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


  1. Jill Says:

    My 4 month old puppy got her first rabies vax today, 5 hours later we were playing rough and she bit and broke the skin on me. Since it is a dead virus, I am in no risk of developing rabies right?
    Jillianhanes@yahoo.com

  2. Jan Says:

    Jill, I can’t imagine it would be a problem (although I’m neither a vet nor an MD). A rabid animal would have to bite you to transmit rabies. Your dog may have soreness at the vax site so be careful for a few days.

  3. Kathy Says:

    I purchased a beautiful 5 month old French Bulldog puppy and took him to my local vet for a “well puppy check” and to establish him with the vet for routine care. I was provided with all the puppy’s shot records showing that he was current on all his vaccines for the vet to have record of them. His records confirmed that he had received his first rabies shot 5 days prior to this vet visit. Upon making the appointment AND initially during my visit I stated that he was current on shots and had loose stools with a bit of blood that I was concerned with. The vet and I spent approx. :15 going over his records and confirming his shots then moved to an exam room where a fecal test was performed which revealed coccidiosis. The vet re-entered the room with a syringe and gave the puppy a shot. At this time (and being ignorant) I assumed it was for the diarrhea. He then took the puppy to weigh him explaining that the medicine for coccidiosis was by weight. At this point I asked what the shot was. He said Rabies and in a panic I asked “can you give him that?!” He assured me it was fine.
    This was approximately 4 pm on Wednesday. On Thursday the puppy was a bit lethargic an acting dis-interested and I was technically ignorant on risks. I trusted this vet who was highly recommended among French Bulldog breeders. Friday at 3 am the puppy woke me with frantic barking. I ran to find him in violent seizures and he died in my arms.
    Still in ignorance I took the puppy to the vet for an autopsy. I desperately wanted an answer to what had happened! They autopsy states, “The external exam showed severe cyanosis of mucus membranes and ventral abdomen. Thoracic area showed atelectasis and hemorrhage in lungs. Mucous membrane lining of trachea is hemorrhagic and bruised just posterior of the larynx and full of froth due to labored respiration. Cause of death: respiratory distress due to seizure”. I had no idea what all that meant and asked him to explain. His explanation was that something caused the puppy to have seizures that caused respiratory distress and cardiac arrest.
    At this point, I started looking in to complications with rabies vaccines and found your site.
    I believe that having two Rabies vaccines within 5 days killed my puppy and in confronting this vet he vehemently denies it had anything to do with it.
    I am desperately hoping for a professional and knowledgeable statement regarding this issue and information providing evidence.
    I thank you in advance for your time

  4. Jan Says:

    Kathy, seizures are well-known adverse reaction to the rabies vaccine. Two given so close together would make this more likely. Your vet is likely denying this because he doesn’t want to be culpable.

    Please read http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ If I were you, I’d file a complaint with your state veterinary board. Find it at Report Reactions at http://www.truth4pets.org. Make sure you report the reaction to the drug maker and demand that they reimburse you for medical expenses and the cost of your puppy. Make them at least pay. Also file a complaint with your small claims court.

    Contact your local media and make a fuss. Go to http://www.truth4dogs.com and take a look at all the rabies articles, particularly ones by Dr. Jean Dodds. You might also want to read http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2011/12/17/why-vets-dont-recognize-vaccine-reactions/ Don’t just be sad. Get mad. This shouldn’t have happened.

  5. Barbara Says:

    Our Labrador got sick a week after her rabies shot, she has now a liver disease, out vet doesnt say its related with the rabies vacin, well I now better, form a complet healthy dog to a dog with liver disease.

  6. Jan Says:

    Barbara, please read http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ And find a holistic vet.

    I lived your story for 11 years with my dog. Make sure your dog has liver disease, not just elevated enzymes.

    Good luck.

  7. STACEE Says:

    Hi Jan, I took my 5 month old happy, vibrant, healthy, big Bernese Mt. Dog puppy for her first rabies vaccination on Friday 12/8 at 11:15am she was ok up until Saturday morning when we noticed she was lethargic, not her playful, pest of a puppy self, then the vomiting started. Of course living so rural not one single vet was available to even talk on Saturday in my area. She had normal stools but continued to vomit, foamy, slimy stuff. I gave her an activated charcoal capsule to help ease her tummy discomfort and forced some pedialyte with a syringe, which helped calm her enough to get some rest.

    By 11:3pm she got up to go potty and OH MY GOD!! BLOODY DIARRHEA LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE!! I CAN STILL SMELL THE BLOOD!! We drove 3+ hours one way to the nearest 24 hour vet hospital where she remains at this very moment. Her blood pressure was low but is now stable. Every test has come back within normal limits and they haven’t a clue really what has happened but say it’s not a usual rabies reaction. I know without a doubt that this is what is going on!! I have 4 other Berners at my house not a single one is ill, there is nothing this pup could have come into contact with, she is in my sight at all times!! we have a small area fenced on our property that the dogs have access to directly beneath my window of my desk that I am typing at right this moment where I can have a visual of them at all times. they use the doggy door to come in and out as they please, they live inside my home, no kennel nothing like that. I reported the reaction before the bloody diarrhea to the Center for Veterinary Biologics yesterday, before we rushed her to the emergency hospital. What else can I do to prove that this was a rabies vaccine reaction? I AM MAD AND I WILL NOT TAKE THIS LYING DOWN I PROMISE YOU!!!!

  8. Jan Says:

    Stacee, there’s a saying in medicine: if you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras. I’m not a vet, but it’s surely a reaction. I can’t think of a way to prove it except for how quickly it happed. I’d call the drug maker and raise hell. Sometimes, rarely, they will at least pay for the treatment. Another thing: as your vet for the “package insert” and see if they list bloody diarrhea as an adverse event.

    Here are some remedies you might want to try to help your dog recover. Rec’d by Adoredbeast.com

    Lyssin remedy: http://elixirs.com
    Thuja and silicea for 5 days after rabies.

  9. Dense moon Says:

    My dog got rabies shot and two other shots, he weighs 12 pds. A few days after that he started throwing up white foamy slime stuff and has been doing it ever since. The vet said it was dog flu. He is liking his lips and his paw alot. He also shakes alot and is granting alot like errrr,errr. I don’t know what to do

  10. joanne raus Says:

    I have had a healthy 8 year old female bichon come down with fever and pancreatitis following a rabies vaccine. This happened years ago. We never gave her another rabies vaccine. She died suddenly 3 years later with hemangioma sarcoma. A spleenic tumor was found with HS lesions spread throughout her abdominal cavity. I also have a 7 year old who can no longer receive rabies due to immuno suppression in conjunction with IBD. His last rabies before he was diagnosed with IBD resulted in fur loss on the leg where the vaccination was administered. The area turned black where the vaccine was given. I have had other bichons come down with malaise following rabies.. Will titer in the future…

  11. Jan Says:

    Joanne, most if not all locals won’t accept titer results, but we’re working on it. For other vaccines, see http://truth4pets.org/question-before-vaccination/

  12. LaRue Hundemer Says:

    On December 10, 2018 my miniature schnauzer Denali who was 14 years at the time and in excellent health was taken to a shot Clinic in Fredericksburg, The Veterinarian was acting weird and turned and drew a syringe full of a red rabies vaccine. The syringe contained 5cc’s of vaccine. She emptied the whole syringe into his hip. 24 hours later he had vomited and passed out. I rushed him to his regular vet and she said his liver was shutting down. We explained what happed and she flushed him out. We took him home , fed him milk thistle 700mg eggs for protein and Yogurt . he fought so hard to live but he only made it 3 months and now he is Dead from her. I filed a complaint with the Virginia Veterinarian Board. My heart is broken.

  13. Jan Says:

    LaRue, I think these clinics are dangerous. It’s all about speed and money. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Make sure you contact the manufacturer of the drug as well. My guess is they won’t feel any liability because of the huge dose your dog got. But report it anyway.

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