Canine Rabies Vaccine Side Effects

Rabies is a devastating neurological disease, which led to the creation of the canine rabies vaccine. Since the vaccination was created, deaths of pets from rabies in the United States have dropped from more than 100 annually to only one or two cases, but the rabies vaccine has also been shown to have side effects for many pets.

Immediate Side Effects

The rabies virus is dead when injected into your pet, which, in rare cases, can lead to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can lead to shock, respiratory failure and cardiac failure. If this is going to occur, it usually will occur within minutes, and always less than 24 hours after the vaccination. Epinephrine must be administered immediately.

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, shock, coma, pale gums, cold limbs, quick heart rate, weak pulse and possible facial swelling. If this happens, return your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Long-Term Side Effects

Not all side effects occur immediately. It can take up to a few months for your dog to have a reaction to the vaccination. Reactions can be mild, such as an allergic reaction or skin disease near the injection site, but they can also be more serious.

Serious illnesses resulting from the rabies vaccination include:

  • Cancer at the injection site
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Autoimmune diseases such as organ diseases
  • Chronic digestive problems
  • Muscle weakness

Reactions can also include behavior problems. If your dog has a sudden onset of aggressive behavior, separation anxiety, destructive behaviors or obsessive compulsive behaviors, consult your veterinarian. This is probably not a behavioral issue.

Prepare for Reaction

Though there's nothing you can do to predict if your dog will have a reaction, there are steps you can take to be prepared in case of emergency.

If your dog has ever had an adverse reaction to medicine or vaccination, alert your veterinarian. They may want to keep your dog in observation longer to ensure that nothing happens. They can also keep epinephrine on hand to deliver immediately in case of shock.

Keep your vaccination records on hand for a few weeks so that you have the brand name of the vaccine, vaccination given, date of vaccination and location of vaccination available immediately. This information will help your veterinarian respond quickly to any problem.

Don't give any other vaccination in combination with the rabies shot. Veterinarians have reported that risk of reaction increases with the number of vaccinations given. Request that your veterinarian not give your dog a combination shot and wait a few weeks before giving another vaccination.

The rabies vaccination has been instrumental in reducing a disease that always leads to death in infected pets. It's important to keep your dog up-to-date on the vaccination. However, be aware of adverse reactions, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian and be aware of symptoms so you can respond immediately in case of emergency.