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Adverse Vaccine Reaction FAQ, Part 2

Here is part two (of five) of frequently asked questions dog lovers have asked me since Lilly’s ill-fated response to a vaccine earlier this year. This series of questions / answers covers the vaccine itself, factors that people think / assume may have led to the adverse vaccine reaction, and the incidence rate of vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord).

Please note: These questions and answers were posted when it still looked like Lilly might survive. That was not ultimately the case. Lilly died on December 17, 2013. We lost the fight, after spending 23 months and nearly $31,000 trying to save her. 

To which vaccine did Lilly have an adverse vaccine reaction earlier this year?

3-year rabies vaccine, which is required by law in Colorado

How many vaccines were given that day?

Just that one

Isn’t the 3-year rabies vaccine more potent than the 1-year rabies vaccine? Is that why Lilly had an adverse vaccine reaction?

No. The 1-year rabies vaccine and the 3-year rabies vaccine are the same vaccine. It’s simply labeled differently to meet regulatory rules and approved by certain states for required administration every 3 years. Colorado allows / requires a 3-year rabies for dogs.

Was it a “live” or “modified-live” vaccine?

No. Because of rabies zoonosis risks (can be spread to people), rabies vaccines are noninfectious / killed / inactivated.

Was Lilly’s adverse vaccine reaction caused by her getting too big of a “dose”?

No. All dogs – no matter their size – receive the SAME VACCINE DOSE. Most veterinary medications are dosed based on mg per kg of body weight, but vaccines are not done that way. It’s all based on how much of the vaccine is known to provide protective immunity.

In this case, Lilly received 1 cc of rabies vaccine.

You might find it interesting to know that horses – who clearly are MUCH BIGGER than even the biggest dog you know – receive 3 cc of rabies vaccine.

Was Lilly’s adverse vaccine reaction caused by a “bad batch” of vaccine?

No. As far as we know, there was not a rash of adverse vaccine reactions that would indicate some sort of manufacturing problem.

Did Lilly’s rabies vaccine come out of a “tank vial” (multidose vial)?

No. Lilly’s rabies vaccine came out of a single-use vaccine vial.

How common / rare is vaccine-induced meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord)?

It’s rare. I’m trying to get some useable data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal vaccines, that I can share. I had to file a Freedom of Information Act Request, and I’m still waiting for an official reply.

Our family veterinarian has been in practice 28 years, and she has only seen three severe vaccine reactions:

  • Lilly
  • Another dog a few years ago whose case is very much like Lilly’s
  • One small dog who had an anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) to a vaccine

I asked one of our veterinary neurology technicians about it, and she said in 8 years of working for the neurologist, Lilly’s is the only case she has seen where this disease was vaccine induced.

Did Lilly’s fear / anxiety medications have anything to do with her adverse vaccine reaction?


Did Lilly’s past rattlesnake bites (in 2008 and 2010) have anything to do with her adverse vaccine reaction?

Not that I know of.

If you are new to our story, feel free to use the blog post category pull-down menu in the sidebar or this Adverse Vaccine Reaction category link to access all the posts we’ve published since Lilly got very, very sick with meningoencephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord) after an adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine given January 23, 2012. We’re working VERY hard to help her fully recover from both her cognitive and neurological deficits.


If you want to access all 5 blog Adverse Vaccine Reaction FAQ blog posts, please use these links:

FAQ Part 1 – Lilly’s health status and vaccine history.

FAQ Part 2 – The vaccine itself, factors that people think / assume may have led to the adverse vaccine reaction, and the incidence rate

FAQ Part 3 – Symptoms, diagnosis, and Lilly’s prognosis

FAQ Part 4 – Treatment

FAQ Part 5 – Costs


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.

Jackie Bouchard - May 3, 2012

Wow, I can’t believe a dog gets 1/3 the vaccine does that a horse gets! And I had no idea that all dogs get the same size dose. Thanks for sharing the info.

Important to know!

Dhyann - May 1, 2012

I guess we all need to know more about this.. Thanks for the information you have provided to us..
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Jen - May 1, 2012

I didn’t know about vaccine amounts/animal size. It does surprise me that a dog gets 1 cc, and a horse gets 3 cc! It makes me wonder if at some point somebody decided “too much is not enough”; I definitely plead ignorance in this realm, with regards to how much controlled research on the topic has been done.
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