The Rabies Vaccine and Your Dog: Side Effects

Written by Jan on June 18, 2008 – 4:39 pm

Rabies Vaccine Adverse Reactions

The rabies vaccine is arguably the most dangerous shot our dogs get. Because it’s required by law, it’s a difficult shot to avoid. Because the vaccine is made from a “killed” virus, rather than “modified live” virus as are the other important “core” vaccines, manufacturers add dangerous “adjuvants” to boost effectiveness. These adjuvants too often cause adverse reactions, some of which occur quickly, but many of which occur days, weeks or even months after vaccination. A “killed” vaccine (rather than one from a modified live virus), the rabies vaccine contains adjuvants (chemical boosters) to enhance the immunological response. In 1999, the World Health Organization “classified veterinary vaccine adjuvants as Class III/IV carcinogens with Class IV being the highest risk.”

My year-old Maltese Jiggy developed autoimmune liver disease after a rabies shot. Rabies Challenge Fund Founder Kris Christine lost her dog Meadow to a vaccination site fibrosarcoma (cancer). Countless other dogs have developed anaphylactic shock; autoimmune diseases affecting the thyroid, joints, blood, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and central nervous system; seizures and epilepsy; autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA); aggression, separation anxiety and strange compulsive behaviors; lack of muscular coordination; skin disease; fibrosarcomas at injection sites and countless other disorders. Click here to learn more about adverse reactions to the rabies shot.

But the vaccine is required by law, so what can you do about it?

First, if you can trace your dog’s illness to the shot, you may have a better chance of treating it. A steroids and Benadryl shot may stop an allergic reaction, but will likely do nothing for on-going problems.

Second, if your dog has a documented history of problems with this or any other vaccination, you may be able to get a special exemption from your local Animal Control. Your vet needs to be told about any reactions immediately. Make sure they’re documented. Get a copy of the file.

Third, because of an amazing study by the Rabies Challenge Fund, we now have the opportunity to help extend the period between shots to up to seven years, maybe even longer. Even a $5 tax deductible donation to this fund can make a big difference.

Click this link for more information on the rabies vaccine and rabies vaccine reactions and learn how to document and report the reaction (so you can get an exemption from the shot next time), plus protective measures you can take to make the shot safer.  Find a holistic vet to help you undo the damage from the shot.  Don’t wait too long. Time is important when dealing with reactions.

Please post your questions, stories or comments here. And please read all the previous comments. There’s a lot of good information here including answers to many questions.  Click “comment” below.

Sign up for notification of  future articles and our free dog care e-newsletter (delivered quarterly). Follow K9Author at Twitter.

Related articles:
What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction
Does Your State Permit Rabies Vaccination Medical Exemptions? 
Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely

Rabies Vaccination: Caution! The Devil is in the Details
Vaccinating Unhealthy Pets: Beware Reactions & Vaccine Failure
Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots
Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing
Titer Test: Don’t Vaccinate Your Dog Unnecessarily
Dog Flu Vaccine: Do You Really Need a Shot for the H3N8 Canine Virus?
Is Your Dog’s Vet a Vaccination Expert?

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Tags: adverse reactions, aggression, autoimmune disease, coordination, how long does shot last, liver, rabbies, rabies, rabies shot, seizures, side effects, swelling, Vaccination, vaccine, vomiting
Posted under Rabies Shots, Vaccination, Videos | 443 Comments » Email This Post

443 Comments to “The Rabies Vaccine and Your Dog: Side Effects”

  1. Jan Says:

    Michele, there are no “regular” shots for adult dogs. All shots are puppy shots and adult dogs rarely need them. If you’ve been giving yearly, or even three-year intervals between shots, fire your vet and tell him/her why.

    The three-year rabies vaccine is basically the same as the one-year except that it lasts longer. That was the right move.

    Blind dogs can have great lives. Take a look at the “halo” for blind dogs/ I have first hand information that it works.

    Good luck.

  2. Estelle Says:

    I took my 3 year old dog to the vet on Friday for a check up, the vet. said he had a gastrointestinal infection, prescribed anti-biotics and proceeded to administer a rabies vaccine. He sent us home and the following day he had 3 violent seizures back to back. We took him to the emergency hospital where they gave him several injections of phenobarbital. He stayed at the hospital for 2 nights and then told me he had epilepsy. I picked up this past Monday with instructions to continue the phenobarbital and to give him a pill when we get home. He was happy to see us and I gave him the medication. He went into a coma and dies a few hours later. I am heart broken beyond words. Should I pursue legal action? and if so, where do I start?

  3. Shae Says:

    1 week ago I took my dogs to get Vaccinated against rabies, distemper & nasal bordetella. My Alapaha Bulldog started sneezing a lot and his eyes watery, lethargic, sleepy & loss of appetite & lastly started bleeding out of his nose. We didn’t want to vaccinate but had to due to them having to go into an overnight doggy daycare. Now both my children have been really sick 102 fevers, watery eyes, lethargic & very sleepy like 15-18 hours a day of sleep. How long does vaccine shedding last? What vaccine is causing my children to be this way? Please email me an answer. Thanks -Shae

  4. Jan Says:

    Shae, your HUMAN children are sick? If so, it’s likely the Bordetella. Contact the vaccine maker.

    And read this and see if you still trust your vet.

  5. Gail Says:

    Because of a mix up in paper work our 11 year old shih szu 13 lbs. received 2 3 yr rabies shots within 6 months time. What should we be looking for with side effects?

  6. Jan Says:

    Gail, if your vet mixed up the paperwork, find a new vet.

    With luck your dog will be okay, but will have more of a chance to have an adverse reaction because of the double vaccination. If any health or behavior problem arises, write again. If you can afford to see a holistic vet, do so. They can help prevent problems.

    Before you vaccinate with any other vaccine, please read

    Good luck.

  7. Stuart Says:

    I had my 11 year old toy poodle vaccinated for rabies in late September. Three weeks later he is dead!

    Two days after the shots, he had symptoms of sleepiness, breathing problems, collapses, extreme lathargicness, loss of appetite.

    We are devistated at the loss!

  8. Jan Says:

    Stuart, I’m so sorry about the loss of your dog. Please report the reaction to the drug maker and the USDA.

    This is the only chance for this vaccination madness to stop. Also, if you contact the manufacturer, raise hell. It’s possible, although not likely, that they’ll pay your vet bills and/or something for your dog. If you don’t hold them responsible, they won’t change.

    Also ask your vet if he/she reported the reaction. Vet’s are supposed to.

    One more thing, was the vaccine given with other vaccines?

  9. Theresa Lamb Says:

    I’m wondering what folks think of not vaccinating older dogs. My vet shared w/ me that more research supports the premise that older dogs don’t need all the vaccines.
    I’m planning to do a titer test. I live in San Francisco – the Animal Care and Control here wont provide the annual dog license if the rabies isn’t up to date. She’s ‘due’ for her rabies now. In reading more about vaccines and their flaws and risks, I’m very worried my dearest 13 yo could have a bad reaction to something she may not need, but due to not getting a license, I’d get a big fine, etc.
    Thank you. And blessings and hugs to all the dogs and owners.

  10. Jan Says:

    Theresa, have you vaccinated against rabies yet? If so, how did it go? It’s a difficult vaccine for an older dog. Here are some tips:

    Re vaccinating older dogs, it’s unlikely they’re necessary. They important vaccines give lifetime immunity to 95% of dogs according to the top expert, Dr. Ron Schultz. Here are some questions to ask first.

    In CA, you can get an exemption to rabies vaccination if your dog has health problems. See if your vet will apply for it.

  11. Vicki Says:

    My 2 year west highland terrier went to vet for annual vaccine. Vet did not advise rabies vaccine was available for 3 year and gave 1 year. I understand that there is no difference in the vaccine other than the certificate states 1 year or 3 year. I do not want to over vaccinate her. They told me that she has to be revaccinated again this year for the 3 year rabies vaccination. I am totally against her being revaccinated. What are your thoughts?

  12. Jan Says:

    Vicki, I thought I had answered your question by email but am not sure, so here goes again.

    There’s probably not much you can do. Even though the vaccines are virtually identical, the law is clear.

    One thing, though. Was the one-year vaccine your dog’s FIRST rabies vaccine? If so, then your vet acted appropriately. If it wasn’t, or if your dog had already had two rabies vaccines, then I would file a complaint, however, with your state board, and find another vet. Your vet made a big mistake.

    You mentioned that you took your dog for “annual vaccines.” Adult dogs don’t need to continually get puppy shots. Please read this: Vets who vaccinate unnecessarily should be fired. They are risking your dog’s health.

  13. Jyssica Says:

    Hi there, I just had to put my puppy down yesterday due to this. They told us that it could have been liver shunts, brain tumor, distemper and blah blah blah. They tried to cover for themselves. She did not show any signs of anything before her rabies shot. She was having an adverse reaction to the shot from the beginning. Hives, swelling, pustules, all of which lead into seizures once a day, then twice a day, then four times. We then took her to an animal hospital which said well it could have been a reaction but they didn’t rule anything else out either. We spent thousands of dollars to find out ANYTHING…nothing came up. I’ve been doing research on it and I’ve seen that you can actually get reimbursed for any money spent by the manufacturer. Is this true? Or am I wasting my time?

  14. Jan Says:

    Hi Jyssica. I’m really sorry for your loss. Your vet should do this is he/she event suspects that the vaccine caused it, but don’t count on him/her to do it. It really helps to have your vet support you in this. You’ll need the manufacturer’s name, the brand and lot# of the vaccine and reports from every vet who saw her.

    Everything you mentioned a known reaction to the rabies vaccine. Get a copy of the “package insert” for the vaccine from your vet. Don’t take no for an answer. It will list reactions, although the list won’t be complete. There’s another list in my new rabies vaccination report.

    You may or may not be reimbursed, but make sure you report the death in any event. Most vets don’t bother. You’ll need to be persistent. I wish you luck.

  15. TinaL Says:

    My 6 year old lab mix did the same thing. Had a rabies vaccine just 6 mo after having his last due to a dog biting him. Within a few days he couldn’t walk. Things looked grim. We made him a homemade stretcher to get him to the hospital. He was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis by the neurologist. They gave him meds that had him right back up. The cost to diagnose him was under $800. We had a free exam coupon with a different vet because I wanted an unbiased opinion and they referred us to a neurologist which we immediately went there. A month in a half later I could tell he was beyond 100% recovered so we weaned him from the meds. It could have been life long, so I am happy to say he is in remission.

  16. Jan Says:

    Tinal, I am happy your sad story had a good ending. Please make sure you report the reaction to the drug maker and make sure any treating vets attribute it to the vaccine. The drug maker MAY help pay your vet bills.

  17. Jan Says:

    Tinal, I forgot to send you the link for reporting.

  18. kb Says:

    I have been doing research on what shots my dog really needs. The rabies is required (of course) in my town. No others are. My vet keeps telling me I need all these others in a combination shot. From what I have read, the combo she got as a puppy before adoption, and then the boosters, should have ben enough. She had the first shot in Feb 2007 when I adopted her. She got her first booster in Jan 2008, her first 3yr combo in Feb 2009. She got another 3yr combo in Feb 2012.

    This year when I got the reminder from her, I was hesitant to go back. She always seems to be pushing for shots and medications I don’t think are needed. I don’t want to put excess toxins in my dog. This time she told me the trip in the door to get the shot would cost just over $60. I found a local clinic through LuvMyPet that was able to give me the same shot for about half that-or so I thought. When I got home I noticed the slip said that it was a 1 yr shot. I’m hoping, like the rabies shots, that the dose is actually really the same and that I am not going to have to be doing this every year now. I am really only concerned about the Lepto virus, as I do walk her out around the block where we are continually encountering scat left by less responsible dog owners, as well as bear and other wild animals. I have read that the other innoculations in this combo are really not necessary after the first one or two, as they are good for 5-7 years or more.

    What should I do? Do I need to get my dog Lepto every year? Will she be good without htem? She is a healthy spayed 8.5 yr old Nova Scotia Duck Toller. I don’t want her to get sick, but I also don’t want to over innoculate.

    Please help.

  19. Why Vets Don’t Recognize Vaccine Reactions - Dogs Naturally Magazine Says:

    […] & Vaccine Failure Post your dog’s rabies reaction and read other readers’ stories here: The Rabies Vaccine and Your Dog: Side Effects Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More […]

  20. Jan Says:

    KB, for some reason I having been getting posts. I’m sorry.

    Here’s a post that I think will help you: Also do a web search for Lepto and Patricia Jourdan, a vet who has written great information on the vaccine. It’s a dangerous vaccine and not always effective.

  21. chris wilkinson Says:

    2 weeks ago I took my rescue Molly in for rabies vacine, nail clip, and cruddy stuff that had popped up on her lip.. as well as heart worm check because it had become apparent over time the girl who gave her up hadnt been truthful about her veterinary care. They gave me her script for clindamyacin for her lip, her rabies tag, and the next day called me with the devastating news she was hw positive and it was very strong.

    Being disabled I was upset because I know how expensive and harsh treatment was but I managed to raise the funds and took her in last Tuesday or a week and a day post vaccination. . At first they tell me shes fine but on the second day I call and am told another day or two id have had a dead dog.. she has a wbc of 23k, is in congestive heart failure, and has pneumonia. .

    and of course Im a wreck.. to make matters worse I was a respiratory therapist and being disabled Im with my dogs at all times.. very rarely are we apart for longer than 2 or 3 hours and I Have wracked my brain because even the morning I carried her in for treatment …the only time my dog seemed to be in trouble was the actual night of the vaccine when I gave her benedryl because she seemed swollen and was labored blowing her lips out. .

    Fast forward to yesterday after being at the vet all week I have her home on a regiment of lasix cipro and aminophylline. We’ve attributed her condition to the heart worm and then someone tonight posted about adverse reactions to rabies vaccines.. am I grasping at straws? It totally slipped mine and my friends mind who works at the vet because we thought it could be the clindamyacin until we gave it again and she was fine and became tunnelvisioned by the heartworm.?…I just think if my dog was that bad when clearly she’s had hw for so long she just happens to almost die the week i coincidently take her in to be treated?

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  23. Kelly ann Says:

    My puppy yesterday at 16 weeks got a distemper and rabies shots . I’m worried cause she hasn’t eaten just seems lethargic and when we go to pick her up yelps. She limps when she walks. What do I do?

  24. Jan Says:

    Kelly, I’m sorry that I didn’t see your post earlier. The reactions seem pretty normal for the vaccine. It’s very hard on dogs. How is she now?

  25. Suzanne Says:

    On Feb 19, my 3 yr old bichon frise got his 3yr rabies vaccine and di/hep/par/parvo/lepto vaccine. A small lump appeared on his lower right eyelid about a week later and his eyes were itchy.

    He went on antibiotics and eye ointment. Neither did anything and the lump grew and the vet thought it was a cyst and operated to remove it but it was just an inflammation and a pathology report said the same. Within a week he got another lump on the upper lid and his left eye now has a lump on the upper and lower and his eyes\lids are red,swollen and very itchy.

    We tried antibiotics and they have not helped at all. he has been wearing an elizabethan color for about a month now because he paws at his eyes. He will also lick his front paws obsessively and lick at the air like he has a hair in his mouth. I may have missed it but i did not see anything about lumps on the eyelids anywhere. The vet does not know what is wrong and wants to try a cortisone ointment now. He is suffering terribly. Does this sound like it is from the vaccine? Thank you for any information you can provide. I feel terrible that I caused this with the vaccines when I was trying to keep him healthy. Thank you.

  26. Jan Says:

    Suzanne, you need a better vet. First, your adult small breed dog should have never gotten all those vaccines at once. Lepto, even by itself, is very dangerous for small dogs. And adult dogs rarely need parov/distempter/hepatitis. Please read

    You need a vet who understands vaccine reactions. Check out the holistic vets at And please read all but the first section of

  27. Christy Says:

    My 7 year old, 9.6 pound Chiweenie got his rabies booster on March 30, 2015. Going to the vet office he was running, jumping, excited and a healthy dog. He has not been well since. I took him back into the vet’s April 3, because he was having symptoms of back pain, rear leg weakness, ataxia, and hyperestesia on the right hind leg. He can no longer run, and has to be confined to a crate for at least a month. The vet put him on prednisone for the inflammation, tramadol and gabapentin for the pain, and Pepcid to protect his GI tract. It appears his IVDD (disc disease) is flared up, and I am not sure he will ever be well again. He had back surgery to fix a herniated disc in July 2014 and has had no back symptoms since this rabies shot was given. I called the vaccine manufacturer to report the adverse event and was told that they will notify the USDA, but they stated this is not an expected or common reaction. Do I need to report it anywhere else?

  28. Helen Says:

    My little chihuahua Meechi just had a mass removed from his right thigh (upper hind leg). The biopsy came back “vaccine reaction” and first I was relieved, but now I’m reading about vaccine-associated sarcoma! Holy cr*p, this site started up in 2009 and vets are still doing this to our animals? Meechi never even leaves the house without being on a leash and then it’s to walk down the sidewalk in the city. Where the hell is he going to get rabies? Rabies is a thing of the past.

    I’m so angry I could spit at this vet. They did something similar to my old chihuahua Bernie, a year ago, admonishing me to give him bordatella which made him terribly sick for about 4 months. It GAVE him bordatella. They are either arrogant or incredibly desperate for money.

    Please pardon my bad language but I am very angry right now. My little dog may actually have a sarcoma, and now I’m going to have to see an oncologist and talk about whether the surgery margins were large enough and whether he needs radiation and what the chances of metastasis are, all because vets are so stupid. This vet who did the surgery (different from the one who gave the shot) is trying to tell me “oh no no no” but she obviously has never even heard of this.

  29. Jan Says:

    Helen, few vets recognize VAS (vaccine associated sarcomas) in dogs. In cats, they are well documented. Did the biopsy say it was a vaccine reaction or a sarcoma or both?

  30. Rhona Cagabcab Taboada Says:

    My 3 month old lab puppy got vaccinated this morning with his last shot which includes rabies vaccination. This afternoon it rained and he got a little wet because i was asleep. This evening he is not that energetic as he is. I am so worried. What should i do?

  31. shela Says:

    My puppy got a hold of one of those rabies packets the county drops for raccoons. The vet’s not in it’s sunday. Does anyone know if these things are harmful to my dogs?I will go to the vet first thing in the morning just wondering if anyone knows.

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  34. Nancy Says:

    My Westie went for her annual examination. She had blood work and vet gave her a rabies shot on Thursday. Friday the vet called and said her blood work was great. Her heart was strong and basically gave her a clean bill of health. Sunday morning we went to wake her and she had passed away. I’m convinced the vaccine killed her.

    The vet said she contacted the manufacturer of the drug and they had not reported any “incidents”.

    Pippin was part of our family. We are heartbroken. She was not sick in the least. The vet said it’s unlikely the rabies shot killed her. Of course they will say this.

    Can you guide me on how I should proved?

    Very very sad in Naples Florida

  35. Alapaha Bathtub With Step Says:

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  36. Wee Wee Pads Says:

    One of my friends got bit by a dog in the dog park one time. The owner quickly packed up her stuff and left and she was never seen again. He ended up getting rabies and suffered through the series of shots. It is important to take care of your dogs and have them properly trained up to standards. You should always try and keep them inside and make sure you have training precautions inside.

  37. Jennifer Doyle Says:

    My beloved cocker spaniel Yoshi-a rescue, received a rabies vaccine on 12-6-15 less than a week after I got him because it was required by the shelter where I adopted him. It turns out he had the 3 year vaccine less than a year before but we found this out after we took him for the vaccine. We did our own digging around and found this out through the practice that Yoshi’s former family took him to. When the family surrendered him after 3 1/2 years,. they did not even tell the shelter he was up to date on his shots or give them any of his medical history. He began shredding our blankets immediately and humping them something we had not seen him do before the vaccine. He also bites himself at the injection site as well as other places. When the vet gave him the vaccine which was being done at a large pet store by a veterinarian on a scheduled day, she did not even wait for him to be sitting down on the table but jabbed the needle in as I was holding him and he yelped and when the needle came out it was bent. I do not know if part of the needle could have even broken off under his skin. She actually had the nerve to giggle when she saw the bent needle. Now it is over a year later and he is still biting, still shredding blankets and exhibiting humping/sexual behavior. I cannot tell if there is a bump/swelling at the injection site or if it is just the way he is made. I did call the manufacturer of the vaccine and was told there was no mercury in it. I am just worried sick that he may have some ongoing problems from this and want to do anything to make sure he is okay and will live a long healthy life. I lost my sixteen year old cocker spaniel 6 months before adopting Yoshi and losing him near killed me. Thank you in advance for your advice. I am having trouble with your link o find a homeopathic and/or holistic veteinarian in my area.

  38. Jan Says:

    Jennifer, I corrected the link for finding a holistic vet at

  39. Patty Says:

    I have a Pom/Yorkie mix. One and a half years old. About Six and a half pounds. Male. Neutered. He was due for vaccines. I told the Vet I did not want him to have a bunch of them given at once. Vet decided on the 3 yr. Rabies Shot and Parvo. by Mouth. My dog literally screamed and cried for several minutes when given the rabies shot. About 45 minutes to an hour after I got him home his face swelled up and he was continually rubbing his face on a blanket to scratch it.

    I called the Vet and was told he was having a reaction and to get him back to the facility immediately. It was while they were taking care of him that I began to do some research on the vaccines he’d been given. I feel so disappointed in myself that I just went along with whatever I was told instead of questioning things that are being done to my “baby”.

    Thank goodness I read on your website to get the name of the vaccine manufacturer, the lot number, etc. while I was there. I also made sure to have my Vet make notes because my dog will NOT have another vaccine of any kind if I can help it! My problem is this; his personality has completely changed! He was a very happy little guy. Loved people and just seemed to love life.

    He is the complete opposite now. He sleeps a lot. And just as soon bite you as look at you! Even me! I’m his Mom and his protector and he loves me more than anyone. That is, he used to. Now the whole relationship has changed. He’s very touchy and well, mean. It’s breaking my heart. I can’t really trust him with anyone. I am positive it’s due to the shot! I know it!

    The change in him coincides with the reaction to the Rabies and Parvo vaccines. Is there anything that can be done about it? Will it wear off or at least diminish? Can a behaviorist help? He’s only 1 and a half years old and I have a 5 year old grandson. I hate that this happened to him. I love him so much.

  40. Jan Says:

    Ellen, this may well be a reaction to the rabies vaccine. It happens way too often, but conventional vets seldom believe it.

    You need a homeopathic or holistic vet. Don’t give up on your baby. There is hope with the right vet. If there’s not one near you, try Charles Loops. He’ll treat by phone. You’ll find him under holistic vets.

    NO more shots. Read the Questions to Ask at truth4pets.

  41. Midge Kelly Says:

    Jan, I decided to compile a list of our vets in our Dallas/Fort Worth area that carry (and don’t carry) the mercury free rabies vaccine. While you can imagine we have a zillion vets in our Metroplex, I’ve talked to a few of those I have used over the years and others by phone to ask them if they carry the Merial IMRAB3-TF. My understanding is that of all the adjuvants in the rabies vaccines (mercury, formaldahyde, aluminum sp? plus more) the IMRAB3-TF is mercury free, or Thimerosal Free. It is the law to vaccinate them as everyone knows, but if we can do one small thing for our dogs in this regard, we should all tell our vets there is such a choice. They don’t seem to know about it! I have found a few of them surprised but agreeable to order this one in now. One vet challenged me to tell her where I got my information from as she thought it was just aluminum, not mercury, so I’m putting another list together with websites like your own to offer her plus I’m going to share it with everyone else as well. Dr. Dodds, Dr. Schultz, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Jordan, Dogs Naturally Magazine are just a few of those I’ve been following as well as you. If you can give me some easy to read references for the vets and for us ordinary folks, it will help me to make my point more believable. Thank you for being there for us! We have to make folks more aware and know that we all have choices at the vet office. Plus we need to help the vets know what they don’t seem to know too. Much thanks! Midge

  42. Jan Says:

    Midge, let me know when your list is available. It sounds great!

    Here is my info for consumers, and it has lots of links for vets. Let me know what else you need.

  43. Jan Says:

    Midge, you might try calling the vaccine distributors and see if they’ll help. Merial is a good vaccine manufacturer to start with.

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