Rabies Vaccination for Dogs Part 11


Rabies Vaccination for Dogs – AB 272

Dog Getting Vaccinated


Do vaccine reactions to different diseases differ?

Dr. Dodds – Yes, but, besides anaphylaxis  — which any vaccine can cause idiosyncratically — most delayed vaccine reactions occur within 2-21 days afterwards, and are similar.   Rabies and distemper vaccines are more likely to induce seizure reactions, but they also can cause more generalized reactions and fevers etc., like any vaccine.  See attached. If so, how do they differ physically, medically, behaviorally, and in other ways? See above and attached.  [Reproduced at the end of this article.]

Dr. Breitman – ”Proven “Vaccine reactions” include failure, allergic reactions (including anaphalaxic reactions), other immune reactions to the vaccination of attenuated organisms or the adjuvant, and fibrosarcoma development (in cats).  Leptospirosis and Bordetella have a shorter duration of efficacy and other do fail before the year interval recommended for re-vaccination.  Lyme vaccine is also more likely to fail than other vaccines.  Some dogs also appear to be genetic not responders to Parvovirus, and more rarely Distemper virus vaccine.  Certain vaccines do appear to have greater risk of febrile response (i.e., some Lyme vaccines).  Intra nasal Bordetella vaccine can cause transient respiratory symptoms but is also more effective than parental vaccine.  Rabies vaccine is associated with more risk of injection site Fibrosarcoma in cats.  Distemper is more likely to cause polyarthritis and ocular reactions.  While immune-mediated diseases have been postulated to result from vaccinations, scientific studies have never proven them.  One the other hand, if an animal is genetically prone to auto-immune disease, the non-specific stimulation of a vaccine’s adjuvant can cause a flare.
All vaccines combined cause a vaccine reaction of less than .5%.  Most of these are transient fever or injection site soreness.  The risk of reaction is higher in small animals, neutered, and over 1 year old.

It is my understanding that there are several types of rabies vaccine reactions:

  • Death
  • Anaphylaxis – acute vomiting and diarrhea, shock, collapse, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure,
  • Immediate Type II reactions – facial, lip, ear or eyelid swelling, difficulty breathing, hives, pale gums, lowered blood pressure, injection site swelling, fever, lethargy, loss of consciousness
  • Delayed reactions including autoimmune diseases, fibrosarcomas, mast cell tumors, lupus, dermatitis, seizures, digestive problems, and others
  • Behavior reactions such as restlessness, suspicion, self mutilation, finicky eating, pica, destructive behavior, clinginess or aloofness, and others

The first two reactions we can connect to vaccines because of the proximity in time of their being given, but how can we connect the second two that can occur several weeks or months later?

Dr. Dodds – Only by eliminating other causes, seeing the same reaction again in this dog after a subsequent booster, and by collecting and examining the cumulative history of many, many similar cases over the years. Most reactions occur within 30 days of vaccination. If there is a causal connection regarding behavior changes, then can that be reversed with behavior modification or is it permanent? Most cases eventually recover after detoxification for the vaccinosis and initiating appropriate symptomatic treatment and immune support. 

Dr. Breitman – There is no proof that the last two are associated with vaccination with the exception of fibrosarcoma (due to increased incidence at vaccination sites) and localized/transient dermatitis at the vaccination site.

Are there studies – other than those provided by vaccine manufacturers – that show that lowering the vaccine age from four to three months will not harm a puppy?

Dr. Dodds – No ; only studies from clinical experience that show they can be harmful when given too young , for the reasons the RCF and others have already stated.

Dr. Breitman – I believe that the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) did their own studies. [Note:  Dr. Ronald Schultz, was on the AAHA Task Force and is the researcher for the Rabies Challenge Fund. ] I have also seen independent publications on efficacy of Rabies vaccine.  The recommendation of the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association is vaccination at 12 weeks.  This is why most veterinarians vaccinate for Rabies at 12 weeks although many states allow vaccination as late as 6 months.  I have routinely vaccinated at 12 weeks (or as soon as the puppy presents after that age) and have never seen a reaction attributable to the Rabies vaccine in a dog in the 24 years that I have been in practice.  The FDA requires proof that the vaccine is safe and effective for licensure.

Since different states have different legal requirements for the minimum age for puppies to be vaccinated, is there data showing that those that are vaccinated at three months or 12 weeks have more reactions and/or develop more diseases later in life?

Dr. Dodds – Yes, but the cumulative data are hard to come by. To my knowledge, the RCF and other concerned vaccine professionals,  including myself and Dr. Ron Schultz,  have to rely upon and share our own collective experiences. Most holistic veterinarians also have had and collect these experiences.

Dr. Breitman – No.

Is there a source or data that state that 12 weeks is the age at which the majority of vets vaccinate for rabies?

Dr. Dodds – Not at all, as most vets do not vaccinate dogs or cats for rabies before 16 weeks of age. If so, is that based on a national survey of all veterinarians or those in a specific area of the country? Just collective experience throughout.

Dr. Breitman – I haven’t seen such a study, but it is the recommendation of the three national groups that I mentioned.

Why do some dogs have a reaction and others do not?

Dr. Dodds – Because, like with adverse reactions to anything (drugs, foods, insects, chemicals etc) in people or animals, only those with a genetic predisposition (family history) to react adversely or having some physiological or pathological conditions that predispose them, will react.   Is the reaction based on the breed, the age of the puppy, the overall health of the puppy, or something else? It can be all of the above.

Dr. Breitman – Some dogs will be genetically predisposed for an allergic or other hyperreactivity.  Also, smaller dogs and neutered animals are more likely.  Since immune reactions become stronger with repeated exposure, older dogs are more likely to react.  I imagine that dogs that are hyper-immunized would be more likely to respond as well.  And dogs receiving multiply vaccines are also more likely to respond.  Keep in mind that vaccine reactions (which are infrequent) and usually minor.

If a dog or puppy has never had a vaccine, is there a way to predict, prevent, or reduce the chance of a vaccine reaction in the future?

Dr. Dodds – Not accurately.

Dr. Breitman – Family history would have some predictive value as well as the aforementioned increase risk factors. The degree of response to the vaccine also is a predictor of the effectiveness of the vaccine to some degree, so you would only want to dampen down the response if there was a history of over-reacting.

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Disclaimers – this is a *very* long article (almost 17,000 words) which I have loosely broken up into segments. This is the unedited final draft of the article in its entirety that I wrote in 2013 for a website that is no longer in existence. Not only is the final article no longer available, but I have had computer and Internet issues where some data may have been lost. I have spent several hours trying to piece it together and reformatting.

The article does not reflect current research as of 2018.  However, a good portion of the discussion is still applicable. If there is something that you believe was not true in 2013 or if I have made a mistake in reformatting, please let me know and I will do my best to fix it.

The reason it is posted here is because I was hosting a discussion on DogRead DogRead@yahoogroups.com about my book Doggie Dangers ( Kindle http://tinyurl.com/y8uc4gtc  Paperback http://tinyurl.com/y7vhce9t ), and the subject of rabies vaccines came up when we were talking about wildlife concerns for family dogs. We were discussing how to keep the yard safe from wildlife, but one person mentioned she had a bat fly into her house! Some of the participants requested that I post the article since it is no longer published.

And the final disclaimer – I am a dog trainer, not a veterinarian or medical researcher. Therefore, this article is for information only and not a substitute for any veterinary, medical, or other advice.

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