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Why is My Dog Limping After Rabies Shot?

Why is My Dog Limping After Rabies Shot?

So you just took your dog to see the vet to bring him up-to-date on his vaccinations and now your dog is limping after rabies shot, what gives? You may be wondering if perhaps he got hurt when he jumped off the car, but then you may also be wondering whether the rabies shot could cause limping in dogs. In case you were wondering, the answer is yes, some dogs can get sore after a rabies shot, and while the pain may be short-lived, it's important to inform your vet about this. There are chances your vet can prescribe you something to make him feel better.


About the Rabies Shot

Rabies is a core vaccine, meaning that it is of vital importance based on several factors such as risk of exposure, severity of disease and potential for disease to be transmitted to humans.

The rabies shot is a vaccination that is mandated by law, and dogs who are not up-to-date on this shot, are at risk for periods of close monitoring or even quarantine should they get bit by a raccoon or other wildlife or if they would happen to bite a person.

The rabies shot by law should be given only by a licensed veterinarian or veterinary technician and this vaccine cannot be distributed or sold to anyone else other than a licensed veterinarian. In several areas, dog owners must retain a copy of the rabies certificate and let their dogs wear a rabies tag as proof of vaccination against rabies.

Recent protocols require vaccinations to be given in specific areas for the purpose of aiding the identification of which vaccine may have caused an adverse effect. In cats, location of rabies vaccination was moved from the back of the neck area to the right rear leg so to facilitate removal of any potential vaccine -associated sarcomas.

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Although the protocols of providing vaccines containing rabies antigens as far from the body as possible were primarily designed for cats, vets may apply them to dogs as well, and therefore, according to The University of Tennessee the rabies vaccine should be given to dogs subcutaneously (under the skin) on the right rear leg.

A Case of Soreness 

trembling legs in older dogs

While vaccine help protect dogs from serious, life-threatening diseases, it's important to remember that they are biological products and some minor reactions are expected. Generally, these reactions are short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, generally 2 to 3 days at the most. It would be rare for these reactions to escalate into a serious event, says Dr. Richard B. Ford, a veterinarian specializing in internal medicine.

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Common side effects to rabies vaccine in dogs include reduced appetite, lethargy, mild fever and pain at the injection site that can be enough to cause a dog to feel sore and reluctant to move around. If your dog shows any of these side effects, it's a good idea to contact your vet should these physical/behavioral symptoms get progressively worse or if they last for longer than 2 to 3 days. Dog owners should also contact their emergency vet immediately if they notice any systemic symptoms such as difficulty breathing, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or collapse, adds Dr. Ford.

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Depending on the severity of your dog's symptoms, your vet may ask you to bring your dog in right away or he may prescribe a medication to help your dog. Your vet may also record in your dog's chart the reaction, so that next time your dog is due for the rabies shot, your dog can be pre-medicated so to mitigate another possible reaction.

dog leg swelling

Helping Dogs Feel Better

So as seen, dogs can get sore after the rabies vaccine, due to the pain and inflammation at the injection site. Reactions to shots may vary from one dog and another. Even in people, some may get a bit sore after a tetanus or flu shot, while others may develop a low grade fever or their whole arm is painful, observes veterinarian Dr. Chris Bern

If your dog is very sore and limping after his rabies shot, give your vet a call. Your vet may recommend a short-term treatment of a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Rimadyl or Metacam to make your dog feel better.

Some vets may feel comfortable telling owners to give their dogs some over the counter plain aspirin which has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain properties. No other pain relievers such as tylenol or ibuprofen should be given to dogs. Aspirin shouldn't be given for longer than what the vet suggests as it's hard on the dog's stomach, cautions veterinarian Dr. Andy.  Giving it with food helps lower the chances for stomach problems. On top of aspirin, to help ease the discomfort, it may help applying some ice to the injection site, points out Dr. Debbie. 

Fortunately, limping after a rabies shot is in most cases a short-lived problem that gets gradually better over a few days. Small breed dogs in particular may sometimes be overly dramatic in their displays for pain, but if you think your dog is in excess pain, call your vet for directions on what you can do.

"If your pet is sore or lethargic for a day or two after vaccines, don't worry. This is nothing to be concerned about, and if you just wait another day or so, everything should be back to normal, but if you have any doubts or questions, please contact your vet."~Dr. Chris Bern


  • DVM360: Postvaccinal adverse events (Proceedings)
  • A Vet's Guide to Life, Sore After Vaccines

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