Vaccinating A Sick Dog: Why It’s Dangerous

Vaccinating a sick dog
Post At A Glance

All vaccine labels and inserts state that vaccines are for use in “healthy dogs only.”

Unfortunately, no one defines “healthy.” But most knowledgeable vets agree that certain animals should NOT be vaccinated.

Examples of these include dogs with autoimmune disease, dogs undergoing chemo, radiation or surgery (even dental cleaning or neutering), dogs with cancer, allergies and skin diseases, dogs fighting an illness or parasites, dogs who are stressed (perhaps from a move to a new home), malnourished dogs, and dying housebound dogs.

Assaulting the immune systems of of a sick, stressed or geriatric dog with vaccination has been likened to throwing gas on a raging fire.

Why Vaccinating A Sick Dog Is Dangerous

First of all, your dog may have an adverse reaction from vaccination. Reactions can range from fever to seizures to autoimmune disease to anaphylactic shock and even death. 

But it’s also possible that shots given to an unhealthy dog can fail to provide immunity. So you’ll have the false security that your dog is protected when he isn’t. On top of that, your dog’s immune system, which should be fighting illness, may be diverted to handle the shot.

Here are some more official warnings about vaccinating sick dogs …

The USDA gives this warning about vaccination on its Licensed Veterinary Biological Product page …

“Products are typically shown to be effective in healthy animals. A protective immune response may not be elicited if animals are incubating an infectious disease, are malnourished or parasitized, are stressed due to shipment or environmental conditions, are otherwise immunocompromised …

And the University of Nebraska states in its paper Understanding Vaccines

“While it is common to vaccinate stressed animals, these animals are more susceptible to adverse vaccine reactions and frequently do not develop an adequate immune response. Immune stressed animals develop limited protection from vaccination.” gives rabies vaccine Precautions

” … level of performance may be affected by conditions of use such as stress, weather, nutrition, disease, parasitism, other treatments, individual idiosyncrasies or impaired immunological competency.  These factors should be considered by the user when evaluating product performance or freedom from reactions.

Even humans are at risk if a rabies shot fails and a dog becomes infected with rabies. So great is the danger of vaccinating sick and chronically-ill pets that many state and local health authorities allow a temporary or permanent exemption from rabies vaccination for these pets.

Rabies vaccine exemptions vary state by state so you’ll need to check your local laws or talk to your vet to find out how to get one.

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I asked some veterinarian friends to share their opinions on this issue.

What Veterinarians Say About Vaccinating A Sick Dog

Tamara Hebbler CiHom DVM (homeopath and holistic vet)

The most disturbing, relatively routine, veterinary practice is vaccinating ill or compromised animals.  I am appalled that this is still happening yet I hear from my clients that it is more the norm than the exception.

Vaccinating a stressed or ill dog violates our Hippocratic Oath: Above All Do No Harm.

When an animal is going in for surgery or chemo, or has an autoimmune disease or neoplastic condition [tumor], or even a chronic immune challenge such as allergies or endocrine/metabolic diseases, they are at a high increased risk to an adverse reaction to any vaccine.

I liken such vaccination to playing Russian Roulette with an animal’s immune system — but with 5 of the 6 barrels loaded, not just 1.

If negative reactions are severe enough, and immediate, most people will connect the reaction to the shot.  However, if the reaction develops over a few weeks or months, you may not tie it to the shot – and your vet probably won’t either.

In standard veterinary practice, we have brief appointments and are very busy, I regret to say, treating many of the dis-ease states that we as a profession, with the help of the pet food industry, have created.  It is only through laborious record review that I made the connection.

Be bold and stand up for your pet especially when he or she is not feeling well. Just say NO to vaccinations and start researching and titer testing.

Jean Hofve DVM, former Editor-in-Chief of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal

Vaccination puts a tremendous burden on the immune system to mount a protective response.

If the response is to be adequate and provide protection against disease, there shouldn’t be any other immune-compromising stresses present.

Clearly, an animal already fighting an infection, injury, or other illness is not going to have adequate resources to devote to the vaccine – and it could take away from its ability to fight what’s already there.

Chemotherapy and steroids suppress the immune system and deplete its ability to produce a good vaccine response. Even something as seemingly benign as a bath or an elective surgery or dental procedure will reduce body temperature, a stress that can also inhibit the immune system.

These are some of the reasons why the directions on every vial of vaccine say “For use in healthy animals only.”

From Stephen Blake DVM, Author of The Pet Whisperer

All vaccines come with a label warning from the manufacturer, advising the practitioner to not vaccinate animals who are not healthy.

The sad part about this story is the veterinary community has set the bar so low for our animals, that as long as the animal is breathing, you can vaccinate them.

I see records with pets who had ear infections, low grade fevers, eye and ear discharges, ear infections, allergic dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, abscessed teeth, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, auto immune disease, chronic arthritis, lameness, abscesses, etc, when they came to the veterinarian to evaluate their health issues … and they were vaccinated in spite of having one or more of these issues.

Not only are they vaccinated but for up to 10 different diseases simultaneously.

The clients are not being informed about the potential danger to their pets and are also being told their pets need these vaccinations, when there is no science to support such recommendations.

This is not good medical practice and endangers the health of our animal patients…. Supply and demand are the driving forces in any economy for the success or failure of any product. As the public becomes more educated as to the truth about vaccinations, this practice will go the way of the dinosaur.

RELATED: Read about the risks of combination shots for dogs …

From Patricia M Jordan, DVM, author of Mark of the Beast Hidden In Plain Sight; court certified expert witness against veterinary vaccine damage 

An Australian study found most of the animals undergoing vaccination were not healthy and should not have been receiving vaccines. It is criminal in my book. So many of our animals are now sick and diseased with autoimmune disease or cancer and yet again get the big jab under the guise that “he is due for rabies.”  So many stressed animals, malnourished animals, animals with any health issues should not be just jabbed…….especially with rabies. Giving this vaccination while stressed or immune-compromised means endangering the animal and is a public health and exposure risk.

Each and every one of these cases should be addressed in a court of law and culpable responsibility assigned on the basis of the research already available that these medical disasters are predictable effects of the vaccines …

Should You Vaccinate A Dog With Cancer?

You should never vaccinate a dog with cancer. Your dog’s body is fighting a life-threatening disease and vaccines are known to affect your dog’s immune system. It’s especially important not to vaccinate a dog who’s getting chemotherapy, which also depletes the immune system.

Can You Vaccinate A Dog While On Antibiotics?

Avoid vaccinating your dog while he’s on antibiotics. If he’s taking antibiotics, he’s unhealthy. It’s safest to postpone vaccination until your dog is 100% recovered.

Unless you know that your dog is 100% well and free of even allergies or dental disease, don’t ever go to a shot clinic or give a shot yourself.

A 1998 Australian study found that ”Fifty-two percent of animals were found to suffer from intercurrent disease and 3% had severe debilitating disease. A thorough clinical examination conducted at the time of routine vaccination appears to be an important element in maintaining companion animal health and welfare.”

Speak to your vet about postponing shots until your dog is well. Take along information about vaccination duration of immunity and which vaccines your dog really needs. Veterinary immunologist Ronald D Schultz PhD proved with decades of research that the protection from most vaccines lasts for many years … usually for life. You might even print this article for your vet if you find resistance. If you still find resistance, find another vet.

I hope you’ll bookmark this article and share it with friends. Don’t let them make a mistake they may never be able to undo. And if your dog needs vaccination for licensing, ask your vet to apply for a temporary or permanent exemption to the rabies shot.


Banyard MR. Prevalence of intercurrent disease in dogs and cats presented for vaccination at a veterinary practice. Aust Vet J. 1998 Sep;76(9):600-1.

Ronald D Schultz BS MS PhD DACVIM. Vaccination and Changing Protocols – Part 1. IVC Journal. May 21 2014.

Ronald D Schultz BS MS PhD DACVIM. Vaccination and Changing Protocols – Part 2. IVC Journal. September 13 2014.


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