppy doesn’t have access to another dog’s feces or urine.

Depending on where you live, keeping your puppy away from other dogs and their droppings can be relatively easy or extremely difficult. For example, if you have a big backyard that is fenced, the chance of running into another dog or their droppings is relatively low. 

On the other hand, if you live in the city and the only place you can walk your puppy is the local dog park, the chance of encountering another dog (and their urine and poop) is much higher.

My advice would be to wait until after your puppy has had all of their vaccinations before you venture much further than your own backyard for walks. That will give them time to heal from the vaccination and give their body and immune system time to get stronger before encountering another dog (or dogs) that could be sick.

Final Thoughts

If you’re worried about how your puppy should act after shots, you shouldn’t be. For the vast majority of puppies, getting their vaccinations can cause a day or two of slight symptoms that go away quite quickly. They might be tired, have symptoms similar to a cold, and have a bit of pain, but that’s about it. 

If you see that your pupper is suffering much more than that, or for much longer than 2 or 3 days, I would advise taking them to your veterinarian and having them examined promptly.

Did you enjoy today’s blog? I genuinely hope you did and that any questions you had when you got here have been answered. If you have more, please see my other blogs. I pack them full of interesting, educational, and useful advice that you will find very helpful as a new puppy parent. Until next time, enjoy this wonderful time raising your precious puppy!