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What is Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine?

Cats need to have a rabies vaccine to protect them, especially if they are outdoors and have the potential of having personal contact with other animals that could be affected with the rabies virus. In the United States, the number of reported rabies cases in cats exceeds the number of cases in dogs. Rabies is a major health concern since it is able to be passed between species and to humans. 

In most states, it is mandatory for your cat to have the rabies vaccine. Some counties allow for a three year vaccine to be given while others require a yearly vaccine. Be sure to research your county’s laws regarding vaccinations for your cat. If you are unsure about what vaccinations are required by law for your cat, contact your veterinarian for assistance.

Generally, if your cat has a reaction to the rabies vaccine it will be minor. There have been cases, though, where the reaction is life threatening. When your veterinarian administers the rabies vaccination to your cat, be sure to watch your cat closely for several hours for any signs of having an adverse or allergic reaction.

Symptoms of Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine in Cats

Your cat may exhibit mild symptoms of an adverse or allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine. Those symptoms will generally lessen over a few days and then disappear. Your cat may also develop serious symptoms from their vaccine that will need definite veterinary intervention and treatment. If you notice any of these symptoms, mild or severe, contact your veterinarian for an immediate appointment. 

Symptoms of a mild reaction or allergy to the rabies vaccine in cats include:

  • Vomiting
  • Swelling at the injection site
  • Pain at or near the injection site
  • Fever (low grade)
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • Itching 
  • Sneezing 

Symptoms of a serious reaction to the rabies vaccine in cats include: 

Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma

This is the development of a cancerous tumor at the injection site. The tumor can develop from a few weeks to a year after the vaccination has been given.

Organ Damage

The protein that is in the rabies vaccine can potentially damage your cat’s kidneys, liver and/or central nervous system. Organ damage can occur up to 45 days after the vaccination has been given. 

Anaphylactic Shock

Immediate veterinary care is required if your cat experiences anaphylactic shock, death can occur quickly without prompt treatment. Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, coma, seizures, 

Vaccine Induced Rabies

This is extremely rare and only can occur with the live-virus vaccine. Cats will show symptoms within 14 days of the vaccine being administered.

Causes of Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine in Cats

An adverse reaction will occur when your cat is exposed to some form of allergen, in this case, something within the rabies vaccine, and its immune system begins attacking itself. Many times when a cat has a rabies vaccine reaction, it is from the live virus vaccine or from the chemical compounds that are added into the vaccine so they are more effective. Another cause of having a reaction to the rabies virus can be when multiple vaccinations are given at the same time.

Diagnosis of Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin their assessment of your cat by asking about your cat’s medical history including any recent vaccinations, diet changes or environmental changes. They will then conduct a physical examination. A urinalysis, fecal exam, complete blood count and biochemistry panel may be completed to rule out other possible causes of the adverse reaction.

Treatment of Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine in Cats

Once your veterinarian has determined the cause of your cat’s reaction, they will discuss treatment options with you. Usually, mild cases will not require treatments unless it is an antihistamine and/or corticosteroid to stop itching or sneezing. Anti-inflammatories may be given to reduce swelling. 

If your cat has developed a more serious adverse reaction or allergy to the rabies vaccine, your veterinarian will need to administer treatments. These treatments will probably be supportive care in the form of intravenous fluid therapy, oxygen therapy and close monitoring of their vital signs. 

If your cat has gone into anaphylactic shock, emergency measures will need to be taken to keep your cat’s airways open so they are able to breathe. Oxygen support will most likely be necessary. Epinephrine will be given as well as antihistamines.

Recovery of Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine in Cats

Your veterinarian can help you protect your cat from developing a serious rabies vaccine allergy, or another reaction once they know that your cat is sensitive to the vaccine. Using only inactive or dead virus vaccines may help your cat not have as severe of a reaction. Also, ask your veterinarian if three year rabies vaccine will suffice or if your county requires a yearly vaccine. 

Have your veterinarian set a vaccination schedule that prevents your cat from getting more than one vaccine at a time. Prior to giving the rabies vaccine, ask your veterinarian about administering an antihistamine to reduce the allergic reaction that your cat experiences.

Adverse Reaction to Rabies Vaccine Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Scout
short hair
3 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Loss of Appetite

Medication Used

Amoxicillin

My kitten has recently received the rabies vaccine and has been neutered the same day, I was not told any of the symptoms when I was given him. (He was adopted) he can’t stop sneezing after 4 days he has a nosebleed on one nostril. What could this mean?

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Annabelle
Torti
13 years
Critical condition
1 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Medication Used

Fluids in the neck area

My 13 year old cat dropped 1 1/4 lbs from 12/16 to 7/17, from 10 pounds to 8 3/4. The vet did blood work, X-rays and had a pathologist review the results also. Nothing showed up. In November, 2017, she went in for a check up and rabies & FVRCP vaccinations. Weight had not changed since July, but she was still very thin. One week later she became lethargic, vomited twice and refused treats and food. Took her back in. Weight had dropped 1 pound in just a week. Blood work showed 75 percent kidney failure. Fluid drips made her feel better, but the vet said there was no cure. Had her put to sleep today. Did the vaccinations cause the sudden kidney failure.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
The link below refers to an article which suggests that in some cases there may be a risk factor in cats developing renal failure after vaccination but more research is needed; I can only go on scientific evidence which I can refer to from reputable sources. Please check the article linked below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4864943/

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Bagheera, Guiness, Juniper
short hair
18 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

I have 3 kittens who are 18 weeks right now. They are not on any other medications, and have not gotten into anything as far as cleaning products, other foods etc... at least to my knowledge. They just got their Rabies shot last Friday November 24th. Since then they have all been super lethargic and two of them will not eat anything, what so ever. However they will drink water occasionally in little amounts. Also as of last night they all have become more playful but the two are still not eating. I came home from work today and the two who aren’t earing vomited but it was just liquid. I called my vet twice today, once this morning, and this afternoon once I got home after the vomiting episode. This morning they said to keep an eye on them because they should be snapping out of it from the vaccines. This afternoon they said they wanted me to bring them in. However, I have no extra money laying around for exams right now. So again they said to just keep an eye on them. I want to know if these behaviors could be because of the vaccines still? What is the common time frame to have a reaction to vaccines? And how long is too long to wait, will it be detrimental to wait this long by just “keeping and eye on them”?

Thank you.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Lethargy is a common reaction to the rabies vaccine especially in younger animals, it is important to keep an eye on them and it is more important to keep them hydrated than them having food; vomiting fluid is ‘normal’ when the stomach is empty due to acid accumulation. This lethargy may last a week and a bit which I understand is a stressful time for you, but please make sure that they are hydrated and try to encourage eating with something appetising like tuna or similar. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Jazzy
short hair
4 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea vomiting loss of appetite

My cat got her rabies and distemper vaccinations on Tuesday, and starting on Saturday she began to have these symptoms. I just want to know what I can do for her or if she should be seen. She does not seem to be in any pain.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Lethargy, loss of appetite and other gastrointestinal symptoms are not uncommon in kittens after a rabies vaccination; I would give Jazzy a few more days but make sure she is hydrated, if there is no improvement by Thursday or Friday you should visit your Veterinarian for a check up. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Lola
Tortoiseshell cat
10
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Lump
Vomiting
Appetite loss

Hello, I requested a rabies vaccination for my 10 year old cat at a recent vet follow up appt (regarding a urinary issue which has resolved). She is fractious and an indoors cat, and I avoid unnecessary vet visits for this reason, but opted for thr rabies vacc since it is required by most apartments. Her appt was about 4 weeks ago, and last week I noticed she developed a lump in her back right hip area. I googled and found out about sarcomas which concerned me. I called the vet and they advised the reaction is common (though it appeared 3 weeks later?) A couple days ago, she's been having off and on appetite loss, vomited once, and has had diarrhea today. She received an excellent, healthy report from her appt and has otherwise been healthy. I am concerned something is seriously wrong but because of her aggressive nature, I want to wait til her actual vet office is open since they know her history and are familiar with handling her (she has to be sedated to be seen and I hate that). Any advice?

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Typically sarcomas form at the site of injection (they are termed injection site sarcomas afterall), these sarcomas may form even months after vaccination; however, I would advise visiting your regular Veterinarian for an examination when they open after the holidays to confirm the cause of the lump and to suggest treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/rbbroch.aspx

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Joy
White with dark spots
10 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

My cat is 10 Year’s old and had Rabies vaccine ( last one was 3 years ago) and FVRCPC 4 days ago. Since we brought her back , she is very lethargic, walks very slow ( one of her front leg seems like is hurting) and not sure if the legs on the back are ok also: walk very slow and she has problems getting up in our bed- no strength- which is all new. She was a very active cat. She feels traumatized and even afraid of us. When she walks, she walks along the walls more .... So far she eats soft food and goes to the bathroom . She sleeps all day and night ; just gets up to eat and go to the bathroom. How long the symptoms at the injection site can last ?( she is only used to us, so probably she fought a lot at the Vet when they gave her the vaccine ) . How long this lethargy or side effects from these 2 vaccine can last ? I saw that other cats had paralyzed legs... this can still happen to my cat also ? How would I know if her kidneys and liver , or nervous system are affected ? Would these side effects can still appear after these 4 days from the vaccination ? She had no anesthesia given or other meds. The producer for the Rabies vaccine is : Zoetis and the type is : Killed virus.Product name: Defensor 3 Rabies Vaccine.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Sometimes cats can feel a little bit groggy from the vaccine as it provokes an immune system response just like when they are sick, some animals respond well whilst others may be lethargic for a week or so; many times it is due to the rabies vaccines, but one week of lethargy every three years compared with a rabies infection is worth it in my opinion. Ride it out, but if Joy is feeling the same on Friday, just check in with your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Thank you very much for your response . She seems a bit better this morning ( cleaned herself a bit and attempted a stretch ). She continues to eat and drink water, but still very slow in movements and weak . Will monitor her for now . Thank you , Sorina

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Boo
Persian
10 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Lays around and won't come out

My cat was given a rabies shot and a fvrcpp shot when I took him to get groomed and he had to be sedated afterwards so they could groom him and he has not wanted to do anything but lay around doesn't come out from under the dresser and he's still wobbly he doesn't want to play or he doesn't meow or peer just stays under dresser .comes out to use bathroom and goes right back how soon before he gets back to old self he always sleeps on bed with me and he has not even jumped on the furniture

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Were the vaccination and sedation done by a Veterinarian? It is difficult to know how long the effects of sedation will last because it depends on which specific meds were given to sedate Boo. Generally most cases like this will resolve overnight but if there is no improvement by morning you should visit your Veterinarian for a check. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Polly
Domestic shorthair
3 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

leg is paralyzed

My friends cat had a rabies vaccine and now her leg is totally paralyzed! I go to the same vets.
They told her the cats leg needs to be amputated.Is this the only option? And is this common?
I'm afraid to take my cat back for his rabies shot.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
Paralysis induced by a modified live rabies vaccines has been documented, cases usually do not resolve; I would recommend discussing the case with your Veterinarian or visiting another Veterinarian for another opinion. Another course of action would be to speak with the manufacturer of the vaccine for more specific information about other cases reported back. As for your own cat, if you live in an area affected by rabies (few countries are rabies free) it would be best to have your cat vaccinated as the benefits outweigh any risks. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

I've had many animals have rabies shots and the two cats i have now receive the shot once a year never any reactions. I feel like that was a fluke reaction. I'd never miss a vaccine especially this one a mouse could wander into your house and give your pets rabies or they could be bitten by a carrier animal at the vets office you just never know. I'd just find a different vet maybe.

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Zuggan
Shrot hair
14 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

My cat of 14 years had his rabbies shot three days ago and got quite and will not eat maybe a couple licks he wants to but cat and seems to be more dorment now they gave him a fluid shot saline. To stay hydrated and pill to increase his apitite. He was fine till i did this. They are trying to tell me that its him and his kidenys and liver when i had no problem before.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
It is difficult to say what specifically is going on here, sometimes cats will have reactions to vaccines which may result in a decrease in appetite and lethargy; if there is some suspicion that something isn’t right with his liver or kidneys, blood tests should be taken to look at function to see if any medical management or dietary changes are needed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

After my cat received a rabbits shot, he was slowly dieing over a 1 year time period and most of it was hospitalization at my Vet.. Nothing can be done. My Vet just informed me the manufacturer "MER" has announced that it was a bad batch of vaccines and they take full responsibility
For all ailments of cats and deaths and are reimbursing anyone with a cat that had major vet bills. That's fine and all but I would much rather have my beautiful Blue Point Himalayan back to his very healthy & loving self. Please people be very cautious and really think it over before making that decision to give your kitty a rabbies vaccine.I blame myself for giving him this slow death cycle. He was always a indoor cat and he definitely didn't need that rabbies vaccine. If only I could go back and redo it all over again.

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Mercy
Pixie-bob
2
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

My 2 year old make cat just got a benadryl shot followed by rabies shot. His face swelled the last time and he was out of his mind. Now 2 hours later he is vomitting and his face is swelling again...help...

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1714 Recommendations
If Mercy is having a severe reaction again to the rabies vaccine, you should return to your Veterinarian especially if the swelling is interfering with her breathing; apart from Benadryl which was given already there is nothing else over the counter I can recommend for you given the circumstances. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Bruiser
Maine Coon
3 Years
Serious
Has Symptoms
Hyperactivity
If YOUR ANIMAL IS AN INDOOR ONLY PET!! I would never allow THESE "Doctors to administer this vaccine eVER!! My SWEET BABY IS A NERVOUS WRECK ALONG WITH HE CANT QUIT SNEEZING!!
DJango
Domestic Longhair
Serious
Has Symptoms
Fever
Yelp When Lifted
Lethargy, At Times Breathes Heavy
Pain
No Appetite
Immobility
Limping
Lethargy
My boy was fine....until he had his vaccine. The get gas kept him for observation talking about it could be anything. Aware thatbhes a strictly indoors baby, why give him This? Now it's stressed depressed waiting at home alone crying without my baby game, which is so far costing me close to a thousand dollars