Rabies Injection: Side Effects in a Dog

Updated November 21, 2016

Just like any medication, the rabies vaccine can have a wide variety of side effects that range from minor to severe. Not every dog will develop the same side effects to the same degree. These side effects can be immediate or take several months to develop. Knowing the possible side effects that can occur with the rabies injection can help you identify a possible problem after your dog is vaccinated.

Anaphlaxix Reactions

According to NetDoctor, the rabies vaccine is made from a dead or inactive version of the rabies virus that causes the body's immune system to kick in without actually contracting the disease. This helps the body fight the disease if it is ever contracted. Generally, the vaccine does not cause a problem, but some dogs can negatively react to the administration of it immediately. Usually these reactions will occur within minutes, but in no case will take more than 24 hours to develop. The immediate appearance of side effects usually indicates anaphylaxis, which is an allergic reaction that occurs in the entire body, not an isolated point, according to the National Library of Medicine. Symptoms of anaphylaxis from the rabies vaccine may include increased heart rate, weak pulse, loss of consciousness resulting in coma, cold limbs, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

Seizures and Epilepsy

Another side effect than can develop up to several months later is seizures and epilepsy. A seizure is when the brain encounters an electrical storm, according to Canine Epilepsy Network. When this brain storm occurs, your dog can become stiff and fall to ground. Depending on the degree of the seizure, your dog will convulse and jerk. Epilepsy is diagnosed when your dog has repeated seizures, either close together or over a period of time.

Autoimmune Disease

Some dogs will react to the vaccine by developing an autoimmune disease. According to Dog Owner's Guide, when a dog has an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system no longer fights foreign bodies to protect the animal but instead attacks the body's own tissues. When this happens, the immune system may begin to attack blood cells or certain organs. If organs, such as the kidney, lungs or thyroid gland are attacked, this can cause organ disease and eventually failure.

Cancer at the Injection Site

Another serious concern is cancer at the site of the rabies vaccine injection. According to, these types of cancer are called sarcomas. Tumours develop after an injection is given. The resulting cancer can be in the connective tissue, in the fat of the dog, in the cartilage or even the muscles of the dog.

Behavioural Changes

Even if your dog does not develop diseases, behavioural problems can also develop. Some dogs become obsessive compulsive, such as pacing or licking the same spot over and over. Others may become aggressive, even when they have always been gentle and friendly.

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