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>Q: In November, my little dog, Beau, hurt his leg. I took him to the veterinarian for help and for grooming. While I was waiting in the exam room, I saw a promotion for a vaccine that would prevent my dog from getting sick after licking wild animal pee. We live in the country with all sorts of wildlife, and Beau played in the woods, so I thought this would be a good idea.

Three months later, my Beau was dead. I feel like I should have been advised about the danger of this vaccine. The vet gave Beau Benadryl while administering the vaccine to prevent a bad reaction. Well, shortly after Beau got the vaccine, his own immune system began to attack, and he was dead in a few months. Clearly, if Beau had not been given this vaccine, he wouldn't have died. Don't you think you should warn people about this? -- J.W., Inman, S.C.

A: What happened is awful, and I'm sorry for your loss. However, your assumption about the vaccine may not be valid.

"Based on your description, the vaccine was for leptospirosis," says Dr. Mark Russak, president of the American Animal Hospital Association. "While I don't know what happened to your dog, I do know that the Benadryl given at the time of the vaccine is to prevent an immediate anaphylactic [allergic] response, or pain and/or swelling at the injection site. Benadryl is not administered to prevent an onset of an autoimmune disease."

While understandably you seem to see a direct cause and effect of the vaccine, Russak, of Starkville, Miss., says he has not heard of such a reaction following a leptospirosis vaccine. However, he has seen dogs die of leptospirosis, which may indeed occur when dogs lap up water tainted with the urine of infected wildlife. Your dog could have been the one in the proverbial million pets who has an idiosyncratic response to a generally safe vaccine. No vaccine is completely safe, but the risk of dying from leptospirosis for dogs with Beau's lifestyle is far greater than the risk of dying due to the vaccine.

Russak understands your anger and, perhaps, feelings of guilt.

"You did nothing wrong, though," he says. "You merely wanted to do the best you could for your companion." Some free resources to deal with pet loss are available here:


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