Rabies vaccine reaction - My story (long)
Its been a month now, so I am finally able to type this story in hopes that it will help others.
I am traveling to Hungary in the spring so I needed to get my male shepherd, Gladiator, his microchip and rabies vaccine.
On Friday November 2, I brought Gladiator in at 4:30pm and left the clinic a little after 5pm. He had a full physical exam and was the absolute picture of health. He then had the microchip implanted, scanned and finally the rabies vaccine.
After getting home, he was great. He pottied normally after we left the clinic, and then we stayed in as we usually do on Friday nights, watching movies.
At 8:00pm the dogs ate their usual dinner, then out for one more potty break (I go out with them) and then in their crates for the night.
I went to bed around 10pm, but my husband stayed up. At 12:30am he came into the room to wake me, Gladiator had puked up all his water and dinner from that night. I went downstairs and took Gladiator out to clean him up and see how he was. My husband cleaned the crate while I walked him around outside. He seemed a little "off" but did not have a fever, and just seemed a little "stiff" when he walked. But not lethargic, responsive and still drinking water.
I decided to sleep downstairs so that I could hear him if he puked again, and I got up at 3:30am to check on him. He was in his crate, lifted his head and wagged his tail - so he definitely seemed like he was getting better.
I went back to sleep at about 4am and woke up at 8:30am. I walked to his crate, he didn't lift his head. I called his name, he didn't respond. I opened the crate and hauled him out, lifted him (all 70lbs) up and carried him outside. I put him on the ground by the truck, he dropped his head and blood came gushing from his mouth and nose. I grabbed him up and threw him in the truck, ran inside to grab a jacket, boots and my purse. Called to my husband where I was going and ran out the door.
I called the vet clinic on the way for an emergency call out, I knew as soon as I saw him that morning, there was no other explanation except the vaccine - that was the only thing was different. I live 15 minutes from the vet clinic, and my vet called me back just as I was approaching the clinic. She had been on another call out, and had just gotten to the clinic - she was waiting for me.
I pulled in and grabbed Gladiator. His pupils were dialated, fixed and he was not responding in anyway to my voice, and was barely breathing. As I carried him into the office, blood came from his mouth and nose...
I put him on the table and vet immediately starting treating him for shock. He was not breathing well, and he was still non-responsive. As she worked, she asked me questions to help narrow down the cause, I told her NOTHING was different except the vaccine. So she pulled blood and ran it, it showed elevated liver and kidney values. Next, she did an xray - nothing in his stomach or abdomen except A LOT of fluid.
She started treating him for a vaccine reaction, with histamine blockers, fluids, antinauseants, and vitamins. After an hour, his pupils contracted and he could move his head, after 2 hours, he could lift his head and stand. But this time he had gone through 2 liters of fluids, and he really needed to pee. As sick as he was, he still wanted to go outside. So I brought him out, and we took some urine for a urinalysis. His urine had blood in it, and lots of it. We brought him back, and as we were running the urine, he puked up over a liter of blood. He was shedding his stomach, throat and intestinal linings, and bleeding into his stomach.
I just sat with him on the floor and tried to stay level headed, I wasn't sure if he was going to make it...
At 3pm, he again puked up another liter of blood. We did another urinalysis, but this time there was less blood in the urine and it was getting clearer. Then we did another xray, and this time his abdomen was clear of fluid. He had gone through 5 liters of fluid by this time, and was definitely getting better, but I was still remaining cautious.
At the end of the day, we did another urinalysis and bloodwork, urine was now perfectly clear but the bloodwork was coming back the same.
I brought him home on Saturday night, made us a big bed in the middle of the living room floor, hooked his IV up to a lamp and the vet came at 8pm to give more histamine blockers, antinauseant drugs, vitamins, and switch to a new bag of fluids.
Sunday morning he gave a little jog around the yard, after I had pulled his IV (it had slipped overnight and the fluids had gone under the skin). The vet came in the afternoon, dropped off some antibiotics for his digestive tract, and some Zantec to keep the acid down. He ate his first meal Sunday night of rice and chicken.
It took him 4 days to regain his strength enough to get into the truck on his own. I brought him to the vet, he had lost almost 6 lbs over the 4 days. We did follow up bloodwork, for which he sat so nicely and allowed the tech to stick a needle in his jugular vein while I held him. The bloodwork came back perfect, I was elated.
It has now been a month, and although he was back to normal a week after the incident, I can't help but be cautious. The vet told me, on the Sunday after his reaction, when he was starting to feel better, that had she had to come to the clinic from home (she lives 10 minutes farther than I do), Gladiator would not have made it. It was absolutely amazing that she just happened to be there, and that she listened to me when I told her it had to be the vaccine. Not all vets would have listened and would have spent time looking at other things, not wanting to blame the vaccine.
My vet was able to find another case, where a dog reacted to the rabies vaccine with the exact symptoms Gladiator had, different company, same vaccine. She contacted the vaccine company, let them know she was reporting a reaction. They did tell her it was very rare, but she showed them what she had found, and sent them the treatment plan she followed. They agreed, it looked like a vaccine reaction, and they compensated for the treatment it took to get him better.
I called his breeder, they have owned both parents since they were born (bred at their kennel) and have stayed in touch with all 12 of his siblings, no other reactions reported, so this could have been a bad batch, a bad single dose, or his immune system was doing what it was meant to do, in fighting what it thought was a threat or maybe we will never know. He had a rabies vaccine when he was 4 months old, and no reaction then. Same company made that vaccine, different batch number though.
Sorry this went on for so long, but since this reaction is so rare, I am hoping that by sharing my story, if it does happen to someone else, they will recognize the symptoms and make sure their dog gets treated accordingly.