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Home > Dogs > 10 Common Side Effects of the Rabies Vaccination in Dogs

10 Common Side Effects of the Rabies Vaccination in Dogs

veterinarian vaccinating German Shepherd dog

The rabies virus is a scary and deadly force of nature. Once contracted, this disease is always fatal in animals. Unfortunately, it is quite easy for our dogs and cats to come into contact with wild animals, or unvaccinated domesticated animals, that carry this virus. One bite or the passing of saliva can easily cause our dear pets to become infected.

Luckily, there is a rabies vaccination available that dogs can receive as early as 12 weeks of age as part of their normal vaccination schedule. Like with any vaccine, there is a potential for side effects to show themselves after your dog has been vaccinated for rabies. Here’s a look at the most common side effects, and even a few that are rarer, so you know what to look for when your dog receives their rabies vaccinations:


The 4 Common Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Dogs:

Not all dogs are the same; that’s why not every reaction to the rabies vaccination is the same. Here’s a look at the most common side effects dogs may experience after their first, or any, of their scheduled rabies vaccines or boosters.

1. Swelling or Soreness of the Injection Site

Possibly the most common side effects your dog may experience after having their rabies vaccine, or any vaccine for that matter, is swelling or soreness at the injection site. If this occurs with your dog it should subside within a couple of days. If it persists longer, causes significant pain, or worsens contact your veterinarian.

vet massaging the leg of a dog
Image Credit: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

2. Mild Fever

When one of our pets presents with a fever, our immediate reaction is to panic. When this happens after the rabies vaccine has been given, it’s best to monitor the situation and remain calm. A mild fever is common after having the rabies vaccine. Like with most side effects, it will pass in a few days. If not, reach out to your veterinarian for advice on what steps to take or whether you should bring your dog in for a checkup.

3. Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is fairly normal after having a vaccine. The rabies shot is no different. Your dog may eat a bit less in the hours following its shot, or it may be this way for a couple of days. Simply give them time to feel better. As always, offer your pet food and let them eat what they want. They’ll be back up to par in no time and back to their regular feeding schedule.

Dog not eating
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4. Tiredness

After a trip to the veterinarian, especially one where the rabies shot is given, your dog may feel like they need to rest more. It’s completely normal and no reason to panic. Allow your dog the time they need to recover from the excitement of the trip and the vaccine itself. They’ll be ready to play in a few hours or a couple of days.

divider-dog paw

The 6 Rare Side Effects

Some dogs may exhibit the more common side effects mentioned above after receiving their rabies shots while others may feel a bit worse. Here’s a look at other side effects that may be experienced that are rare but should still be watched for.

5. Vomiting and Diarrhea

While vomiting and diarrhea aren’t common occurrences after a rabies shot, they can happen. It all depends on the dog itself. If your dog shows these side effects, monitor them closely. If things persist or get worse, reach out to your veterinarian for advice on how you should treat them.

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog sick with vet
Image Credit: Zontica, Shutterstock

6. Hives

If you notice bumps on your dog’s body after having the rabies vaccination, they could be suffering from hives. While relatively safe, hives can be quite itchy and cause a bit of discomfort. If the first time your dog experiences this is after the rabies vaccine, consult your veterinarian so they are aware of the issue and can tell you how best to treat the itching and keep your dog comfortable until it passes.

7. Face Swelling

Some dog owners have reported that their pets have suffered from slight swelling of the face, eyes, and muzzle after having the vaccine administered. In most cases, this passes in a few hours or days. It’s important to closely monitor your pet, however, if this type of swelling occurs. And remember to pay close attention to any abnormal breathing.

Doctor examining Basset Hound dog at veterinary clinic
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8. Coughing or Sneezing

Coughing and sneezing after the rabies vaccine are considered mild side effects. Although it is rare to see, it can happen. Like with most other side effects, these will pass with time and can be your dog’s way of dealing with the vaccine that is now inside its body.

9. Runny Nose

Dogs react to vaccines similarly to humans. It’s common for humans to sniffle and deal with a runny nose after having the flu or Covid vaccine. While a runny nose doesn’t happen to every dog, it is normal. Simply let it run its course and your dog should be fine in a few days.

dog wet nose
Image By: RonaldPlett, Pixabay

10. Lethargy

Lethargy is not the same as being tired. It is most notably a decrease in the want to be active. You may notice that your dog is lying around more than usual and doesn’t want to go for walks or other normal activities. In most instances, this will pass in a few days. If it persists or gets to the point where you are fearful, then reach out to your veterinarian to discuss it and decide whether you should take your dog in for an exam.

divider-dog paw Anaphylaxis

While not a side effect, anaphylaxis, or an allergic reaction, is something every dog owner should know about before having vaccines administered to their pets or giving them medications. In most cases, this reaction will show itself within minutes of having the rabies vaccine administered. It leads to rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, swelling, color changes of the gums, and vomiting.

You’ll notice that several signs of anaphylaxis are mentioned above with our side effects. On their own, these side effects can be common and dealt with easily. When suffering from anaphylaxis you’ll see multiple effects occurring at once. Epinephrine can be administered to help with the life-threatening allergic reaction. So, if you feel your dog is suffering from anaphylaxis, get them to the vet immediately.

dog check by vet
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A rabies vaccine is an important tool used to keep your dog healthy and protected throughout their lives. While it’s normal for pet parents to be concerned when it comes to having their dog vaccinated, the side effects of this vaccine are normally mild and will pass in a few days. As always, if you see your dog show side effects that are concerning, or if you fear they are suffering from anaphylaxis, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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