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Wordless Wednesday – The Faces of Lilly Before and After Her Adverse Vaccine Reaction

Last week, after a long walk and a dip in our pond, I took a picture of a happy Lilly. It’s a nice picture, except all I can see are the changes in Lilly’s face from her ongoing neurological deficits. For comparison … first a few pictures of Lilly BEFORE she got so sick following her rabies vaccination in January 2012.

OK. Not quite “wordless,” but mostly photos in this blog post.

Lilly celebrating Independence Day, July 2008

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie with american flag

Lilly and her best, best dog friend Katie (the borzoi), May 2009

best dog blog, champion of my heart, photo of border collie and borzoi

Lilly with the willows, October 2011

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie with fall colors

The two of us, November 2011


Lilly’s “new face,” April 18, 2012

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie after adverse vaccine reaction

I’ll be curious if you can see it too. For me, Lilly looks dulled and droopy. We’re beginning to think the snoring / snorting problem that we blamed on the high blood pressure and nose bleeds is actually from facial atrophy (lips, nose).

Granted, she doesn’t look at bad as she did that first day or two in the hospital [below], but we haven’t see any major strides in her recovery for many weeks. That recent neurological relapse in symptoms didn’t help.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, border collie in hospital cage

We’re not as discouraged as I’m sure all this sounds / seems, but it is hard to remember what was like before and to help her cope day to day after.


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 / meningoencephalitis (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.


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.

Jeanine Barone - May 10, 2012

oh, poor Lily. I do see a dramatic difference. Her face looks like it’s lost tone and she looks tired. But that’s all probably expected given her traumatic experience. I wish you both the very best.

MyKidsEatSquid - May 1, 2012

Wow that is dramatic. Roxanne, I am so sorry. And poor Lilly.

Donna Kruft - April 27, 2012

I just looked at all the pictures and you can see a
difference, alittle droopy in the eyes and mouth.Ths must be so devastating for you. She does look much better than some of the 1st pics you posted. Hopefully with alot of love + support she WILL get better. Lily is still such a beautiful girl!!

Stephanie - April 27, 2012

I see the difference just like I see it with my baby Mimi that was diagnosed with the same illness . Much luck with Lilly

Stephanie - April 27, 2012

Omg my little female 4 year old yorkie was diagnosed with the same symptom like a week ago. Googling it brought ne to your blog ad I’ve been curious to hear someone elses testimony or similar experience with this. I can’t stop crying especially since the dr just said there’s no cure and he said it was inherited . She started out falling to one side and we continuously took her to the vet and they would dismiss it or usually blame it on a cold till we switched dr.’s and they referred us to a neurologist. It breaks my heart she’s not the same dog she used to be . I just pray she gets better and give her lots of love and of course her medication ( they prescribed prednisone). We saw her getting a bit better with the medication but she’s still off ,eg.staring at the ceiling, walks still leaning to one side, doesn’t eat m vomits, etc. I love her and will do whatever it takes. My heart is broken though . My poor baby has been through enough with vaccines,MRI , anesthesia , antibiotics, etc.

    Roxanne Hawn - April 27, 2012

    I’m so sorry, Stephanie, to hear about your Yorkie being so sick. Lilly’s illness is vaccine-induced. Dogs get meningoencephalitis / meningoencephalomyelitis for other reasons, but Lilly’s doctors ruled out all other causes. I’d be curious why you’ve been told there is no cure or that it’s inherited. I wonder if that’s true in your breed. There is a version called GME (granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis) – a severe and often irreversible form of nervous system inflammation. Perhaps that’s what you’re facing.

    Either way, I’m so sorry. I know how hard it is to face such a serious neurological issue.

      Stephanie - April 27, 2012

      They diagnosed her with meningoencephalitis. I asked the doctor if there was anything we can do and he said there was a sort of chemotherapy therapy that she can take and it would result in deteriorating her bones and the was no guaranteed result and we would have had to take heavy precautions in handling the meds (mandatory glove wearing) etc. We declined just cause it didn’t sound like the right thing to do. In wikipedia it mentioned that this disease was common in toy breeds but I have personally not heard of it involving a yorkie and all the stories I’ve encountered all speak of the dogs acquiring it through vaccine. I called the doctor to ask him if maybe it could’ve been vaccine induced and he wasn’t available but I’m going to try again tomorrow and keep you posted . Her last rabies shot was 3 months ago and hence it was around the same time she started acting funny. I’m not assuming anything but you can’t just exclude any possibilities out. The doctors only temporary remedy at this point is prednisone , but we will do anything else (more love than what she gets, switch up her diet for a bit, faith) to get our little princess back to her normal state. It hasn’t been easy (ugh I’ve got tears in my eyes) but it’s all worth it. Thanks so much for your reply and lots of blessings to you and your beautiful Lilly!

        Roxanne Hawn - April 28, 2012

        Gotcha, Stephanie. Thanks for the details. We did DO that chemo drug treatment, but they did it via IVs while Lilly was hospitalized. It made a big difference for her. We were lucky, and it did NOT affect Lilly’s bone marrow. Someone else warned us, as well, that the drug is really hard on the bladder, so it’s important that the dog takes in a lot of water to flush things out. Lilly was on IV fluids, so that wasn’t as much of an issue for us. The neurologist did 12 hours on the drug, 12 hours off the drug, then 12 hours on the drug again.

        Lilly continues to take many medicines at home, including steroids, an immune-mediator, some blood pressure meds (hers got scary high), and an anti-seizure med.

        Lilly is quite a big bigger than your pup. Perhaps their ability to treat the disease is affected by her size.

          Stephanie - April 28, 2012

          After a little researching, I’m pretty sure the doc was right on when he said it was inherited. I’ve been reading testimonies on customers that purchased their pups in the same place I purchased mines (puppy boutique in Brooklyn , NY) and it looks like all these dogs are sick. They claim the dogs come from breeders but it’s been found out they come from mills and sooner or later, these animals get some kind of harsh medical condition . Why that place is still in business is beyond me. Going to look into this a little more and see what I can do. To be continued..

Susan - April 26, 2012

So scary. I’m glad I have a holistic/homeopathic vet for my dog. He administers homeopathic antidote for the once-every-3-years rabies vaccine and doesn’t recommend any others.

Sheryl - April 26, 2012

She definitely looks different. She is still such a beautiful dog. I hope she continues to make progress; it looks like she’s been through a lot.

Living Large - April 26, 2012

I definitely see it, she is very perky in the pre-illness photos, eyes bright. Of course, she is wet and had been hard at play prior to that photo, but I see what you’re talking about. She is still a beautiful girl and I keep sending you both positive thoughts everyday she continues to recover.

Vera Marie Badertscher - April 26, 2012

It’s hard to tell from photographs, but you see her all the time, so I know you can recognize any changes. Has she lost weight? And is her face really so much grayer than before, or is that lighting? Whatever it is, she has taken a blow, and hope she recovers fully.

    Roxanne Hawn - April 26, 2012

    She did lose weight at first, @Vera, but she has gained most of it back. I think her face looks “skinny” due to atrophy of her face muscles. She is starting to get a little more gray as well.

Heather - April 26, 2012

She does look like the illness took a toll on her, but I’m so glad she got through it.

Eileen - April 26, 2012

She’s a beautiful girl. I hope she continues on her road to recovery. Look forward now.

Myrtle - April 25, 2012

I hope that other pet owners can learn from our experiences and that changes in the way we vaccinate our pets occur.

Krizza - April 25, 2012

Your veterinarian can help you determine which vaccines your puppy needs, and can warn you about potential adverse reactions, such as limping, that can occur after a vaccination..

Jo - April 25, 2012

I want to agree with Lynn, who commented on her looking very tired. Lily has been through a very major
illness, and perhaps only 60% recovered. (guessing) She was swimming and maybe ready for a good nap. I would suspect she will not look like that rowdy little girl for at least another year and maybe more. Our hearts go out to her and you but patience is a good thing too.

Jo, Stella and Zkhat

Debra Jones - April 25, 2012

Kind of like a ‘stroke’ look…but she has improved from the initial day of her injury. I truly hope she shows more improvement, Roxanne; it must be hard comparing last year to this year. She’s still Lilly inside!

Alexandra - April 25, 2012

To me, she looks as if the experience had aged her. It is so awful what happened. I hope she continues to improve with your loving care.

toni - April 25, 2012

Breaks my heart….I’ve watched my baby age (Ms. Roxy is now 12+ years old) and she looks healthier than your sweet Lilly.

Thanks so much for posting this….very interest read.
Please give Lilly a head noogie and tell her it’s from
toni and roxy : )

Steph S. - April 25, 2012

I agree, she looks dulled down, if that’s a descriptor. There just isn’t the spark that was there before. But, either way, she sure is a beauty!

Sue - April 25, 2012

Yes, I recognize that look. It’s the same stressed and confused look that I saw on Tsar’s face when he was trying to cope with the changes he was experiencing. It broke my heart then and it still does seeing it on Lilly.

Julie - April 25, 2012

I agree with Ingrid – seeing the last picture of her in the hospital makes me cry. She is still such a beautiful girl, I hope she continues to get better and feel like her old self!

Linda - April 25, 2012

Wow she really has gone through it poor baby. Yes, I see a big difference in her. She’s lost a lot of weight. You’ve done a lot of research on the adverse reactions to Rabies shots but I was very surprised to learn the extent when I went to this site: Sending continued best wishes for her full recovery.

Jackie Bouchard - April 25, 2012

That poor sweet baby.

We are due to give our Rita a rabbies vaccine update in a few months, which we will have to do if we want to have her licensed. But I know it’s not necessary – and I’ve read so many scary things about the vaccines. Not sure what we’ll do.

I hope she fully recovers!!

Betsy Harrison - April 25, 2012

She is still the same beautiful Lilly on the inside! You girls are fighters and I’m sure she will continue to improve.

Vicki Cook - April 25, 2012

Oh Rox – it’s makes me so sad to see Lilly’s “new” face. She has been through so much, and she is lucky to have you. I know how hard this has been for you. Sending peace and love to you, and healing vibes to Lilly. xo

Andy Sim - April 25, 2012

Hi Roxanne,
I found your post via Twitter. It breaks my heart to see Lily in such a state, and I can only imagine the pain and suffering she must be going through. She’s lucky to have you during these trying moments. And I hope the vets can find a solution for her soon. Would love to see Lily smile again. Don’t give up.

Lynn - April 25, 2012

To me, she just looks tired, as would anyone recovering from a very serious illness. Even if she never gets her super-high-energy expression back, she’ll still be a lucky, happy girl.

Merr - April 25, 2012

May that adorable girl continue to make strides. She is a wonder dog in my book. Paws up, Miss Lilly!

HoundDogMom (Sherri) - April 25, 2012

Gosh, we get so upset when we see what happened to Lilly. It so could be anyone of us in your situation. We thinks you are doing a wonderful job with Lilly and getting her back to her new “norm”. We do see the changes that you talk about in her pictures. You can tell she feels like she has been run through the ringer. Poor Girl, but we can also see the look in her eye that she is very devoted to you. Sniffs, The HoundDogs

Brette Sember - April 25, 2012

Poor baby. She looks so different to me. But she still looks happy and has a spark in her eyes.

vickie - April 25, 2012

I feel really bad for the poor thing..Its a sin…they should do away with the rabies vaccine…Hope she keeps getting better…

sue - April 25, 2012

I am so sorry this is a heatbreaking one off story. I have never heard oif an adverse reaction to the rabies vaccin. God bless her and lets hope she can be happy and I am sure with all your love she will.

Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger - April 25, 2012

I am so sorry that you and Lilly are going through this. We are sending you our love and prayers. She is super fortunate to have you as her family during this difficult time.

Ingrid King - April 25, 2012

I cried when I saw those photos, and Im’ still crying as I’m writing this. The difference is shocking to me, too. My heart goes out to you, Roxanne – this has to be so incredibly difficult. I see Lilly’s beautiful spirit in her eyes in both the old and the new photos, but in the new ones, she looks like someone who has been through a horrific experience and who is trying to find herself in the new normal. She’s so fortunate to have you to help her on this journey.

Bunkycooks - April 25, 2012

My heart goes out to you and Lilly. I know how hard all of this is due to our similar situation with Beamer. I hope that other pet owners can learn from our experiences and that changes in the way we vaccinate our pets occur. It is tragic. All I can sa is don’t give up the faith and the fight. We are still battling back, but Beamer is getting better. Hugs to you both. xoxo

Cathy - April 25, 2012

I definitely do see the “dulled and droopy” look of today. The difference is shocking, really. I hope Lilly’s still happy, though, even if it doesn’t show as clearly in her eyes.

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