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Adverse Rabies Vaccine Reaction: The Year in Pictures, Part 1

Wednesday, January 23, 2013, marks the one year anniversary of the rabies vaccine that nearly killed Lilly, our canine heroine. This whole week, we will review the year in pictures (and video). It’s a great opportunity to see how far we’ve come. It’s a great chance for those new to our story to catch up. Today, photos from the first hospitalization.

Here is a description and timeline of what happened in the hours and days following Lilly’s adverse rabies vaccination reaction.

Lilly fell ill within 12 hours of receiving the vaccine on January 23, 2012, with lethargy and injection site swelling. Keep in mind that wasn’t unusual for Lilly, so we continued giving her Benadryl and assumed she would recover as she always had. She did receive preventive steroids at the time of vaccination.

However, Lilly worsened over several days and developed:

  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever
  • Increasing ataxia (wobbly walking)
  • Cognitive delay
  • Vision impairment

I’d say Lilly was about 20% of her normal self when we took her to the ER.

I took her to the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital Sunday, January 29, 2012. Lilly was hospitalized Monday, January 30, 2012, at the nearest veterinary specialty hospital with a board-certified veterinary neurologist / neurosurgeon.

Lilly spent the next seven days receiving round-the-clock treatment. Despite that aggressive intervention, Lilly began having seizures Thursday, February 2, 2012, while still hospitalized.

In the weeks the followed, Lilly developed numerous additional problems relating to the vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis and side-effects of treatment, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
  • Severe diarrhea

Lilly required another veterinary emergency visit for severe nose bleeds Friday, February 10, 2012.


January 31, 2012

At this point, Lilly cannot stand or walk. Her vision is greatly impaired, and her cognition is incredibly slow from the massive inflammation in her brain and spinal cord.

best dog blog champion of my heart photo of dog with severe adverse rabies vaccine reaction

 February 1, 2012

Exhausted girl cuddles in her ICU cage with her Daddy.

best dog blog champion of my heart sick border collie

 February 2, 2012

Diagnosis official ~ vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis

Early this morning we received the terrible phone call, letting us know that Lilly had begun having seizures.

best dog blog champion of my heart, veterinary hospital cage card

I am not sure this embedded video will work after the latest update to wordpress. If not, use this video link. It shows Lilly trying to sit up.

February 3, 2012

Lilly wears jingle bells, which alert the veterinary neurology team when she is having a seizure.

best dog blog champion of my heart seizure alert bells

 February 4, 2012

Still hospitalized, Lilly is starting to feel better and get stronger.

best dog blog champion of my heart border collie in veterinary hospital

 February 6, 2012

Lilly came home from the hospital February 5, after *finally* going 24 hours without a seizure. She has NOT had one since. Here, she rests at home, but notice where her front feet are. She had a lot of trouble sensing where her body was. Lilly wore a harness with a handle so that we could help her walk.

best dog blog champion of my heart  border collie sleeping

 February 7, 2012

Lilly is exhausted and sleeps most of the day. At this point, we were still struggling with terrible diarrhea and water mongering (and peeing) from the massive steroids. Lilly was taking lots of meds to combat the many side-effects. Remember, at this stage, Lilly was NOT incontinent. At night, we slept maybe 90 minutes at a time — taking turns getting up with her.

best dog blog champion of my heart  border collie sleeping

This video (if it shows up below) shows Lilly’s early attempts at walking again. If you cannot see the embed below, use this link. 


 February 13, 2012

My poor little Bloody Valentine. High blood pressure (Lilly still takes meds for it) caused pretty severe nosebleeds for a while … causing another ER run because we feared she might bleed to death.

best dog blog champion of my heart dog with nosebleed

 February 17, 2012

For a while, Lilly wore rubber-bottomed socks to help her get better traction while walking. Super cute!

best dog blog champion of my heart dog socks

Tomorrow, we’ll show some more uplifting photos of Lilly’s “first recovery.” At the time, of course, we assumed her recovery was a given. There were a few small relapses throughout the spring and then the massive relapse (worse than the original onset) in August 2012.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Jennifer Margulis - January 23, 2013

I don’t think people are aware that dogs, like humans, can have such severe vaccine reactions. It was heartbreaking to read this, Roxanne. Sadly, if Lilly were a human, her pediatrician would likely tell you the reaction was a coincidence and not caused by the vaccine.
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    Roxanne Hawn - January 23, 2013

    You’re probably right, @Jennifer. I was VERY careful NOT to say it was vaccine-induced until our veterinary neurologist did. I suspected, of course, but I waited until they had ruled out every other possible cause and decided that indeed this was caused by the rabies vaccine. When the vaccine company offered me hush money, the agreement they wanted me to sign … in addition to an iron clad gag order … essentially said that even though they were going to give me money that they did NOT admit the vaccine caused the problem. As you may recall, I refused the money (not much anyway) and refused to sign the agreement.

Hilda - January 22, 2013

I love those socks! <3

Debra Jones - January 21, 2013

Gosh, I’ve followed you and Lilly not long after she received her vaccine…what a journey and milestone you all have had, Roxanne – I truly can’t imagine the trials and tribulations you have gone through…I admire you and your husband very much.

Carol Bryant - January 21, 2013

I followed this story from its beginning and my heart sunk recently when I had to have Dexter vaccinated for rabies – by law, of course. I think of you and Lily often, Roxanne. Continued prayers.
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Donna - January 21, 2013

Awww….watching that first video was heartbreaking. Poor baby. Poor you. I’m so sorry, it must have been so hard on you and your husband to see her like that, yet it sounds like you kept it together for her while you were there at the vet. Looking forward to seeing more about her improvement, like the video of her first attempts at walking.
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    Roxanne Hawn - January 21, 2013

    Wait until you see the video of her doing agility last March.

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