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17 Alarming Side Effects Of Rabies Vaccine In Dogs (2023)

Side Effects Of Rabies Vaccine In Dogs

Rabies is a scary disease with over a 100% mortality rate for dogs and humans. 

Knowing how frightening it can be… 

Us, furparents, can’t help but worry. 

Good news, vaccines exist to help protect our furry friends.

But how safe are these? 

In this article, I’ll tackle every potential risk of the rabies vaccine. 

So read on to discover:

  • Mild to severe symptoms to look out for.
  • 17 alarming side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs.
  • What to do if your dog is experiencing negative side effects.
  • And many more…

13 side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs

#1: Behavioral changes

One of the first effects you’ll notice in your dog…

Is their change in behavior. 

But the good thing is that most dogs go back to normal in a few days. 

So what are some examples of these behavioral changes? 

For example, your energetic dog now wants to sleep all day. Or your clingy pooch begs to be left alone. Some of them will even go as far as hiding from you.

It can also be the opposite at times… 

Your aloof furry friend is now so clingy.

Now, these things are normal.

The best thing you can do as a fur parent is to give them space. 

Or give them as much comfort as they need. 

Now, when’s the only time you must worry about this? 

It’s when your dog’s behavior doesn’t return to normal within a week. With that, you must immediately seek the help of a veterinarian.

#2: Hives

Dogs can show different kinds of allergic reactions to vaccines. 

For rabies vaccine, hives are a common side effect in our furry friends. 

And when a dog has hives, their skin becomes red and itchy.

Bumps or raised skin will also appear. It looks swollen, as if they were stung by a bee.

And that could be the reason why it’s called “hives,” but the other term for it is urticaria.

It’s considered a mild problem as it often goes away on its own.

In most cases, hives will settle down after 24 to 72 hours.

So to find out if your furry friend has hives…

Here are 5 common symptoms of hives in dogs: 

  • Excessive scratching.
  • Redness all over the skin.
  • Appearing to have bumps on their skin or coat. 
  • Raised skin that appears to be reddish a.k.a wheals.
  • Swelling around the muzzle, face, eyes, legs, and abdomen.

Note: Excessive drooling may also occur if the mouth area is swollen, according to PetMD.

#3: Fever

Fever Is A Side Effect Of Rabies Vaccine In Dogs

Another common side effect of the rabies vaccine is fever. 

Dogs of all ages can experience this and recover with ease. 

Based on research, fever after rabies shots is normal. That’s since a dog’s immune system is adjusting to the vaccine.

In most cases, the fever settles down after 1 to 2 days. 

How to tell if my dog has a fever?” 

It’s the same as how you confirm whether you’re feverish or not…

You just have to take your dog’s temperature using a thermometer.

And you can do this in a few simple steps.

Step 1: Apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly to the thermometer.

Step 2: Insert the thermometer no deeper than 1 inch into your dog’s anus.

Step 3: Wait for at least one minute to get their most accurate body temperature.

Most dogs have an average body temperature of 101.0 to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C).

So a temperature above 103°F (39.4°C) is a fever for dogs.

Some people rely on touching their dog, but this isn’t always effective.

And if you’re still unsure of how to take your dog’s temperature…

You can watch this helpful video: 

“What to do if my dog has a fever?” 

Fever after rabies shots is normal…

But if you want to make your dog feel better, there are simple things you can do.

First, you can help their body cool down by using a damp towel. 

Then, gently wipe their ears and paws. Make sure they don’t get too wet. 

The room should also be well ventilated to keep the air fresh. 

Warning: If their temperature is very high. Particularly at 106°F (41.1°C). Then you must take your dog to the vet ASAP.

#4: Lethargy

After rabies shots, most dogs will have lower energy levels. 

You’ll notice your playful buddy become gloomy or lazy all of a sudden. 

This is referred to as “lethargy” or physical inactivity.

“What if my dog is the lazy type? How will I know if they’re lethargic?” 

There are other hints you can pay attention to.

Here are 5 signs of lethargy in dogs:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Slower movements.
  • Lack of reaction to anything.
  • Slow reactions to their surroundings.
  • Sudden loss of interest in things they enjoy.

If this happens, don’t panic.

Their bodies are simply occupied at the moment. 

Imagine your dog’s body as a castle and the vaccine is an intruder. 

Their immune system is adjusting and trying to fight off the foreign enemies. 

As much as your furry friend wants to play with you…

They need time to let their body get used to the rabies shot first.

Most dogs return to their usual selves after 2 to 3 days.

Reading tip: 7 Reasons Why Your Dog Is So Lazy + 3 Dangers & 5 Tips

#5: Limping


When your dog gets a vaccine shot, the muscles around the injected area can become sore.

As a result, they’ll start limping due to the pain and discomfort.

It’s more common when they get injected near the leg area.

This isn’t as threatening as most people think…

But it can still make some fur parents worry.

To assure you…

In most cases, limping will go away on its own after a few days. 2 to 3 days up to a week is the common scenario.

If limping persists…

There’s a possibility of another underlying problem in your dog.

And if your dog shows signs of extreme pain when they’re limping…

Consider consulting the vet for an assessment. And possibly, they’d give a prescription for pain relief medication.

#6: Paralysis

Following limping, we have paralysis.

Now, this is one of the severe side effects to watch out for.

According to a study, paralysis in dogs occurs 3 weeks later after vaccination.

And this can affect one or both the dog’s legs.

So if your dog has been limping for over a week…

You should visit the vet.


As mentioned earlier, limping only lasts for a few days. 

If it continues for more than a week, then it’s an alarming sign of potential paralysis.

In case this happens, paralysis is treatable and can go away in time.

“How can a vaccine paralyze a dog?”

Based on another research:

Paralysis in dogs happens when the rabies vaccine infects the brain. This results in a neurological problem.

All in all, it affects the dog’s motor abilities.

#7: Seizures

Some dogs that are very sensitive to vaccines can develop seizures.

How does this happen?

There’s one suspected culprit…

And that’s over-vaccination.

It’s when your dog receives multiple shots on the same day or week. 

This is why most vets will administer the vaccine on separate months. 

So to prevent this, schedule your dog’s vaccine shots wisely.

Now, this isn’t a concern that you’ll find out right away. These seizures can happen a few days after getting the shot.

A seizure attack can also happen only once… 

When that happens, it’s identified as a transient seizure. 

You can expect your furry friend to not experience it again.

But in rare cases, it can also develop into a chronic disorder.

If this happens, your pooch will constantly experience seizure attacks.

#8: Vomiting 

Vomiting is another normal reaction to the rabies vaccine. 

Doing it 1 to 3 times is a common count. 

In most cases, this will stop in a day or two.

To explain why this happens, imagine this:

You feel comfortable at your home. Out of nowhere, unknown visitors are coming in. You’d want those invaders out, right? 

The same thing happens to your dog’s body. 

They’re trying to push out the foreign elements from the rabies vaccine… 

And they do this by making your dog throw up involuntarily.

Warning: If your dog is persistently vomiting more than 3 times, this can be abnormal. Contact your vet ASAP.

#9: Diarrhea 

Like vomiting, diarrhea is also a common reaction in dogs. 

In most cases, it’ll settle down within a week. 

Like the scenario I mentioned…

Their body is fighting off the vaccine by trying to push it out. Thus, they’ll start having diarrhea

And there are a few symptoms to confirm that your furry pal has this concern.

Here are 7 signs that your dog has diarrhea:

  • Drooling.
  • Dry heaving.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Mild to excessive vomiting.
  • Mucous or blood in the waste.
  • Consistent soft or watery stools.
  • Deformed and abnormal-sized poop.

And as a loving dog parent, you wanna ease your pooch from this experience…

Although you can’t make it go away, you can definitely help them face it.

For one, you can feed them the right meals.

According to VCA, healthy adult dogs can skip their meal for a whole day. 

As an alternative, you can seek your vet to plan their diet. 

The vet will provide your dog with a special formula to work with diarrhea.

Check out next: 17 Simple Tips To Firm Up Your Dog’s Poop (#7 Works Always)

#10: Abnormal breathing

Some dogs will also show signs of changes in their breathing.

This happens due to the allergens in the vaccine. 

On average, difficulty in breathing goes away on its own. 

All there’s left to do is to make sure the room is well ventilated. It must also be clean to avoid making the problem worse. 

So if you notice an abnormal change in their breathing… 

You can skip their daily walk. 

Depending on the breed, most people take their dogs out for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise. 

For now, you can skip this since your furry companion needs to rest. 

“But what if my dog needs to poop?” 

You can still take them out to relieve themselves. But keep the walk short. 

They’re already struggling to breathe. With that, don’t make them exert too much energy anymore.

So if there’s a closer area for them to use…

Then it’s best to pick that option for your pooch.

“How to tell if my dog’s breathing is abnormal?” 

Here are 7 few signs of abnormal breathing in dogs.

  • Drooling.
  • Coughing.
  • Loud breathing. 
  • Excessive panting.
  • Abnormal heart rate.
  • Making weird noises.
  • Breathing too slow or too rapid.

Note: If the problem persists for more than 3 days, consult your vet.

You might also be interested in: 9 reasons which make your dog breathe fast while sleeping

#11: Anaphylaxis 

Following abnormal breathing, there’s anaphylaxis.

According to VCA Hospitals, this is an immediate allergic reaction. Especially to foreign proteins, which a vaccine has in the form of an antigen.

It’s also a combination of the other side effects already mentioned above.

To summarise, here are 7 signs of anaphylaxis in dogs:

For severe symptoms, watch out for these 5 things:

  • Fainting.
  • Seizures.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Skin discoloration.
  • Cyanosis a.k.a blue gums and tongue.

Warning: This issue can be fatal for any dog. If your dog is showing one or more of these signs, consult the vet immediately.

Now, you must be thinking…

How can a vaccine that’s supposed to protect your dog cause all this?

See the findings of this study:

The allergens within the anti-rabies vaccine can cause severe allergic reactions in dogs.

So how can you treat this when it happens?

The only effective way is to take your dog to the vet ASAP.

Warning: If left untreated, severe reactions can lead to death.

#12: Swollen lymph nodes

Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are a normal reaction for dogs. 

That’s because their lymph nodes enlargen due to the rabies vaccine. It’s a common response to “fight off” foreign elements in their body.

According to the AKC, these swollen nodes aren’t painful. 

Instead, they only feel like a lump of rubber under the dog’s skin.


Even if it’s not painful, it can still cause your dog discomfort. 

And unfortunately, there’s no remedy to this. 

All that’s left to do is wait and closely monitor your dog while they’re facing these side effects.

#13: Rabies 

It’s surprising to read “rabies” as a side effect of the rabies vaccine.

But yes, dogs can get rabies from the vaccine itself.

However, this can only happen with failed vaccines.

According to a study

An incident of a failed anti-rabies vaccine in Nigeria caused rabies in dogs. This led to “dumb rabies” and “furious rabies.”

First, dumb rabies is the most common form of rabies in dogs.

It paralyzes them until they die.

Then, furious rabies is the rarer form. From the word itself, dogs with this infection are aggressive.

Their actions can be unpredictable.

This makes them a constant threat to people and other animals.

Though this is rare and happens outside of the United States…

Every fur parent must be extra careful.

Make sure that the vet and the clinic are trustworthy. You can even ask your vet about the product they’ll inject into your dog.

And when in doubt…

Ask for a second opinion from other fur parents that you know.

Find out their dog’s experience from your chosen vet clinic.

Don’t hesitate to go the extra mile for your furry companion. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

3 side effects of rabies vaccine in older dogs

#1: Rabies miasm 

Older dogs can be prone to many forms of miasm… 

And one of them is rabies miasm

But what exactly is that? 

It’s when your dog is acting like they have rabies…

But in reality, they’re not infected at all. 

This can occur a few days up to months later after receiving the rabies vaccine.

“How does it happen?” 

When the dog’s body receives the vaccine and fights it off… 

It can also trick their body into thinking they have rabies. 

As a result, they’ll have abnormal changes in their body.

Watch out for these 9 symptoms:

Since rabies miasm isn’t a “real” disease in your dog… 

Treating your dog can be a challenge. 

So it’s best to seek your vet for professional advice.

#2: Sarcomas

Sarcomas refer to the lump around the injected area. 

And it’s normal for dogs to develop this after a rabies shot. 

This is their body’s response to the foreign elements of the vaccine. 

The swollen area is fighting off the heavy metals contained inside their system.

While this seems alarming… 

Most cases of sarcoma are better left as it is. 

After all, it’s their body’s way of protecting themselves. 

But if you’re still concerned… 

Consult your vet about whether the lump must be removed through surgery or not.

#3: Showing signs of aggression

This is an alarming behavioral change in older dogs. 

First of all, aggression is rare to happen in young pups. 

But if an older dog turns aggressive after a rabies shot…

It’s believed to be a sign of sensitivity to the vaccine. 

And when this happens, senior dogs must no longer receive the vaccine. 

To make sure that you can protect your dog without it…

You can consult the vet for a blood test. This test will help vets see the dog’s immunity level. 

If your dog developed enough antibodies for rabies… 

Then a vaccine shot isn’t needed anymore. 

In case the dog’s aggression doesn’t fade within a week or a month… 

There’s a chance that the anti-rabies vaccine affected an underlying problem in your dog.

1 side effect of rabies vaccine in small dogs

#1: Alopecia

Hair loss, a.k.a “alopecia” is a very common problem in small dog breeds. 

It happens when the vaccine causes an allergic reaction to their skin.

The most commonly affected breeds are:

  • Toy Poodle.
  • Bichon Frise.
  • Miniature Poodle.

But aside from these 3 common dog breeds, other small dogs are at risk too.

Here are 9 other small dog breeds that can experience this:

  • Shih Tzu.
  • Chihuahua.
  • Silky Terrier.
  • Lhasa Apso.
  • Yorkshire Terrier.
  • American Eskimo.
  • Poodle crossbreeds.
  • Miniature Daschund.
  • Toy Manchester Terrier.

But before you speed-dial your vet, know that this isn’t a deadly condition for dogs.

The good news is that alopecia in dogs can heal with the help of medicine.

In some dogs, the problem goes away on its own.