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Is Dog Rabies Vaccine Safe? Benefits & Side Effects



Reviewed By: Dr. Joel Robertson

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The rabies vaccine is an essential immunization for dogs and is required by law in many countries.

While the vaccine is highly effective at preventing this fatal disease, many pet owners may have concerns about its safety and potential side effects.

In this article, we will discuss the safety and benefits of the dog rabies vaccine and also cover some common side effects that pet owners should be aware of.

Does My Dog Really Need a Rabies Vaccine?

Is Dog Rabies Vaccine Safe Benefits & Side Effects

Yes. Rabies vaccinations are very effective, and they can help to protect dogs from contracting and transmitting the disease.

Even if your dog is kept indoors or in a fenced yard, it can still come into contact with wildlife that could carry the virus.

It’s important to note that no vaccine can guarantee 100% protection, but the risk of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies is significantly lower than an unvaccinated dog.

In some cases, vaccines may only be needed every five years, depending on the type of vaccination and the jurisdiction.

However, it’s always best to follow local laws and regulations regarding rabies vaccinations for dogs.

Is Dog Rabies Vaccine Safe?

Is Dog Rabies Vaccine Safe Benefits & Side Effects

Yes, the rabies vaccine is safe for dogs and most dogs will experience only discomfort at the injection site. While any vaccine can cause side effects, the risks of serious side effects from the rabies vaccine for dogs are low. 

It’s important to note that getting a rabies vaccine for your dog is essential to protect your pet and minimize the risk of exposure to the virus.

The rabies vaccine stimulates the immune system of the dog, so it can fight the virus if it comes into contact with it. In most cases, dogs will not have any adverse reactions to the rabies vaccine.

In rare cases where a dog does experience side effects, they are often mild and short-lived. The most common side effect is soreness at the site of the injection, but this typically resolves within a day or two.

Other mild side effects may include lethargy, loss of appetite, or fever. However, these side effects are usually temporary and go away on their own.

Can Rabies Vaccines Make My Dog Sick?

No, rabies vaccines are generally safe and do not typically make a dog sick. In fact, it is important to get your dog vaccinated against rabies in order to protect them from the deadly virus.

Vaccines are designed to trigger an immune response that helps prepare the body for infection if it were ever exposed to the virus.

The vaccination does not actually make your dog ill. However, side effects such as soreness or swelling at the injection site may be experienced by some dogs.

If these symptoms persist or worsen, seek veterinary care immediately. Additionally, very rarely a more serious reaction may occur which can also require veterinary attention.

Side Effects of Dog Rabies Vaccine

  1. Mild pain or swelling at the injection site
  2. Lethargy or decreased activity for a day or two after vaccination
  3. Low-grade fever
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Vomiting or diarrhea
  6. Irritation or itchiness around the injection site
  7. Mild allergic reactions such as hives, facial swelling, or coughing
  8. Rarely, more serious allergic reactions that can include difficulty breathing, collapse, or anaphylaxis

What To Do If You Notice Side Effects From Your Dogs Rabies Vaccine?

If you notice any side effects from your dog’s rabies vaccine, you should contact your veterinarian right away.

Mild side effects such as pain or swelling at the injection site, lethargy, or decreased appetite may not require treatment and should resolve on their own within a few days.

However, if your dog experiences more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or signs of an allergic reaction such as facial swelling or difficulty breathing, it may require veterinary attention.

Your veterinarian can determine the best course of treatment for your pet, which may include antihistamines, steroids, or other medications to manage the symptoms.

How To Minimize Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Dogs

  • Schedule the vaccination for a time when your dog is healthy and not undergoing any other medical treatments
  • Make sure your dog is up to date on all other vaccinations before administering the rabies vaccine
  • Discuss any previous adverse reactions to vaccines with your veterinarian before administering the rabies vaccine
  • Consider giving your dog a mild antihistamine before the vaccine to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. However, you should discuss this with your veterinarian first. Some dogs may have underlying medical conditions that could be affected by the medication.
  • Keep your dog hydrated before and after the vaccination
  • Monitor your dog closely after the vaccination for any side effects and contact your veterinarian if you notice anything concerning
  • Follow any specific post-vaccination instructions provided by your veterinarian. These may include limiting exercise or activity for a certain period of time

Benefits of Dog Rabies Vaccine

  1. Protection against a deadly disease: The rabies vaccine is the best way to protect your dog from contracting this serious and often fatal disease.
  2. Legal compliance: In many countries, including the United States, it is required by law that dogs receive a rabies vaccination and booster shots. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in fines, quarantine of your pet, and potentially even euthanasia if your dog is found to have contracted rabies.
  3. Protects other animals and humans: Rabies is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Vaccinating your dog can help prevent the transmission of the virus to other animals, as well as reduce the risk of human infection.
  4. Cost-effective: The cost of vaccinating your dog against rabies is relatively low compared to the potential cost of treatment if your pet contracts the disease. Not to mention, the emotional toll of losing your beloved pet to a preventable disease is immeasurable.
  5. Peace of mind: Knowing that your dog is protected against a serious and potentially fatal disease can provide peace of mind and allow you to enjoy your time with your furry companion without worrying about their health.

What Are the Ingredients in The Rabies Vaccine?

  • Inactivated pieces of the rabies virus: The vaccine contains inactivated pieces of the rabies virus that are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce an immune response in the body.
  • Adjuvants: Adjuvants are substances added to vaccines to help enhance the immune response. Some rabies vaccines contain adjuvants such as aluminum hydroxide or phosphate.
  • Preservatives: To ensure the vaccine remains effective over time, some rabies vaccines contain preservatives such as thimerosal or formaldehyde.
  • Stabilizers: Stabilizers such as human serum albumin (HSA) or fetal bovine serum (FBS) are sometimes added to vaccines to help stabilize the vaccine and maintain its potency.
  • Antibiotics: Some vaccines may contain antibiotics such as neomycin, which is added to prevent bacterial contamination during the manufacturing process.


Q: What are the benefits of the rabies vaccine for dogs?

A: The rabies vaccine provides active immunity against the rabies virus. It helps protect dogs from contracting rabies and decreases the risk of transmission to other animals or humans.

Q: Can dogs have side effects from the rabies vaccine?

A: Like any vaccine, the rabies vaccine can have side effects. However, serious side effects are rare. Most dogs experience only mild and temporary side effects, such as soreness at the injection site or mild lethargy.

Q: What are the common side effects of the rabies vaccine in dogs?

A: Common side effects of the rabies vaccine in dogs may include mild swelling or tenderness at the injection site, mild fever, or temporary loss of appetite. These side effects usually resolve on their own within a few days.

Q: What are the signs of rabies in dogs?

A: The signs of rabies in dogs may vary, but commonly include changes in behavior, excessive drooling, aggression, difficulty swallowing, seizures, and paralysis. If you suspect your dog has rabies, seek immediate veterinary care.

Q: Is the rabies vaccine for dogs required by law?

A: In many jurisdictions, the rabies vaccine is required by law for all dogs. It is an important measure to prevent the spread of rabies and protect public health.

Q: Is it necessary to vaccinate my dog against rabies?

A: Yes, it is necessary to vaccinate your dog against rabies. Rabies is a deadly disease that poses a risk to both animals and humans. Vaccination helps prevent rabies and is an important responsibility of dog owners.

Q: Are there any risks associated with the rabies vaccine for dogs?

A: While the rabies vaccine is generally safe, there is a small risk of allergic reactions or adverse vaccine reactions. However, these serious reactions are extremely rare.

Q: How often should dogs be vaccinated against rabies?

A: The frequency of rabies vaccination may vary depending on local laws and regulations. In many places, dogs are required to receive a rabies vaccine every 1 to 3 years. Consult with your veterinarian for the specific vaccination schedule in your area.

Q: Can dogs get rabies if they are vaccinated?

A: It is highly unlikely for dogs to get rabies if they are properly vaccinated against the disease. The rabies vaccine is highly effective in preventing rabies infection and providing immunity against the rabies virus.

In Conclusion

The dog rabies vaccine is generally considered safe and highly effective in preventing this serious and often fatal disease.

While some dogs may experience mild side effects such as pain or swelling at the injection site, lethargy, or decreased appetite, these symptoms are typically mild and resolve on their own within a few days.

Serious adverse reactions to the vaccine are rare, and the benefits of vaccinating your dog against rabies far outweigh any potential risks.

If you have any concerns about the rabies vaccine, you should discuss them with your veterinarian.

Please take the time and leave a comment below if this article helped you, or you have any additional questions.

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