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My dog had an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine

  • June 30, 2016
  • By MaggieLovesOrbit
My dog had an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine

One dosage size does not fit all

Did you know that a 175 pound Great Dane and 10 pound Boston Terrier both get the same dosage of rabies vaccine? 

All dogs get a dosage of 1 ml.  

All horses and cattle get 2 ml.

While elephants get a dosage of 2 to 4 ml.

So the first thought is … Why don’t I ask my vet to cut it in half?  Well it doesn’t really work like that because the active vaccine could be a drop in that syringe (or think of it as a drop in a swimming pool) and if you cut the dosage in half… You don’t know where the vaccine is.  So you run the risk of not protecting your dog. 

Which breeds are known to have allergic reactions?  According to, the breeds prone to allergic reactions to the rabies vaccine are as follows:

Dachshunds, Pugs, BostonTerriers, Miniature Pinschers and Chihuahuas.  Next came Maltese, Mniature Schnausers, Jack Russells, Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers.  

I took Orbit in for what I thought would be a routine shot.  It was given to her at 9am.  By 11am I noticed she was a little more drooly.  But I was on my way to drive 3 hours north to LA for a family emergency and I didn’t stop to ask myself why.  I just accounted it to her playing really hard with Maggie. 

Things were fine on the car ride up.  She slept the whole way.  We got to Glendale and I unpacked the car while she played with Maggie.  But then by 5pm I noticed she was excessively drooly.  A kept a eye on her and by 5:30 pm her face looked puffy.  

puffy face due to allergic reaction to vaccinne

I promptly called the vet who said: “Sounds like she had an allergic reaction – bring her in right away!”

I was alarmed.  My vet was over 3 hours away.  They advised me to find a local emergency clinic for a steroid shot and antihistamines.  

Luckily I found an after hours clinic in Eagle Rock.  The vet was super nice.  And as luck would have it.  He had a Boston Terrier and his parents owned two. And his friends had two.  So he had plenty of experience with the smooshy faced dogs.

In essence Orbit had a mild reaction.  Her face had only swelled a little so that her wrinkles were not as noticeable.  They gave her a steroid and antihistamine shot.  I received instructions to dose her with Zyrtec or Benadryl for 2 – 3 days after an eye on her. 

I’m glad I was able to get her in when I did.  A worst case scenario is throat could have swollen shut. 

Unfortunately the Rabies Vaccine is the only vaccine required by law.  Even when I talked to my vet they said they would still have to give her the shots.  But they would give her the steroid shot prior to the rabies shot to help mitigate an adverse reaction. 

And only if she had a second reaction, would they write a letter to petition an exemption from Animal Control. 

Updated September 2018 and 2021

Last year I found a holistic vet who wrote me a letter stating that Orbit was qualified for a Rabies exemption due to her allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Although I have this letter from my vet, the local department of Animal Control does not have to recognize it.  What they will state instead is that I have elected not to vaccinate my dog.  Should she ever get rabies and should she ever bite and infect another animal or human they can quarantine her or worse case have her put down.

As of this year (2021) Maggie still gets her rabies vaccine, but I keep skipping Orbit’s and provide the exception letter to my current.

Updated July 2020

Advice from a well established Boston Terrier Breeder:

Do not vaccinate for rabies until they are 6 months of age.  Give half a regular Benadryl an hour prior to the appointment.  Since she has been giving this advice to the owners of her puppies and since then none of the puppies have had reactions.

Rabies Cases in California – Updated August 2021

So I got thinking and looked up: How many times had rabies been reported in California?

On the CDC website for reported rabies cases in California, zero cases reported in dogs in 2015.  

In 2016 there were 226 reported cases of rabies in California, 176 of which are from bats, and 3 are from dogs. The reports came from Amador, Calaveras and Humboldt county.

In 2017, there were 231 reported cases of rabies, 198 of which are from bats  and 3 are from dogs. 2 were reported from Amador and 1 from Trinity.

In 2018, there were 226 cases, zero from dogs.

In 2019, there were 276 cases, zero from dogs.

In 2020, there were 204 cases, zero from dogs.

In 2021 38 cases so far, zero from dogs.

Due to the fact that there have not been any reported cases of rabies in the county that I live in I’ve elected to not have the Rabies vaccine administered to Orbit.  Maggie still gets her rabies shots as scheduled.

Conspiracy theories

Just for fun, I searched the interwebs for conspiracy theories on over-vaccinating your dogs.  The bottom line, it’s a moneymaker.  And although I don’t think there is a conspiracy, I think that the pharmaceutical and government agencies are not aligned with requirements vs. CDC cases nor are they adjusting their legal requirements based on allergic reactions to the rabies vaccine.   

At the very least the government should work with the vaccine manufacturers to research the best dosage for small dogs versus large dogs.    

What’s Should You Do As A Dog Parent?

For Maggie – I’ll also be asking for the 3 three year vaccine.  Apparently, there’s no difference in dosage … It’s all just classification of the vaccine.   

For Orbit – her allergic reaction means she gets an exception to this vaccine for the rest of her life.

For you, ask your vet if you can do vaccines one at a time.  That way if your dog has a reaction, you can see what caused it.


2016 Rabies Cases Reported in CA






Difference between a One Year and a Three Year Rabies Vaccine

Vaccine Dose – why is it one size fits all?

Exposing myths on vaccines

my dog had an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine


Hannah Zulueta and her two dogs Maggie and Orbit

Hello my name is Hannah and I dance with my dogs.  A self proclaimed Boston Terrier addict, (aka breed advocate) I started this blog because there isn’t enough space to write on our Instagram.  Maggie is my socially awkward one; which I find highly relatable because I am completely out of place in large groups myself.  And Orbit is my sensitive flower.  Blow on her skin wrong (ok I might be exaggerating) and she breaks out in a rash.

You won’t read about cats here… but you will get a fairly large dosage of articles dedicated to the Boston Terrier.    Read more about us. 

By MaggieLovesOrbit, June 30, 2016
  • 4
  • Meri
    September 24, 2016

    Maybe you can have your dog titered? It is a blood test that tests immunity. If you have proof your dog is immune then I wouldn’t see why you would need to revaccinate. Our dogs are over vaccinated in my opinion. I see they did change the schedule for vaccine times finally.

    • ILoveBostons
      September 27, 2016

      Awesome. Thank you. I did call the vet and they said they titer on everything but Rabies because its the only vaccine required by law =(

  • Jo Dee Preston
    April 1, 2019

    Check out “Vital Animal and the Natural Path” and Will Falconer, DVM for stats regarding rabies in dogs. The decline of rabies in dogs was very rapid with the introduction of the vaccination, however, there was NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE when vaccination became THE LAW. There is no reason why our pets need to be revaccinated. I think I am remembering correctly that the same serum used once a year is the same as the one used every 3 or 5 years. This is the same non-logic behind giving the same does to a Chihuahua and a French Mastiff. The frequency and does seems political/economical not medical/scientific. Additionally on the vaccine there is, I have read, a notation saying that the vaccine is to be given only to healthy animals. The County of Orange here in California is, apparently, disregarding this and only accepting waivers for dogs that are terminally ill.

    • Maggie Loves Orbit
      April 2, 2019

      I will certainly look that article up! Technically San Diego doesn’t accept waivers either but the department is years behind and I haven’t had dispute my waiver as of yet.

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