There are countless ways rabies vaccination can harm your dog – often permanently. I’m going to tell you about just 65 of those ways below.
As a holistic veterinarian, our outdated rabies vaccination laws are one of the things that upset me the most. All over the US and in most of Canada, the law requires you to vaccinate your dog against rabies every three years. In most US states your dog’s first rabies vaccine must be a one year shot, with revaccination every three years after that.
None of these laws take into account the real duration of immunity of rabies vaccines, Studies by Ronald Schultz PhD show that rabies vaccines protet for a minimum of 7 years – and probably for the life of the animal.
And neither do the thousands of veterinarians in the US who are still vaccinating annually for rabies. They do this despite the fact that annual vaccination is neither required by law nor recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Guidelines.
Every Vaccination Increases The Risk
Dog owners often accept the one-year rabies vaccine because it’s cheaper, and because they don’t know two important things:
- The one year rabies vaccine is identical to the three year rabies vaccine, just labeled differently.
- The rabies vaccine can harm your dog in many different ways. Every vaccination increases the risk of an adverse vaccine reaction happening to your dog.
And that’s what I want to tell you about.
In my years of practice I’ve witnessed all of the rabies vaccine reactions I’ve listed below.
Damage Can Be Immediate Or Months Later
Most conventional vets don’t recognize rabies vaccine damage unless your dog has an instant reaction while he’s still in the clinic.
But the fact is, one little vaccine can cause not only immediate illness, but long term, dangerous, chronic disease that can change your dog’s life forever.
Vaccine reactions are more likely to happen when your dog gets multiple vaccines at once; and small dogs are more likely to suffer from ill effects, because they receive the same dose as big dogs.
Rabies Vaccination Is Not Safe
I’ve listed 65 ways the rabies vaccine can harm your dog. It’s not an exhaustive list … but I’ve tried to give you a picture of the risks you take when you vaccinate your dog for rabies.
Most conventional vets will tell you that rabies vaccination is very safe and unlikely to cause any side effects. Holistic vets, myself included, will tell you a very different story. We’ve learned to recognize the shocking damage that rabies vaccination causes in so many pets.
I’ve divided common rabies vaccine reactions into three different categories.
Acute reactions can happen immediately after the rabies vaccine or within a few days. Conventional vets are more likely to recognize acute (vs chronic) reactions as being linked to the rabies vaccine.
These acute reactions aren’t necessarily limited to the rabies vaccine but can happen with any shots.
- Facial swelling
- Injection site swelling or lump
- Urticaria (hives)
- Circulatory shock
- Injection site pain
- Pruritus (itching)
- Injection site alopecia (hair loss)
- Loss of consciousness
- Anaphylaxis (which can kill your dog in minutes)
- Ataxia (loss of balance/coordination)
- General signs of pain
- Injection site scab or crust
- Muscle tremor
- Seizures (these can be immediate upon vaccination but can also occur in 7 to 9 days which is when the rabies antibodies develop)
- Tumor at the injection site (this can happen within as little as 72 hours)
- Sudden behavior changes such as aggression, fear or anxiety can also happen acutely, within hours or days of rabies vaccination
- Immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). This disease can also become chronic
Many chronic diseases in dogs can be triggered by the rabies vaccine’s damaging effect on your dog’s immune system and neurological system. The rabies virus itself is a carcinogen. The toxic ingredients in vaccines such as aluminum and mercury can also contribute to cancer and other chronic disease. Many of the chronic diseases I’ve listed here can be caused by any vaccine, not just rabies.
- Fibrocarcinomas at the injection site. A lot of people know about this problem in cats (that’s why vets often vaccinate cats in the tail, so it can easily be amputated) but it’s just as common in dogs. Fibrocarcinomas can appear in places other than the injection site because the aluminum in the vaccine is carried away by macrophages (immune system cells that detect, eat and destroy damaged cells and other foreign substances).
- Other cancers, such as spindle cell cancers, mast cell cancers, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma. Even benign tumors like lipomas, warts and other growths can grow larger or become malignant after rabies vaccination, especially if your dog is taking steroid drugs.
- Chronic digestive issues such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, colitis or chronic diarrhea. Inflammation anywhere in the body, including in the digestive tract, is aggravated by the rabies vaccine.
- Seizures, epilepsy and granulomatuous meningioencephalitis (GME).
- Food, environmental and inhalant allergies. These are extremely common chronic problems in dogs. Allergies are improper immune responses and vaccination can damage your dog’s immune system. The aluminum in vaccines also causes an up-regulation of IgE, which is the allergy immunoglobulin.
- Skin issues. There are many different types of skin issues, including dermatitis, yeast, alopecia (hair loss), hives, rashes, itchy wrists and ankles (where a lot of dogs chew themselves), abscesses, ear and eye infections and anal gland problems. Skin conditions are never “just skin issues” but are a manifestation of deeper underlying disease. Vaccination can cause allergic reactions because cells in the body called Langerhan cells are constantly scouting for antigen (which the rabies virus is full of). When Langerhan cells detect these foreign invaders (like bacteria or viruses), the body then sends out inflammatory cells to fight off the attacker by creating an allergic reaction.
- Muscle weakness or atrophy, including wasting diseases like degenerative myelopathy and Guillain Barré The rabies vaccine causes a neuro-inflammatory reaction, resulting in degeneration of the tissues.
- Demyelination (common in German Shepherds) – an autoimmune disease.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autoimmune thyroiditis.
- Metabolic diseases like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease or pancreatitis.
Chronic Rabies-Specific Problems
Often, rabies vaccination can cause the body to mimic the disease it was intended to prevent. Homeopaths call this rabies miasm. Rabies miasm is deep-rooted disease often caused by rabies vaccination but it can also be passed down through generations and cause illness even in unvaccinated dogs.
Rabies miasm symptoms are very common in dogs. But most veterinarians and dog owners don’t recognize the connection between rabies vaccination and some of these symptoms. You may think it’s cute or funny when your dog chases flies around the house or chases water from the hose. But it’s not really … it’s a common symptom of rabies vaccine damage.
Many of these problems are behavioral because the rabies virus travels to the amygdala of the brain, and so does the virus in the vaccines, causing neurological damage.
- Hypersensitivity of all senses – sensitivity to sound, movement, touch
- Rage, agitation, violence, ferocity, sudden attacks, unprovoked attacks, desire to kill … behaviors you might expect to see in a dog infected with rabies
- Irrational fears, timidity, separation anxiety, suspicious behavior
- Inappropriate responses to water – either extreme fear or great desire. This is known as hydrophobia, which is another term for rabies
- Obsessive/compulsive behaviors – tail chasing, fly biting, chasing balls, chasing light reflected off a window or mirror
- Excessive focal licking or licking of genitalia
- Excessive sexual drive. Some people interpret chronic humping as being a dominance behavior, but it’s more likely a rabies vaccination response
- Constant or unwarranted erections, even in neutered males
- Frequent or spasmodic sneezing, spasms in the jaws, choking, gagging, or coughing when swallowing liquids, reverse sneezing and laryngeal spasms
- Involuntary urination
- Sensation of flea bites, violent itching with no obvious causation
- Convulsions, especially from the sight of running water or shiny objects
- Aimless wandering and vocalization
- Restlessness, uneasiness, apprehensiveness and developing aggressive behavior, especially toward strangers
- Your normally affectionate dog may hide away and shun company
- Your normally independent dog may become unusually attentive and affectionate
- Desire to roam and travel away from home for long distances
- Resistance to being restrained, chewing viciously on leashes, metal chains or anything that confines him (even breaking through glass windows or bending the bars of a crate or kennel)
- Self biting … inflicting severe bite wounds on himself
- Strange cries and hoarse howls (due to partial paralysis of the vocal cords)
- No interest in food or ravenous hunger
- Unable to swallow because of paralysis of swallowing muscles
- Eyes staring with dilated pupils
- Unable to close the eyes; cornea becomes dry and dull
- Hanging down of the lower jaw
- Pica – eating inappropriate objects such as wood, stones or his own feces
- Destruction of blankets, towels, clothing
- Convulsive seizures, tied to lunar patterns
- Muscular incoordination
- Inflammation of the heart muscle: disturbed heart function, irregular rhythm, heart rate too slow or too fast, heart failure
Again, this is not a complete list. But you can see from my experience and observations that rabies vaccination is not safe for your dog and you should minimize the number of shots your dog gets.
What You Can Do
- Don’t give your dogs more rabies shots than he needs to comply with the law. Under current laws, that means every three years.
- Research your local laws on rabies vaccination. There are very few places that’ll accept rabies titers instead of vaccination. Let’s advocate for all states and provinces to accept titers in lieu of repetitive vaccinations. Contact the Rabies Challenge Fund for advice on how to get the laws changed in your state.
- If you want to get a rabies titer, I encourage you to submit the blood through Hemopet, because they take the extra step of collecting the data before sending the titers out to rabies certified laboratories such as those at Kansas State University and Cornell University.
- Some states allow medical exemptions for health reasons (no unhealthy dog should EVER be vaccinated). Check out the Rabies Challenge Fund for a list of state medical exemptions and ask your vet to write you an exemption.
- And please support the Rabies Challenge Fund’s work so that one day, the law will allow dogs’ rabies vaccinations every five years, and eventually every seven years.
When I became a veterinarian I took an Veterinarian’s Oath to “use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering […] and the advancement of medical knowledge.”
I find the outdated rabies laws to be a breach of the Oath I took and not in keeping with protection of animal health or promotion of public health. I personally see these outdated, unscientific rabies laws as a clear defiance of scientific knowledge and skills. They endanger society by causing derangement of the immune systems of the animals we share our lives with.
Photo credit: Patricia Jordan DVM