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.

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


  1. Ted Says:

    I have a question regarding rabies vaccinations because of an issue with dog licensing in NJ. Our puppy had her rabies vaccine (one year) last July. The town requires the dog to be licensed in January and to have a vaccine that does not expire until at least November 1st of the current year. Our preference is to wait until July when her vaccine should be due, but the town is now harassing us about this. The state says that there is no evidence of harmful effects for giving the vaccine early. They only grant the license if a vet provides a medical waiver for it. Is it bad to give the vaccine early or should we try to find a vet who will give us a letter to waive it?

    Thank you for any insight you can provide.

  2. Deborah Peppe Says:

    When my Lucy got her first shots as a puppy, she got so sick she had to stay at Vet office for six days and $700.00 later, with no explanation of why. She is small and has skin issues. When I read this kind of stuff, I go crazy, these Vets are as bad as MD’s. I have paid a small fortune for testing and lab work and poor Lucy is not any better. It’s been like this all her life.
    She will no longer go the clone Vets, I have a Holistic Vet. that I will take her to now. There is a saying that we, as humans will be judged by God on how we treat animals. We are one with the Cosmos, one with nature, and one with each other and our Mother Earth will not be whole until all of us realize, treat the mind and mind will do the healing, that’s the principle and the law of all things created.

  3. Patricia L Henderson Says:

    My 14 year old terrier/chihuahua mix is still sore around his shoulder blade two months after rabies shot. If he moves wrong, he yelps so we know it is still sore. There is no bump, just a sore spot. Not sure if this is normal. When he yelps, he looks at us as if we hit him, which we have never done. This was a 3 year vacine, and I think this will be his last. I appreciate any advice you can give us. Thank you.

  4. Jan Says:

    Patricia, do you feel any swelling, or just detect pain? Swelling that still remains after 2 months needs to be examined. Even if there’s no swelling, it’s still a good idea to report it. Your vet might recommend some light massage. Also, call the vaccine manufacturer. Report the pain and ask them what to do. http://truth4pets.org/reporting-reactions/

    Rabies vaccines are supposed to be given in the right upper leg. Shame on your vet for not knowing that. It has been protocol for years. That way, any lump is much more easily removed. You might need another, more informed vet. Here’s some more vaccination information you might want to read to make sure your vet isn’t over-vaccinating. http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

  5. Janet Says:

    I believe my 14 yr. old Standard Poodle developed a blood liver disorder following a rabies vaccine. She was given the shot on 4/18/16 and was dead 6/8/16.
    I hate myself for giving in to the vet.
    I wish I broke the law and did not vaccinate her.

  6. Jan Says:

    Janet, I’m so sorry for your loss. Please report the reaction to the USDA and the drug maker. This is the only hope for change. http://truth4pets.org/reporting-reactions/

  7. Kimberly Roberts Says:

    My vet accidently gave a rabies shot to my dog when it wasn’t due for another year. He is a 3 year old french bulldog and weighs 29lbs. He is in good health other than allergies. This just happened 10 days ago(husband took to vet instead of me and is not up on their shot status…….also a new vet but did receive shot records). I am concerned as I don’t want him harmed by over medicating. Is there any lasting effect from this? Thank you for your help!

  8. Jan Says:

    Kimberly, only time will tell if your dog has experienced any harm. Probably not. Just be on the look out for changes in health and behavior (like increased aggression). Write again if you have any suspicions. And remember that even “routine” shots are serious medical events. Maybe your “new” vet should become your “old vet.” Make sure the error was noted in your dog’s file. And please read this before vaccinating again: http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

  9. Rebecca Patrick Says:

    I lost my bulldog two months after a full set of booster shots at age 5 1/2 including the rabies vaccination back in January and the vet said it was definitely not the shots but they never did find the cause of his liver/renal failure and death.
    This month, again two months after a rabies shot, this one his first and given by itself (though the vet did it at the same time as his neuter) . My GSD puppy started having seizure after seizure, (grand mal) after coming out of each gm seizure like a dog with rabies, attacking anything and everything including us with no clue has to who we were or where he was, we took him to the er vet and he was then put to sleep at the recommendation of the vet due to his reaction to his seizures. My baby was 10 months old, this puppy had never even destroyed a single stuffed toy we had given him let alone shown aggression but this reaction was scary especially with kids in the house. I would have done anything to save him but the vet said this reaction would always happen. He never saw his first birthday or his 10th, I am angry, beyond angry, these shots are killing our animals. I have talked to several other pet owner friends and they have also realized the time line between getting shots and their dogs getting sick dying. My count is 6 so far just in my area. I have followed the link and it says it’s not a good one, I would like to report the deaths and sickness to someone, not only have these shots put me in serious debt with vet bills but both my dogs are dead long before their time. Thanks

  10. Erica Says:

    Yesterday I had to put my sweet dog to sleep. I am heartbroken. Please Jan, reply to me with your thoughts. I took my dog on 8/3 to do his checkup and get his rabies shot because county required and was due since July. So I took him in, the Vet felt a mass in his abdomen and decided to take X-ray. It was a large tumor, she said she would hold off on vaccinations but since she knew The rabies had expired in July she said that one she would give to him.

    So comes 8/17 the date to have my dog’s tumor removed. He went through surgery, removed a 1.5 lbs tumor from liver. (Turned out to be cancer), but that’s not the point. My dog came out of surgery alive, but did not want to eat. Tried everything and he would not eat, force fed him with a syringe. Did bloodwork and vet said it was normal just a bit high on white blood cells so she gave me 3 antibiotics to help if there was an infection somewhere.

    5 days on antibiotics and not a single improvement, even with appetite stimulants. My dog got weaker that exactly 2 weeks from surgery I had to put him to sleep, which was yesterday 8/31. Thinking things through… Did the rabies shot contribute to having any complication at surgery that made my dog just give up eating? I am clueless and so heartbroken. Thank you!

  11. Jan Says:

    Erica, your story is heartbreaking. I am not a vet, but my personal opinion is that your vet should not have given a highly-reactive vaccine to a dog with a tumor. The rabies vaccine has been proven to give 5 years of immunity. Your dog was in no danger and neither was the public or the vet. In some states, the dog would have been given an exemption.It’s the law.

    Vaccines are meant for healthy dogs only. The labels and all the product literature say so. Vaccination stresses the immune system to get an immune response; that’s the whole point of vaccinating. Vaccinating a dog with a tumor is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

    Please make sure you report to the vaccine maker. I’m sure they’ll tell you that your dog shouldn’t have been vaccinated. I’d report your reaction to the state board. They won’t do anything, but it will at least embarrass the vet. You could also file a suit in small claims court for the cost of the surgery. The vet’s actions may have made a positive outcome less likely.

    Be sad, but do something. Maybe it will help the next dog.

  12. Charlotte Says:

    We have a 5 year old dachshund . On July 26, he had rabies shot. Two days later he started limping on back left leg and he was sore when you picked him up. We put him on Quellin 25 mg per day for four days. He was still not better so I took him in and vet automatically said it was IVDD. He has not had a back problem in the past and I tried to tell the vet that, but he would not listen. We put him on 10 more days of Quellin and crate rest for 10 days. He had been doing great until this past Monday we let him play ball in the yard. He started walking slow that night and by Tuesday night he could not stand up. I had to take him in today to get a steroid shot and more Quellin, they also did a cold laser treatment on him. The vet still says it is IVDD. I am not convinced since he never had an issue before with his back. It is just too coincidental that this happened 2 days after the rabies shot.
    I have made an appointment for Monday for a Thermo digital x ray and cold laser treatment and hopefully to get him off of this Quellin. I would not have taken him in today but the weekend is coming up and we didn’t want to risk going to emergency.

  13. Jan Says:

    Charlotte, there’s an old medical saying: When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras. I tend to agree with you. The thing is: Your vet knows how to treat IVDD medically and likely doesn’t know how to treat an adverse vaccine reaction.

    I hear a lot of people saying that their dogs limp after a rabies vaccine. Even well-versed Veterinary Neurologists don’t seem to recognize it, though.

    You said your dog is limping on the left leg. Was the vaccine on the left? It’s supposed to be given on the right.

    Have you tried a chiropractor? If it’s IVDD, I would think a chiro is better than pain meds. I’d contact a holistic vet if I were you. They know how to treat vaccine reactions. And be sure to report the reaction to the drug maker. Please read this: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/

    Good luck. Let me know what transpires.

  14. Rebecca Patrick Says:

    Hi Jan, I posted above but didn’t get a response. I have attempted to follow the links post on this site to report both my dogs reactions to the rabies vaccines but it seems they don’t work. My puppy presented with several of the milder symptoms but we just thought it was puppy hood and clumsiness, it wasn’t until he had the grand mal seizures and from what I can describe only as rabies symptoms (terrifyingly violent and painful to him) coming out of those seizures that we knew he was not right and in hindsight the mild symptoms pointed to a reaction too. The vet gave us choices but told us putting him down was really the only choice, the best and safest choice for us and him. If his reaction hadn’t been so violent we would have done anything to save him. In doing research this is the only explanation for his seizures and because of the reaction to them, his death, I am beyond devastated, we were so careful with him. I would like to report this both to the manufacturer etc but the links say that that info is not there. Could you please point me in the right direction. Thank you.

  15. Mary Jones Says:

    I have a 3 year old male Chinese Crested (hairy hairless). I acquired him as a retired champion when he was 17 mo the old. Instead of vaccinating, I had titers done and he has sufficient immunities for everything, including rabies. However, I have discovered titering is not acceptable proof for grooming, boarding or licensing. Last Thursday I took him for a rabies shot and within 2 days his lower abdomen & genitals were covered in a red rash with raised bumps. Neither his high energy level nor his appetite are any different, although he has had loose stools since. I do not know if this is a reaction to the rabies vaccine and don’t really feel confident that my local vet will correctly diagnose this if it is. I would appreciate any help or suggestions you could give. I am in Fort Worth, Texas.

    Thank you.

  16. Jan Says:

    Mary, this certainly sounds like a reaction, although might it possibly be a bug bite. You should report it to the drug maker. http://truth4pets.org/reporting-reactions/ And please read http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/

    For a vet, you might try Shawn Missonier in Plano. http://www.petcarenaturally.com/ Or one of the holistic vets here: http://truth4pets.org/vets/

    How’s your dog today?

  17. Donna Says:

    My Maltese had her rabies shot a couple months ago. Had such a severe reaction she went to the ER twice that night and ended up staying the night. She hasn’t been the same since. Legs started getting weaker and weaker and now she has stopped eating. I can get more than a few bites of chicken in her but that’s it. She has started moving her legs again but except for going outside to potty she just lays on the couch looking so sad. She’s had an X-ray, and has been back to the vet three times. Some liver issues but otherwise they can’t find anything wrong. The no eating and low muscle weakness is coming from something. She was fine before she had the rabies shot!

  18. Jan Says:

    Donna, vets don’t seem to recognize the hind end weakness although it’s a well-known adverse reaction. It doesn’t show up on x-rays. You should see a vet trained in homeopathy. You need to treat this like a vaccine reaction not a neurological problem. Try http://www.truth4pets.org/vets Some of them, like Dr. Loops, will treat over the phone if necessary.

    Please report the reaction: http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ Sometimes the manufacturer will help with vet bills.

    Good luck. BTW, ignoring the problem isn’t usually a good idea.

  19. Diane werne Says:

    My toy rat terrier,died a few days,after an unauthorized rabies shot She had an enlarged heart,but was eating and walking good She was 16 yrs old,but felt good She was boarded for two nights ,when I picked her up the vet said they gave her the shot. She was never well again She had vommiting,seizures and could not walk sometimes and when she did, would run into an object She would not eat or drink near the end ,and I gave her water with a eye dropper

  20. Diane werne Says:

    My toy rat terrier,died a few days,after an unauthorized rabies shot She had an enlarged heart,but was eating and walking good She was 16 yrs old,but felt good She was boarded for two nights ,when I picked her up the vet said they gave her the shot. She was never well again She had vommiting,seizures and could not walk sometimes and when she did, would run into an object She would not eat or drink near the end ,and I gave her water with a eye dropper

  21. Jan Says:

    Diane, your vet never should have vaccinated without your consent, but wasn’t a rabies vaccine required for boarding? A dogsitter is a bargain in the long run. If your vet charged you for treating your dog, protest. File a claim in small claims court.

    Sorry for you loss.

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