Can dogs develop Vaccine Associated Tumors (VAS)?

I have been asked this question many times. I’m going to let Mick Morrisey (from the yahoo VAS support group) answer this question:

“The short answer is “yes,” but it’s not nearly as much of a threat to them as it is to cats and ferrets.

Several years ago Dr. Kevin Hahn, an oncologist who used to participate in [the yahoo VAS support group] cited a couple of papers in the veterinary literature that he said provided the “smoking gun” for proof of VAS in dogs.
Vaccination Sarcomas in Dogs

It appears that VAS in dogs is real but very rare.

Yeah, I know, some sources still say it’s “rare” in cats, too! But I think it must really be rare in dogs.

Consider this: there are almost as many pet dogs in the US as pet cats, and there are actually more dog owners than cat owners. Studies have shown that dog owners, on average, give their pets twice as much veterinary care as cat owners. With that in mind, consider that feline VAS has been known for over twenty years and has featured prominently in the veterinary literature for almost all of that time. There’s been a tremendous amount of research, largely funded by the vaccine manufacturers; there’s been a highly publicized VAS Task Force, and at least one company (Merial) has spent untold amounts of money to develop a VAS-safer vaccine (PureVax.) There is a Feline VAS Support Group and if you Google Vaccine Associated Sarcoma you will get a page after page after page of hits for websites about VAS, VAS research, and individual people’s sites about their VAS cats.

Now consider how much you’ve read or heard about VAS in dogs – almost nothing. There’s been very little in the literature, almost no awareness in the veterinary community, and hardly anybody has read or heard about a case of canine VAS. Surely if dogs were getting VAS in any numbers we’d see all the same responses in the veterinary community, in the pharma industry, and among the dog-owning public that the discovery of feline VAS produced. And since dogs are the larget commercial market, I’m quite sure that we’d have seen something like PureVax for dogs many years ago. But we don’t see any of that stuff happening about canine VAS.

So I believe that canine VAS must be really rare.

If I had a dog I would determine a vaccination program based on limiting vaccines to those that provide protection against serious diseases that pose a real threat to the pooch but that would minimize the number and frequency of vaccinations, just as I do for my cats. I would do that not just because of the apparently minor threat of canine VAS, but because of the much more serious threat of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. That’s a nasty and usually fatal reaction that some dogs have to vaccinations, where they become severely allergic to their own blood. And I would take the same approach with any pet of any species, because vaccination is a complex medical procedure that could have all sorts of side effects that we’ve never even heard of yet.”

Here are the the rule of threes by Dr. Dennis Macy as to when to remove a suspicious lump:

3) = if the lump is still there three months later regardless of biopsy results, REMOVE it. He said lumpectomy is fine for those (e.g., not radical removal).

2) = if the lump is EVER 2cm or larger in any dimension (width, length, height), at any time, REMOVE it.

1) = If the lump is GROWING AT ALL after one month, remove it.

Hope this helps! A big thanks to Mick for letting me repost his comments!

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3 Responses to Can dogs develop Vaccine Associated Tumors (VAS)?

  1. Ettel E says:

    I know a cute Border Collie puppy who developed a large mass at his vaccination site and died a week and a half later. I didn’t know the owners well, so didn’t get all the details, but I think there may have been an allergy. Very devastating. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Donna says:

    Well I am currently very worried about three 17 week old yorkies that received their rabies shots four weeks ago. I am a breeder and just recently decided to give all puppies their full immunizations including their rabies prior to going to their new homes. There are no known genetics in any of my breeding lines. Never did I ever associate vaccines with tumors and I probably wouldn’t have if it was not for me taking these pups and having all their shots at the same time. Here’s my story.
    At the time of the rabies injection, each puppy screamed bloody murder. It made me feel so very bad for them. The vet held each puppy and massaged the area of the injection site for quite some time until the pup calmed. This happened with all three pups. I wasn’t happy about the pain they were in but once home they all appeared back to normal.
    I groomed my yorkies daily an noticed a relatively large lump at the site of the injection on the right side of the abdomin and back leg. I was horrified and was waiting for a vet visit. Two days later I discovered the same lump in exactly the same area on another puppy. I then checked the smaller of the pups and she seemed fine until I lifted her up under her arms and let her body extend down. While running my hand down the right side I again felt the same type of lump. After researching online I am frantic about the outcome and look forward to my vet giving me some explanation as to how all three pups developed the same lump in exactly the same location which is the location of their rabies injection.

    Perhaps pet parents do not initially relate such lump to the vaccines their pets receive since tumors don’t immediately show. Vets will dismiss the possibility of vaccines resulting in the conditions pet parents find their way back to the vets office.

    Because of my being a yorkie breeder and immunizing them at exactly the same time and seeing exactly the same results, I cannot say and/or believe that it is a rare situation in canines. I believe my situation begs to differ.

    I will be going back to the vet tomorrow and hope and pray that these sweet lovable little puppies will not be the next victims of the cruel game of profiteers. I am not hopeful after reading so many sad stories from others that lost their wonderful companions after getting rabies and/or some other vaccines. It’s a sad world we live in.


  3. Please update us on your little puppies! I sincerely hope it is nothing more than just inflammations. Here is a link to Dennis Dennis Macy describing when to remove a suspicious lump:

    I would also like to as you to join us at the Feline VAS Yahoo group. I know it says it’s for cats, but we welcome dog owners as well:

    Paws crossed for your puppies!

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