Rabies Vaccination Caution: A Veterinarian Speaks Out

Written by Jan on November 22, 2010 – 4:45 pm

I recently posted Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely.  Adverse reactions to rabies vaccines are the most common reactions reported to the USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics.  Some reactions are mild — but others can prove deadly. A little knowledge can help you prevent many of them.  

After reading my article, Patricia Jordan, veterinarian, vaccination expert and author of Mark of the Beast, sent me some additional cautions to pass along (condensed with her permission).  Please read my first article in addition to this one.  Here are Dr. Jordan’s tips augmented with a few thoughts from me:

1. Get the vaccine name, serial number, lot number and expiration date.  Vets move away, retire and lose records — and vaccines are recalled. You’ll be prepared in case an adverse reaction shows up (which could be as long as 10 years later as in the case of mast cell tumors).  Even if your dog or cat has an immediate reaction, you’ll want to  file a report with the manufacturer yourself.  (Sometimes medical expenses will be reimbursed by the manufacturer, but too few vets take the time to report the reaction.)

2. Ask your vet to explain possible adverse reactions, both long and short term, both mild and serious, before vaccination. Insist that both you and the vet sign a note stating the possible reactions in your pet’s file, or a letter of informed consent and full disclosure, stating that this was done. Keep a copy.  Refer to it if your pet becomes ill.

3. Note exactly where on your pet’s body the shot was administered, and by what route, IM (intramuscular) or SQ (subcutaneous).  Generally, the rabies vaccine should be given in the pet’s right hind leg. Cats should always be vaccinated low on the leg or on the tail so that if a tumor develops, the leg or tail can be amputated. Yes, really. Make sure the vet notes the full name of the person who gave the shot, and the injection site, in your pet’s file. If a lump forms, you’ll want to see if it’s at the injection site. 

4. Vaccinate against rabies at the oldest possible age.  Renowned pet vaccination scientist Ron Schultz, PhD has recommended 20 weeks of age. Check with your state’s rabies law for details.

5. Never vaccinate your pet (with any vaccine) while the animal is under anesthesia, taking steroids,  undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, or is otherwise immunosupressed.

Way too many vets vaccinate, often without permission, when pets are being spayed or neutered or undergoing a dental procedure.  One serious short-term risk of vaccination under anesthesia is vomiting and inhaling the vomit into the lung.  Dr. Jordan says one serious long-term reaction is Granulomatour Meningoencepthalitis (GME). Unfortunately, few vets (or pet guardians) trace the GME to a vaccination of the animal suppressed via anesthesia  3-4 months earlier.  

Vaccinating an animal whose immune system is suppressed may well prevent the body from developing antibodies against rabies thereby defeating the whole purpose of vaccination!
6. Learn the duration of immunity of any vaccine for dogs or cats before vaccinating. This link leads to an abstract from Dr. Schultz (see page 3)  showing that vaccines last much longer than you think and shouldn’t be administered unnecessarily.  Here’s the gist of it:

Minimum Duration of Immunity  (DOI)
(the minimum length of time that a  vaccine has proven in studies to give immunity)

RABIES VACCINE: the DOI is 3 years by challenge (exposure to the disease), 7 years by serology (blood titer test). Note: manufacturers guarantee the “one year vaccine” for one year and the “three year vaccine” for three years, although the vaccines are considered virtually identical.

CORE VACCINES, the most important vaccines that veterinary organizations recommend all puppies get, include Canine Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus-2 and Canine Parvovirus-2. The DOI of these vaccines, when given as “modified live virus” vaccines, is 9 years or more as proven by challenge and by serology. Note: in North America, many experts do not vaccinate with CAV-2 because disease incidence is rare to non-existent and it can be immunosuppressive.

NON-CORE VACCINES  (like Leptospirosis and Bordetella): DOI is less than a year. (Many dogs do not require these vaccines. They should be given only when a proven need exists. Lepto is particularly dangerous for small dogs and often is not effective.)


Adverse reactions from vaccines are not limited to 72 hours after vaccination or 3 weeks or even 3 years. Dr. Jordan says we may not see the effects right away because it takes a while for some genetic changes to express themselves.  Much is going on at the microscopic and molecular level — the level of the genome. Damage is cumulative.  So never give your pets unnecessary vaccines!

Please remember to read: Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely
You may also want to read Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots

Get Our Vaccination DVD: W. Jean Dodds, DVM and Ronald D. Schultz, PhD spoke at our Safer Pet Vaccination Benefit Seminar in March. A DVD of the event is available and proceeds benefit the Rabies Challenge Fund study of the rabies vaccine. Buy the DVD here.  Or learn more about it here. Learn more about rabies vaccination here and about vaccination in general here and here.

Tags: cat, dog, preventing vaccine reactions, rabies shot, rabies vaccination, rabies vaccine, shot reactions, side effects, vaccination reactions, vaccine reactions
Posted under Preventing Vaccine Reactions, Rabies Shots, Uncategorized, Vaccination | 20 Comments » Email This Post

20 Comments to “Rabies Vaccination Caution: A Veterinarian Speaks Out”

  1. Carolyn in Belize Says:

    I appreciate this additional information. My dog had a reaction to the rabies vaccine in 2007. She was titer-tested in 2010 and thankfully was still protected. I refer often to this blog for updates. Thanks so much for keeping us informed.

  2. Judy Says:

    We took our Boston Terriers in for the annual vaccinations on New Year’s Eve. They are four years old and brothers who have never had any adverse reactions until that day. Both were given the three year rabies, three year Parvo, distemper, Hepatitis, and the Lepto 4 Vanguard Booster. After 15 minutes one dog started vomiting and collapsed outside the vet’s office. We rushed him back in for treatment. He was given Atropine, Epinephrine, Benadryl, Plasmalyte bolus, and oxygen. Three hours later he was stable enough to release with the IV catheter still in place if a return trip was needed. Two hours later the other dog started his reaction(massive hives, itching, paw licking, agitation, almost seizure like movements. He was rushed to an emergency clinic and was given drugs and kept over night. I don’t know which vaccine or the combination of vaccines contributed to this but we nearly lost both dogs. I am terrified of giving them anything again. We will try to report to the manufacturer of these vaccines after we see the vet. I had never known that dogs had such adverse reactions and am trying to read articles and do appropriate follow up. What a way to welcome in the new year. We won’t ever forget this New Year”s eve.
    Thanks for the information. I will continue to check this site.

  3. Jan Says:

    Judy, your vet did everything wrong. First, Boston Terriers, and other small dogs, are at great risk for multiple vaccines at once. Furthermore, it’s more than likely that NONE of those vaccines were needed. Lepto is particularly dangerous. Please read my articles on Vaccinating Small Dogs and Eliminating Unnecessary Shots at http://www.truth4dogs.com.

    Futhermore, annual shots were scheduled to improve your vet’s income, not your dogs’ health. The parvo and distemper shot last a minimum of 7-9 years, a probably a lifetime. Read my article on titer testing. You could have gotten a one-time blood test instead.

    Hepatis is suggested only once in a dog’s life, if at all. The disease is all but non-existent in the US. Lepto is unnecessary in most areas, protects only sometimes and is highly dangerous for small dogs.

    I would demand your money back for the shots and treatment for the reactions. Your vet failed to inform you about all this and failed to get your informed consent. Shame on him/her. You should definitely never go back to this uninformed and/or greedy vet! My opinion. I can send you a vet journal article about vaccinating small dogs, but my regular computer is on the blink. Write and I’ll send it later.

    Also, please read my article o What to Do When YOur Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction. Good luck.

  4. Dean Says:

    Just to report a similiar problem. We took our adult spayed chihuahua for an exam and ONLY the rabies shot. (Pfizer Defensor 3) We thought it was the regular 1 year dose, but it was a different product. Before we could start the car, significant lethargy and diarrhea was noticed. She also urinated suddenly and became immoble. We rushed her back into the clinic. Treatment followed and a large bill. We signed consent forms for treatment because we faced no choice at the time. We will not be back there again. She still has some signs of reaction. we will have to wait to see her long term issues yet. Almost $330 for a rabies shot, exam, and pedicure. we almost lost her. Thanks for the information on this site. I found it helpful during the event to ensure I received a letter from the vet to prevent future requirements for vaccinations.

  5. Jan Says:

    Dean, I just want to clarify your comment. You wrote: “We thought it was the regular 1 year dose.” With rare exceptions, the 1 year vaccine is only given once, at about 4-6 months. Thereafter, the 3 year vaccine is given. Three years is now the law in EVERY state, although a few backward localities dangerously require vaccines year. If you live in that area, it’s time to change the law. Call your local animal control officer to find out.

    In the meantime, please read my article on what to do when you dog has a vaccine reaction. https://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ And good luck.

  6. Dean Says:

    Thanks Jan,
    They required annual rabies vaccines or the 3 year. Even though our pet had a rabies tag for each year, they would give her the shot. This is a bad practice and they should inform the consumer what the product is and if their pet really needed the shot to begin with. The more I read about the rabies vaccine, the more I learned how I should not trust the vet with my pet. Everyone needs to be better informed and this site has gone along way to doing it. My pet has had reactions that have just now started to subside where she is happy and attentive. Her problem with extreme urination and diarrehia have subsided and we will use more caution in her care in the future. The Law here does allow both 1 and 3 year vaccine. It just does not vets to do anything but ask if you want the 1 yr or 3 yr vaccine. The consumer has no idea and endangers their pets. We had another family member had a problem with a young small breed dog and heartworm treatment. It killed their dog. Vets should disclose the choices and protect the pet as is their profession requires. I found your blog before. Great artical and still working contacting teh manufacture. Already filed with USDA.

  7. Kim Says:

    thank you or your site. I only wished I knew about it years ago. My 6.5 yr old karelian bear dog was over vaccinated for rabies. I believe, this caused adverse behaviors. Unfortunately he bit someone in the face, and I had to put him down. If I only knew….he received 8 or 9 rabies vaccs in his short life. He was a gentle, loving creature…bititng a person was totally out of character for him….I will do better by my current dog! Thank you for the info!

  8. Patty Says:

    WoW! I saw something on Dr. Oz the other day about vaccinations and flea collars, etc. which is what got me here. In 2003 my Belgian Shepard, Nicky, had had a vaccination and within 5-6 months she developed a big “cyst” on her back… In the exact place she had her last shot. It grew larger and larger, until her entire back was covered with these awful cysts. I had to put her down, and LATER learned about re-calls for dog vaccinations!!! She was only 12 years and was very healthy!! I also used Hartz Mtn. flea collar on her!!!

    My question here is – I now have a mixed breed (Shepard/Lab) and she is due for EVERYTHING!! Including Rabies. After reading your site – I need to know if I should get shots at all????
    My present dog, Brooklyn, is about 8.5 and full of energy and so friendly and sweet – has friends all over the neighborhood!
    I just cannot loose her, too. What should I do… get the shots, use one of those Frontline liquids – that she always acts like its burining her back??? I feel alittle crazy and don’t want to do the wrong thing for her… Please email me as soon as you can.
    Thanks. Patty

  9. Tonya Says:

    My 6 mo old amstaff had a rabies shot 3 days ago and began throwing up last night. Today he is vomiting a lot, foaming at mouth, diaharea, eating grass, lethargic and barely laying directly in the hot sun. I don’t know if his reaction is from the shot or from his eating some steak from last night….it was only a few baby bites. I can’t hardly think it would be from a few small pieces of meat. He was throwing up before he had any.
    It Sunday and no vets are open..is here anything I can do to ease his misery?

  10. Tonya Says:

    My 6 mo got a 3 yr rabies vaccine. I forgot to clarify.

  11. Jan Says:

    Tonya, unless the steak was badly spoiled, it is not likely to be the steak. “People food” that is good for people is good for dogs — better than most dog food — with few exceptions. Learn more at http://www.dogs4dogs.com/food

    I’m not a vet, but the foaming at the mouth is very unusual — a classic symptom of rabies. NOT to say your dog has rabies. It would be next to impossible. It’s just that the symptoms of the shot often mimick the symptoms of the disease.

    If it were my dog, I’d do some more searching for an emergency vet. If there is none, I’d keep him out of the sun, and very comfortable. Don’t force food. It will likely make things worse. If you do feed anything, offer a little canned, unsweetened pumpkin or cooked sweet potato. These help with diarrhea. You can get something called nux vomica at your health food store. Ask them how to use it. It’s the homeopathic remedy for vomiting.

    Please read this: https://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/12/02/what-to-do-when-your-dog-has-a-vaccine-reaction/ to learn what to do at the vet’s office. The vet will likely say it isn’t the shot, especially if the vet you see gave the shot. Also, he/she won’t really know what to do other than give steroids. Make sure everything is recorded in your dog’s file and get a copy.

    I wish I could help more. If your dog gets worse, email Dr. Jean Dodds. He contact info is at hemopet.com She’s an expert in the vaccine.

  12. Jan Says:

    Patty, what do your mean your dog is “due for everything”? An 8 and a half year old dog likely only needs the rabies vaccine. It’s that’s due, don’t give any other vaccine or chemical with the shot. Re any flea remedy that hurts her, stop using it. Get a natural flea spray.

    Please read https://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2009/04/22/no-unnecessary-dog-shots/ to learn which vaccines your dog needs or doesn’t need. And read this article to see how to give the rabies vaccine more safely. https://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/09/23/rabies-vaccination-12-ways-to-vaccinate-more-safely/

    At the vet’s office, stick to what you have learned is good for your dog and you feel is right. Don’t be talked into anything. Don’t be intimidated or insulted. Be an advocate for your dog.


  13. Clay Creel Says:

    My 8 pound Yorkie will need her rabies vaccination.
    My Vet said that even though she is 8 pounds she will be
    given a rabies vaccination that is the same dosage whether she is 8 pound or 80 pounds.
    They said that there body will only absorb what it needs.
    This does not make since to me.
    Why wouldn’t they give a smaller dose for smaller dogs.

  14. Jan Says:

    Clay, some vets do give smaller doses, but they do so illegally. One of the top experts, Dr. Ron Schultz, says vaccines should be given in the same dose to all. Another expert, Dr. Jean Dodds, disagrees. Both have to comply with the law.

    Please read https://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/09/23/rabies-vaccination-12-ways-to-vaccinate-more-safely/ before vaccinating.

  15. Follow-up to Quincy's illness - vaccine maker offering to give us money. Thoughts? - Page 2 - Maltese Dogs Forum : Spoiled Maltese Forums Says:

    […] to GME and vaccines? How to Make Rabies Vaccination Safer for Dogs | Truth4Dogs If I were a vet and I kinda realized that sometimes vaccines led to things like GME, I would think […]

  16. Anonymous Says:

    […] dog(s). Some good tips for pet owners to print out and take with them to the vet can be found at How to Make Rabies Vaccination Safer for Dogs | Truth4Dogs There are also links in this particular article to valuable information. Lastly, this site has a […]

  17. Deb Meese Says:

    Does anyone have any suggestions on help with vet bills from the drug companies? I was just told by Pfizer they won’t reimburse because all dogs are different and it’s “like a peanut butter allergy”. Thank you.

  18. Darla Says:

    I’m glad you’re doing your best to educate folks – thanks! Even those of us “in the know” make errors and kick ourselves, though. That happened to me today and I’m so angry with myself. Last year, the vet was giving TF rabies vaccines; today I took an 8 month old Chihuahua pup in for her first rabies vax and didn’t ask when I should have and the vet had switched to Zoetis instead of Imrab 3TF. I’m so mad – luckily, as a homeopath, I can give my Chi remedies and hope they offer enough support to offset the stupid mercury.

  19. Lili Lavon Says:

    8 year white female german shepard had a quarter sized lump day of rabies vac, returned to vet who said just a hematoma and would go away. 6 weeks later and 2 more trips the hematoma now covers her entire left shoulder, as big as 2 adult hands. Internal med doc did all the tests incl fine needle aspirate to be set off, but came back inconclusive. They think it is a sarcoma but developed extremely fast if so. apparently, sarcoma’s from vaccinations are common in cats. My girl is feeling well so far, but not sure what to do?

  20. Jan Says:

    Lili, sarcomas are not UNcommon in dogs. If they think it’s a sarcoma, see what they suggest you do but don’t start treatment without a second opinion. Send a copy of the report to the vaccine manufacturer, but don’t hold your breath waiting for them to help. Still, you need to do it.

    I don’t know why it’s on your dog’s shoulder. It should have been given in the right rear so that it could be removed. Vets are supposed to know this. Raise hell. Wish I had more advice and better news.

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