Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Vaccine Reactions In Great Danes

For Your Veterinarian

Understanding the problems and needs of the large/giant breeds can be difficult, and understandably so, if you have not had the experience of dealing with many in your practice. Great Danes in particular are a fragile breed and particularly prone to orthopedic and immune problems, which are often difficult to diagnose, based on a number of confusing issues and peculiarities of the breed.

It is in this light, that I offer you this article to assist you in working with the large and giant breeds. First, I understand you are hesitant to put much stock in an article written by a lay person, and brought to you by your client. On the other hand, let me give you some background to assure you my information is worth considering.

My name is Linda Arndt, a professor emeritus from a large Midwest university and owner of Blackwatch Great Dane Kennels . I have been involved in exhibiting, breeding, and training in conformation and obedience for 39 years and own Blackwatch Nutritional Consulting LLC (animal nutrition). My last 30 years of involvement in dogs has been focused on the education of breeders and veterinarians, involving health issues and proper feeding programs as it relates to the giant breeds. I work closely with the Great Dane Club of America, breeders and their vets to help find solutions to the many problems within our breed. I offer you my assistance at no fee, if you have a a giant breed client.

In 1989 - 1995 I conducted the National Bone Disease Survey in Great Danes, which collected data from owners and it involved over 5200 cases of veterinarian diagnosed DOD; Developmental Orthopedic Diseases. HOD, OCD and Pano were the primary focus of the survey.

I gathered information on age, sex, diets (types and amounts), medications, vaccine protocols. Whereby this is personal research, it does give us the most extensive data on DOD problems within our breed. The National Bone Survey also revealed antibiotic sensitivities in this breed, as well as documented cases of a large number of vaccine reactions in Great Danes, which led in part, to the vaccine research funded by the Great Dane Club of America, under the direction of Drs. Larry T. Glickman, Harm HogenEsch, Juan I. Azona-Olivera, J. Catherine Scott-Montcrieff, and Paul W. Snyder of Purdue University, School of Veterinary Medicine. The research an 8 year study on Vaccine Mediated Responses in Canines.

I mention this information to you because there is evidence, based on the National Bone Survey in Great Danes, and anectodal information shared among top breeders, indicated vaccine reactions, allergic reactions to certain antibiotics, and septicemia (generally from cropping), are often mistakenly diagnosed as HOD. These conditions can "mimic" the same symptoms as HOD, (hot swollen joints, high fever, lethargy, and in severe cases the jaws lock shut) making it very difficult to distinguish between nutritional HOD, vaccine reactions, antibiotic reactions or septic - arthritis.

With said, I offer this article to you for consideration in hopes of preventing vaccine reactions that are misdiagnosed as Hypertrophied Osteodystrophy - HOD. It is with the greatest respect that I offer this information. I have worked with many veterinarians and breeders in collective problem solving for the benefit of this breed.

Linda Arndt
To make arrangements for a consultation 765-284-8288 - make sure you tell the secretary you are a veterinarian.

UPDATE 2010 : after years of collecting images and information on vaccine reactions, two things are evident. 1) I will not use Ft Dodge Brand Vaccines 2) the vast majority of cases of vaccine reaction in my files are breeds that are carrying a merle gene. That does not mean that others can't have these auto-immune reactions, it means those carrying a merle gene are more prone to a reaction.

Vaccine Reaction or HOD?

Raising a large/giant breed that first year can be somewhat difficult. One of the major stumbling blocks are 3 common bone diseases (HOD,OCD, Pano), we often deal with in these breeds. This article is not meant to be used "in lieu of" your veterinarians care, but to be used in conjunction with your vet to help in arriving at answers to your puppy’s condition.

There are veterinarians who may be skeptical because they have not experienced vaccine mediated auto immune disease in dogs. We know for a scientific fact that it is a problem in Great Danes and protocols for vaccines need to be looked at closely, and preventative measures must be taken. This can be done with changing vaccine schedules and nutritional support and this information will be discussed later in this article. See Dr. Jean Dodds vaccine recommendations.

Dr. William La Rosa, MD, Great Dane breeder and Trustee - Hayward Foundation states "The dog vaccine safety issue was brought to our attention by Laura Kiaulenas, a prominent Harlequin Great Dane breeder, and after reading articles by Jean Dodds DVM, we decided to fund a study to prove or disprove the supposition of multiple diseases, acute and chronic, caused by vaccinations." (The Hayward Foundation is dedicated to research and eradication of human genetic diseases.)

In Dr. La Rosa paper, VACCINE SAFETY - A Possible Etiology of Autoimmune Diseases, he goes on to state " The Vaccine Safety Committee recently emphasized the need for more definitive research on possible adverse effects during the development of new vaccines and vaccine combinations. (National Academy Press, Washington D.C. 1994)."

There is an increasing concern among veterinarians and dog breeders that current vaccination protocols adversely affect the health of our dogs. It is my experience working with many breeders and pet owners, that multivalent or "combo" shots, over vaccinations, and rabies given in conjunction with other vaccines, and/or before 6 months of age, are killing many of our puppies and causing long term immune problems in adult dogs. Of particular concern are Lymes, Giardia, Corona vaccines given in conjunction with the other combo shots.

I have a series of photos I would like to share with you at this website. But be forewarned, these are very disturbing photos of Great Danes puppies that have had vaccine reactions. All of the dogs evidentially had to be humanely euthanized. I have yet to have someone tell me what is the actual mechanism by which this "condition" occurs. I suspect it is a auto immune response and the body literally attacks itself as over vaccination throws the immune system into overdrive.

Within 24 - 48 hours of vaccinations the animal starts to run a high fever, becomes lame with hot swollen joints and is lethargic. Owners generally have the dog back to the vet within that time period, and the dog is put on antibiotic, usually without running a blood test to see if there is a real need for an antibiotic. The dogs are x-rayed due to the swollen joints, and the dog is normally diagnosed with HOD, (Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy) but in reality it is a vaccine reaction . I have seen examples of the same type of reaction in all color families of Great Danes.

What To Do?

Prepare your self for the worst possible outcome, that the dog will not improve and you will have to make the decision to euthanize the dog. Please do not allow your dog to suffer this horrible death.

If the dog has been diagnosed with HOD when in actuality, the dog has a vaccine reaction, then there is little chance of turning them around. Mostly because the vets load the dog up on all kinds of antibiotics, including Chloremphenical (which should never be used on growing animals), then compromise the liver using risky pain killers that do not work.

A blood test and blood culture are necessary to rule out infection and septicemia at which time an antibiotic would be required.

If you locate my information in the early stages of this problem, you need to (1) change in diet to one that support immune function and the (2) use of Dexamethsone steroids, Prednesilone/Prednesone will not do it. With Dexamethsone you have a better chance of pulling the dog through. The other thing you need to do besides change the diet , is use (3) K9 Transfer Factor which helps to boost the immune function and in cases where the immune system is over responsive K9 Transfer Factor modulates the immune function, in other words, it helps to correct the immune function to the level that is best for the body.

Research Information

In the progress report, "Effects Of Vaccination On The Endocrine And Immune Systems of Dogs - Phase II , Purdue University, November 1, 1999, Drs. Harm HogenEsch and Larry T. Glickman, it states:

"Concern has been growing among owners, breeders, and veterinarians that current vaccines cause immune-mediated diseases in dogs. Vaccination is highly effective in preventing infectious disease, but the safety of many vaccines and the frequency of their administration are being questioned. The Vaccine Research Group at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine has been conducting several studies to address these issues. In one such study, we are trying to determine if current vaccines cause changes in the immune system of the dog that will eventually result in life-threatening immune mediated diseases."

"However, the blood of all the vaccinated dogs contains significantly elevated concentrations of antibodies directed against proteins that are present in commercial vaccines as contaminants of the production process. None of the unvaccinated control dogs has had a similar increase in these antibodies. These proteins are typically of bovine origin since fetal calf serum is used to grow the viruses for vaccine production. The close similarity in structure of the bovine proteins to dog proteins results in a situation whereby the antibodies produced by the vaccinated dogs may cross-react with dog tissue proteins in a process similar to autoimmunity".

Dr. Paul Hardiman, a prominent and respected Great Dane breeder and one of the individuals involved in setting the objectives of the Purdue Study, state in a letter to me:

"The Study was not designed to "produce" a better Vaccine...the Study was not designed to generate a "Better Vaccine Protocol"...the Study was designed in an attempt to answer a very fundamental question: What Effect Does a Standard Vaccine Protocol have on the Canine Immune System. "

He goes on to say:

"I believe that there is strong evidence from the study that shows that components of the Vaccines (i.e. Stabilizers and/or Preservatives introduced by the manufacturer) may be very problematic."

Dr. Hardiman later states:

"If antibodies are produces by the dog against the vaccine introduced, then there is a strong possibility that the same antibodies will attack the Dog's. Thus commences the "Autoimmune" Problem". The biggest reward I believe that we will see from this study is safer vaccines. We may need to change the administration (i.e. 9-in-1) vaccines. "

I believe the problems we are having today are due to the use of the "combo" or multivalent vaccines, and I see far too many dogs that have reactions when given Ft Dodge Vaccines. I can not address problems in other breeds, but there is evidence that multivalent vaccines, particularly on the giant breeds, puts them at great risk. Their fragile immune systems cannot handle the assault of multivalent vaccines and we lose many of them to autoimmune response, which is so often misdiagnosed as HOD in the early stages. At this point, if you think your dog may be having a vaccine reaction or HOD, you need to read and print out for your vet A Guide To Recognizing Bone Diseases, at this website.

And is important to get on the Blackwatch Puppy Feed Program program so your puppy does not develop HOD. If the puppy has been diagnosed with HOD, fill out this form and send it to me at:

It is my experience, vaccine reactions are often mistaken for HOD. I have to see photos of the dogs joints and information filled out in the form which I referenced in the above link to tell the difference. Vaccine Reaction looks different than HOD but it takes a seasoned eye to know the difference, and it is usually fatal where by nutritional HOD can be corrected. Two things happen with Vaccine Reaction

  • They gradually go down hill and never recover, and this may take 2-3 months before the owner realizes this is not going to get any better. In the meantime the dog will suffer terribly and the owner is financially and emotionally drained.


  • The dog will fluctuate between feeling better and crashing with a fever, over and over and over, which gives the owner false hopes. Regardless of what you do for the dog, evidentially the dog will be so deformed he can not walk and is in terrible pain. The vet is frustrated because they do not understand why the dog does not respond and the owner is emotionally and financially bankrupt, but will finally realize it is time to let the dog go in peace. This is a horribly painful condition and it is in the best interest of the dog to not prolong it any longer than possible.

I can tell you this, Vaccine Reaction is a very slow, painful and agonizing death that happens right before your eyes. Owners do not want to give up, they do not want to let the dog go, and they need to make sure the dog does not linger in pain in with this horrible condition. Improvement is the key, if the dog continually improves it is generally HOD and it takes 3 good days to recoup, for every 1 day they are down with it.

If there is no constant "improvement" within the first few days of changing the diet to the Blackwatch Feed Program, then you have a 99% chance of this being a vaccine reaction and it is irreversible. In all the cases of vaccine reactions I have seen in the past 20+ years, I only know of two that were saved but they were diagnoised within 24 hours, and put on Dexamethsone.

We have found using Dexamethosone is the only steroid that will work but this has to be given in the early stages followed by daily doses of Azium tablets. Prednesilone or Prednesone does not seem to do it. Even at best, the rate of recovery is very small.

My heart goes out to owners who have experienced this terrible and unnecessary condition. The frustration of trying to find answers and information to save their beloved pet generally brings them to me for an opinion and help. It truly is one of the hardest things I have come to do in my life, to have to tell an owner, after looking at the information and photos of the dog, that based on my experience only, that I suspect this is a vaccine reaction. The photos I have at this site, are examples of vaccine reactions, and I thank the owners from the bottom of my heart for allowing us to view them so others can learn about this condition in the hopes of preventing it from happening again. It is my experience, conventional and homeopathic treatment is unsuccessful in vaccine reactions. Prevention is the key.

(See articles: Grief and Loss - Starting Over and Saying Good-bye)

Please see my article Vaccine Reaction Prevention for the program we use on our puppies.




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