Things that keep me from quilting #11: Severe cat reactions to vaccinations

NOTE: If you have found this post through a search for “cat reactions to vaccinations” or something similar, STOP!

If your cat (or dog) is experiencing any of the following symptoms after a vaccination, take your pet back to the vet IMMEDIATELY:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • whitish or pale gums in the mouth
  • facial swelling or hives
  • rapid or difficult breathing
  • restlessness or difficulty settling down

The above symptoms may mean that your pet is going in to anaphylactic shock and needs IMMEDIATE medical attention to survive!

Severe reactions to vaccinations can be life threatening and are a medical emergency! Don’t wait and wonder, have your pet checked by a veterinarian ASAP!

My cat had a severe reaction to a rabies shot (I firmly believe), and only immediate medical attention saved his life. Though I’m not a vet, I’ve had cats all my life and I’ve done the research about the symptoms. Please, take care of your pet NOW, and then come back and read this post!

ALSO: Even if your pet wasn’t recently vaccinated, any of the above symptoms can still indicate a potentially life threatening condition, and your pet should be seen by a veterinarian! Insect bites or stings (and many other things as well) can also trigger anaphylactic shock, and your pet may have been stung without your knowledge. Take care of your pet NOW, and then come back and read this post!


Monday wasn’t pretty. The rest of the week hasn’t been quite as bad, but it’s not been a picnic either. But back to Monday’s issues: I took Patches and Shadow to the American vet on the Army post to have their shots. Now I usually (at least for the last year or so) don’t even do this because they don’t ever go outside, and they only see each other, and I’m still not completely convinced that it wasn’t a vaccination a couple of years ago that made Patches so sick and nearly caused his death. Yes, he was THAT sick. The vet says the vaccination was probably not the cause, but probably isn’t certainly.

This year, because of the move, I decided that vaccinations would probably be a good idea, despite my misgivings about Patches. There will be a lot of people wandering in and out of the house, so you never know what could happen with a cat getting out the door, and the house we’re moving into has been home to at least one dog for many years and who knows what kinds of germs or whatnot are there in the new house. So off to the vet we went.

After waiting over an hour to get seen, the staff then tried to tell me that the reason for the wait was because they had a military working dog come in to be seen. Um, right, would that be the one I saw walk through the door, unassisted and obviously not in need of any emergency care, about 15 minutes ago? Such great service we get here from the Army.

We finally saw the vet, and we chit-chatted about general health issues like teeth and weight and the like. Yes, Patches is still the fat boy at 17.5 lbs., but Shadow has finally outgrown his baby fat and is perfectly sized at 10.5 lbs, just like I figured he would be, though the German vet kept telling me he was too fat as well.

The vet gave them their shots and away we went toward home. Now remember that they’ve been in the cages for, hmmm, let’s see, over 2.5 hours at this point and are stressed. We arrived at home only to find that Shadow had used the cage as a litter box, and that was only the beginning of his symptoms over the next couple of hours, which included vomiting and diarrhea all over the house, and hives and facial swelling. He was having a severe reaction to one of the shots, probably the rabies vaccination, and going into anaphylactic shock.

I had to rush him to the German vet a bit later when the hives and facial swelling developed and I figured out that this wasn’t just some combination of an upset tummy, a reaction to the stress of the day and/or litter box issues because of some new food he’d had over the weekend. If I hadn’t taken him in, he would have died, but they got him on the road to recovery with a corticosteroid shot and electrolyte fluids to replace what he’d lost. They actually said he looked remarkably well when I brought him in considering what he’d been through in a bit over two hours since the shot. He’s one tough little sucker, it seems.

They kept Shadow for an hour and a half or so and then I had to pick him up and take him home. He spent the entire evening and most of the night on the move, because he itched all over and kept getting up and moving around and trying to escape the itching. When we went to bed, he tried to settle down and sleep and his little eyes were almost shut, but every two seconds, literally, he’d have to get up and move because he itched.

It was terrible and there was nothing I could do to help, though I could tell it was getting better, just very slowly, and I didn’t think that another car ride to yet another German vet, the all night emergency one, was in his best interests at that point, even though they might have been able to give him some sort of antihistamine relieve some of the itching. I wasn’t sure the further trauma of the cage and the car trip was worth it since he was on the slow road to recovery. He finally settled down sometime in the night and spent most of Tuesday semi comatose, sleeping it all off and catching up on all the sleep he missed the day before.

You can read about the symptoms of an allergic reaction to vaccinations in cats and also in dogs, just in case this has never happened to one of your babies, and I do hope it hasn’t. I’ve had cats all my life, and never had one that had a reaction to a vaccine. It was totally scary, and I know I’m going to keep track of this information and read it before they have to get shots again, which won’t be any time soon I’m afraid. I’m just not going there with either one of them unless some law says I have to vaccinate them and even then I’ll be fighting it.

The German vet and I discussed the fact that, of course, Shadow shouldn’t be given a rabies vaccination again, BUT that only works until we move back to the US, and then he has to be vaccinated to be shipped. I’m going to fight that one too, and try to get a waiver or something, because I don’t see why I should have to risk my cat’s life to ship him back to the US, and the German vet’s solution of putting the rabies shot in one hip and a corticosteroid shot in the other to hopefully counteract the rabies just seems cruel and stupid. Excuse me, but would they do that to a human being? I think not.

So Shadow has used up yet another of his nine lives, which brings his total unused lives to about seven, I think. The same German vet that fixed him up this time tried to do him in when he was just a kitten when she gave him the wrong meds or the wrong dosage in a shot, and he spent the rest of that day vomiting and then sleeping it off. The vet never would admit she goofed, but I guess she’s redeemed herself since she saved his life this time. Karma, I tell you. I do believe in karma.

Well, maybe his total is actually six lives left out of his nine, since there was that time I almost killed him after the chicken broth incident. It’s a lot funnier now than it was back then! He seems to be fully recovered from his ordeal on Monday, so we’re all glad for that. Now if I can just have a quiet day on Friday, then it’ll be the weekend…

Edit: I’ve just done some Internet sleuthing (despite Google being MIA; how weird is that that Google has gone missing today? I feel crippled without my Google Search!) and I found the animal importation regulations at the Centers for Disease Control, and they say:

Although cats are not subject to rabies vaccination regulations, CDC strongly advises all cat owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies as a precaution. (emphasis added)

Very interesting. The same does not apply for dogs, which must be vaccinated against rabies if they are coming from a country that is not rabies free (as determined by the World Health Organization, I think). This is NOT what any of the veterinarians over here will tell you, either. I wonder how many people I’ll have to beat over the head with this regulation when the time comes before they’ll let me ship Shadow back to the US without a rabies vaccination. *sigh* I’m sure it will be many. Well, that’s for dealing with sometime in the sorta far future, like three to five years from now or so, since that’s how long the Army wants to employ ITMan in Heidelberg.

15 thoughts on “Things that keep me from quilting #11: Severe cat reactions to vaccinations

  1. I am so sorry to hear about your cat. What an aweful thing to have happen. I would get the vet to write and exception prescription and notate Shadow’s records that he is allergic to the rabies shot. They do that for humans. My DH is allergic to eggs so cannot EVER have a military required flu shot. I was never quite happy with the vet care while in Germany or Italy when we were in the service, oh so very long ago. My cats weren’t either. My feeling was that they don’t really care about the small domesticated animals that are so important to our lives. But, I have been known to be wrong also.


  2. Hi Carolyn! Your feelings are absolutely correct unfortunately. After all is said and done, the veterinarian isn’t here to do anything with our pets, he’s here to inspect the food (which isn’t always great either in the commissary, so I wonder about that one), and take care of the military working dogs. It’s absolutely no secret that the Army thinks it’s doing us a favor by providing the little bit of care that they do for small animals.

    I tried to have the vet notate the records and file an adverse event report with the USDA, but I guess that’s all just too far outside the norm for him to handle. I’ve had maybe one good experience with the Army veterinarians here, and the rest have been notably bad. The other choice is a German vet, which isn’t always stellar either, so “never quite happy with the vet care” pretty much hits the nail on the head!

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! Shadow seems to be fully recovered now so all is good!


  3. So much trauma for your little Shadow. I know it’s tough when your pet is sick. Thankfully my cats never had any bad reactions after a visit to the vet, unless you include the fact they are always in a bad mood afterwards 😉

    Lucky cats have 9 lives, heh.


  4. Hi Andrea, and welcome! Yes, Shadow has had a traumatic life so far it seems. I keep thinking things will calm down though. Either that, or he really will run out of lives!


  5. You saved my cat’s life tonight. At 16 months, he had his leukemia, rabies, and distemper shots today at 3:45 pm. When I got home by 4:45, he was howling, agitated, and puffy around the eyes. I googled “cat reactions to shots” and found your site. After reading the symptoms, I took him to a 24 hour emergency vet by 6:45 pm, where he was diagnosed as being in anaphylactic shock. Fortunately he’s going to be okay. I go back and pick him up in a couple of hours. I cannot thank you enough.


    1. Ann, I’m so glad to hear your cat is going to be okay! What’s his name? Do let your regular vet know what happened so it can be added to his records, and ask that the vet office report this adverse reaction. There is an agency that tracks this sort of thing, and your vet will know how to do that.

      This happens way too often (as is proven by the number of times people search for “cat reaction to vaccination” or some such thing), and I’m so glad your story has a happy ending! Tell every one you know who has pets (even dogs) so that they are aware that vaccinations can be life threatening to pets!


      1. His name is Theo and he is an outgoing love bunny. He’s unnaturally quiet today; I’ve talked to my vet who said that this is normal after all the medications he was given last night. Happily, Theo’s eating and purring as usual. The emergency vet faxed all of Theo’s info to my vet, who now has it. Future vaccinations remain a very open question in my mind. I dont want him to ever go through that again! Thanks again.


        1. One more comment. What really made me react was the way in which you presented the information:

          NOTE: If you have found this post through a search for “cat reactions to vaccinations” or something similar, STOP!

          If your cat (or dog) is experiencing any of the following symptoms after a vaccination, take your pet back to the vet IMMEDIATELY.

          That got my attention and made me act immdiately. Thanks again.


          1. I’m so glad Theo is going to be okay, Ann. I can tell you that Shadow hasn’t suffered any permanent effects from his ordeal last year. He did not sleep well the night that this all happened, as I said in the post, and the next day he was pretty quiet too, mostly sleeping the sleep of the dead because he was exhausted.

            What really made me react was the way in which you presented the information:

            And that’s exactly why I put that note there the way I did! I didn’t want people to have to read the whole post and then try to figure out what I was getting at, and whether it might apply to their pet. I’m so happy that it helped someone get their pet treated quickly!

            Give Theo a kitty hug from me and my boys, Patches and Shadow. 🙂 Take care!


  6. Just a follow up here: I really think this type of thing happens more often than we think it would, and I’m leaning toward not vaccinating my cats again until I have to put them on a plane for the States–when we move permanently! This experience with Shadow was actually the second bad one with vaccines. Patches had a problem a year or two before that was just as life threatening but for other reasons. I’m just not sure it’s worth it!


  7. I have a dog that had this reaction 3 times before the vet figured out the which vaccine was the offending one and once from yellow jacket stings. As an RN, I recognized the symptoms immediately and have a deep understanding of the rapidity with which anaphylaxis can develop. If medical attention is given quickly enough, the victim recovers quickly. If not, then… I know we sometimes hesitate with our pets due to monetary concerns, but if your pet is showing facial swelling or rapid or difficult breathing, you should consider a vet visit even if your pet hasn’t just had a vaccination. As I said, my dog had this reaction from yellow jacket stings, though we didn’t ascertain that was the cause until the next day when we found her digging at their in ground nest. So if you see these symptoms your pet could have gotten into something you didn’t witness.


    1. Melissa, thank you for this addition to this post! I’ve never had a pet that was bitten or stung by anything, so I’d never have thought of this. It’s definitely something to be aware of!


Comments are closed.