Join Our Community of Dog Lovers

Champion of My Heart is an award-winning dog blog. We've created many important resources that people from all over the world continue to access. Like this post? Get an email alert when new content goes live by subscribing.

Subscribe !

Dog Blog Poll: Should a Vaccine Company Help Cover Costs When Vaccines Cause Expensive Outcomes?

I’ve heard mixed reviews / advice / responses to whether or not the company who made the vaccine should help pay for the veterinary costs of diagnosing and treating the resulting meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord) that Lilly suffered after getting her 3-year rabies vaccine nearly 2 months ago. Today, I’m asking what you think. Please take our two-question dog blog poll.

Feel free to share the poll with friends and encourage them to vote. I’ll leave the poll open for a week.

Before you answer, though, I’ll share that I’ve been told all of the following by veterinarians I know:

  • Vaccine companies (and regulatory agencies) only care what happened and if the pet survived (or not).
  • Vaccine companies have helped other families in the past. [I could not find anyone with a first-hand account.]
  • Vaccine companies have refused to help other families in the past. [I found one, heart-breaking, first-hand account of a dog who died 10 years ago from immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. The family did NOT get so much as a “We’re sorry for your loss.”]

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll also tell you that I have a pretty good idea what will happen, but until the vaccine company’s response to my letter requesting financial help is official, I’m not going to reveal the outcome or which company it is.

I’m simply curious what all of you think should / will happen.

[polldaddy poll=6040511]


[polldaddy poll=6040513]




If you are new to our scary story of a rabies vaccine gone horribly wrong, 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.


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.

Jen - June 27, 2012

Good Morning,

I was searching this morning about whether or not I should call the vaccine company or should have my vet do it, and your page is what I found. On February 20, my chocolate lab went in for her one year appt. She received her bortatella, rabies, and distemper. The next day she started having massive seizure. Emergency Vet, Neurologist, MRI, Spinal tap, and three months later, we are still having issues with our sweet baby girl. Our vet gave me the Manufature names and the case numbers so I could persue the issue and seek financial support. What manufacture produced your rabies shot??? Our’s was Merial, any connection???

    Roxanne Hawn - June 27, 2012

    Jen ~

    I just emailed you a private reply. I’m so sorry to hear about your Lab. I know how hard and long this recovery is.

Sherry - April 21, 2012

If you think that vaccines are more about profit than healthcare, I suggest that you visit a third world country where they are in need of vaccines. You will find children who are suffering and dying from pertussis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, etc.

Marilyn - March 26, 2012

Our Border Collie ‘Mac’ developed ‘vaccinosis’ after receiving rabies, distemper, bordetella & lyme vaccines at a year old. He had all the symptoms (lameness, lethergy, anxiety, vision problems, etc) of Lyme disease but the vet said he would have a positive Lyme titer because of the vaccine but it didn’t mean he had the disease. He continued to get worse & was put on Doxycycline for a month. He didn’t show any improvement. I got multiple opinions from multiple Vets, orthopedists, neurologists, chiropractors and got answers like “it’s his knees, hips back, arthritis, slipped disk, torn groin muscle, nerve pain, muscle spasms, lymes disease, anaplasmosis, immune deficency” to “I’m not sure” After 3 years and several thousand dollars I finally found a vet that believed it was vaccine related and started detoxing him. We also used homeopathic, vitamin, mineral & herbal remedies along with dietary changes. It helped but the damage was done and all we can do is prevent further damage. Mac will be titered every 1-3 years instead of vaccinated and will only get vaccinated for rabies or distemper if his titer shows he is not fully immune. Vaccines can last up to 10+ years, it’s the states that mandate the intervals you must get the vaccines done. My vet never recommends the lyme or flu vaccines which cause the most problems.

Jane Boursaw - March 25, 2012

Yes! For the love of God, yes!

vet tech - March 22, 2012

Like many others have already said, if the vaccine company were responsible for veterinary bills associated with reactions, the cost of vaccines would go up considerably. Unfortunately that would most likely lead to a situation where less people have their animals vaccinated.

Phoenix criminal attorney - March 21, 2012

I totally agree that the company should pay for her medical expenses. Make a petition and we will campaign for it.


Hawk aka BrownDog - March 20, 2012

Hi Y’all,

Been catching up on Lilly.

In the case of a required vaccine like Rabies I feel strongly that a company should be responsible to aid in costs. If I was running the company I would consider it a small expenditure of good will.

It’s important that vaccines for humans and animals be safe. If a batch was found bad, they probably would aid because of publicity. Unfortunately just one dog…the bean counters don’t feel enough bad publicity to hurt them…after all the consumer doesn’t select the company, the vet does.

Time to get off my high horse.

BrownDog’s Human

Jo - March 20, 2012

In Minnesota, its the law that your dog be given rabies shots, in our town you cannot get a dog license without this shot having been given. So here, its really not for me to say, no, I won’t give this shot, I have to do it. Further, if my dog were to develop the very serious reaction LIlly did, with a $8,000 price tag, I would have to put her down rather than treat her. I am a retired person on a very limited income and even paying monthly payments would be impossible to ever pay it off. So I would expect the company to either pay the price for their mistake or for the state to change the rules on innoculation if the company won’t stand behind their product. Very minimally, allow titering to know where your dog stands with the vaccine.

Becky Wells - March 20, 2012

As you said in your post they have compensated some people and not others. Do you think that is based on anything in particular? It concerns me that they can somehow feel liable in some circumstances and not others. All of our animals are (were) seniors and so we had stopped vaccinations for them and my vet agrees that they are not always necessary as frequently as in the past but because rabies is required it does concern me. Glad to see Lilly continues to improve!

Amy@GoPetFriendly - March 20, 2012

Buster had a severe and very unusual reaction to a common seizure medication a few years ago. We nearly lost him and he spend 3 days in the emergency hospital. The costs weren’t nearly as high as those you’ve incurred with Lilly, but they were still significant. I had no idea that he could possibly react to the drug like he did, and even if I had been warned we probably would have given it to him because the chances were so remote. Now I take it upon myself to understand the worse case of any medications. As you’ve learned in our human health care system, unfortunately we can’t count on anyone to give us all the information we’d want to have. We have to be our own advocates.

Nicole - March 20, 2012

I guess I will be the voice of dissent here. While I think it’s awful that Lilly had a reaction to the vaccination, there is an inherent risk with any vaccine. As dog owners, we make the choice whether to vaccinate (or not) and assume that risk when we choose to do so. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the company that made the vaccine to compensate people when their dog does have a reaction, unless there is some kind of negligence in the manufacturing process. Whenever there is something that carries a small risk you take the chance of an adverse reaction.

    Roxanne Hawn - March 20, 2012

    Thanks for your note. You are not the only dissenter, Nicole. According to the poll results, there are others answering NO to the first question. And, I expected that. My only point would be this … even with all my experience writing about veterinary medicine … I had NO idea such serious events were a risk. An allergic reaction, sure. I knew that, but I had no idea something like this could happen. And, the rabies vaccine is the only one required by law, so it’s a bigger deal (and bigger consequences) to choose NOT to give it.

      Nicole - March 21, 2012

      And I totally get that it’s a required vaccine. I really struggled with that aspect of it.

      I do think some vets need to do a better job of explaining vaccination risks. Many vets are still giving multiple vaccinations in one visit, which increases the risks.

      It’s a tough situation, that’s for sure and I really, really feel for you and Lilly. She’s a lucky girl to have a family that can afford the treatment, and is committed to her rehab. I’m glad to see that she’s improving, and it’s heartbreaking that you had to go through this.

    Sue Waite-Langley - March 20, 2012

    Absolutely Nicole. It would be opening a whole big can of worms if vaccine manufacturers began to assist with treatment costs resulting from use of their vaccine. Not the least among them would be an immediate…and severe increase in the cost of the vaccine. It’s so important to vaccinate our pets…but, unless as you suggested, there is proven negligence in manufacturing…manufacturers should not be paying for treatment. It would result in thousands of people being financially unable to protect their pets. BTW…one of my dogs had a severe reaction to a rabies vaccine last year…no where near as bad as Lily’s…but scary just the same.

Hilary - March 20, 2012

I do think these companies should help with at least part of the expense. Otherwise, they’d probably be taken to court in many cases.

Susan - March 20, 2012

I wish there were an option in the second question for “I hope so.” Certainly the company should.

Phoenix criminal attorney - March 20, 2012

Its their obligation that this vaccine cause inflammation. They released it to the market without a lot of testing done to secure a safer product.

Pamela - March 20, 2012

Usually settlements, changes in laws, and better practices come about because of successful lawsuits. Many people talk about the expense of lawsuits. But they’re how we get things changed in this country.

I certainly hope you are able to get results without putting your family through such grief and expense.

judy stock - March 20, 2012

My chocolate Labrador had a reaction to her Rabies shot. Her face became swollen, eyes closed and she had hives. It really was scary. And, now she is due for another one. I’m thinking I can’t make her go through that again. It would be cruel. So no rabies shot for her from now on.

I am sure I would be amazed at how many dogs have had the same reaction. So sorry for your lovely Lilly dog!

    Janice in GA - March 22, 2012

    You may be able to have your Lab titered to see if she has enough protection already in her bloodstream from previous vaccinations. There is some evidence that vaccine protection lasts MUCH longer than the vaccine schedule recommends.

MyKidsEatSquid - March 20, 2012

This is SO scary. I can’t imagine going through something like this with my dog–I had enough trauma when he was sprayed by a skunk. I’m so sorry your family had to go through all of this

Jenni - March 20, 2012

Of course they should! it’s basically a required vaccine same as when your kids go to school. But I bet they won’t. That’s the nature of a corporation- put as much as possible off on others so as to maximize profit- and that’s all our pets are to these people- profit.

I’m glad she survived.

Heather - March 20, 2012

I think that the vaccine company should help with the vet bills because you were not warned that their could be adverse effects on the poor dog.

Jen - March 20, 2012

So far, the votes are in the direction of my thoughts. Lilly’s vet bills were caused by an adverse reaction to that company’s vaccine. Vaccines had not, to date, been a problem in the past.

I feel the company will have a reason for excusing their culpability, be it blaming the vet (i.e., the company cannot guarantee the conditions under which the vaccine was stored and administered), the shipment (i.e., the company cannot guarantee the conditions under which the vaccine was stored and handled during shipping), or what have you.

Do I HOPE that they pay, or at least partially pay? Yes. Do I feel they will? Unfortunately, no. I don’t know if any company, to date, has paid up for that kind of thing, be it for vaccines or tainted food/treats.

    Roxanne Hawn - March 20, 2012

    Jen ~ I’m actually working on a post I’ll probably call “what I didn’t know, and when I didn’t know it.” Actually, Lilly has had minor trouble with vaccines in the past (lumps at injection site, mild lethargy) for a few days, but that’s it. I mentioned that in our very first post about this experience, but you and others may have missed it. Here is a link to that post. We developed a whole system for handling her vaccines in the best way possible for her, including predosing her with steroids AND benedryl, only giving necessary vaccines on a timeline pulled from vaccine guidelines, and NEVER giving more than one vaccine at a time. We spread them WAY out. And, Lilly STILL had this happen. I had NO IDEA such a terrible reaction was possible. Sure, some sort of instant massive allergy. That I knew was possible, but this? I truly had no idea, and if a girl like me, who has written about veterinary medicine since the mid-1990s didn’t know …

      Janice in GA - March 22, 2012

      I’ve known for a long time that reactions to vaccines were possible. I don’t think I ever thought about the reaction being so sudden and overwhelming as Lily’s was. 🙁

      However, I know it NOW. And I’ll be watching for it as much as possible, thanks to your story.

      I suspect that the vaccine company won’t be much help. In an ideal world, they SHOULD help, but I suspect they’ll fall back on the “reactions to vaccines are in the literature, you pays your money and you takes your chances” defense. 🙁

      Have you thought about small claims court? Sometimes folks go up against big corporations and get a settlement when they go that route. But that may be more trouble than it’s worth.

      Jen - March 22, 2012

      I forgot those details as soon as I read them the first time! I’m sorry about that!

      I certainly didn’t know this kind of reaction possible, but I am FAR from as researched and versed as you are on the topic.

Living Large - March 20, 2012

I think any company that produces something that causes an adverse reaction should be responsible, but I highly doubt they will do the right thing.

Comments are closed