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Sub-Q Rabies Vaccine, very bad prolonged reaction in older horse

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    Sub-Q Rabies Vaccine, very bad prolonged reaction in older horse

    Hoping to draw on COTH collective experience here. There seems to be a supply issue with the rabies vaccine my vet usually administers, so they used a different source - which is the same kind they used about 5-6 years prior. This particular vaccine has a tendency to cause a lot of muscle soreness, so because it is also indicated for subcutaneous administration, my vet decided to go that route to save some pain and soreness for our barn.

    ALL the horses got big swollen lumps at the injection site and were tender, but aside from a couple who required one dose of banamine to get through, they all bounced back with no issue.

    Except, of course, my mare. The vaccine was administered last Thursday. Since then her appetite is almost non-existent, she has drunk less than a litre of water on her own, and she is dull and lethargic. Her temperature has remained relatively normal, but has fluctuated up and down by ~1 degree. She got banamine every 12 hours Sat-Mon and has received fluids and electrolytes 3 times. She has eaten perhaps 2 flakes of soaked hay in this time, and picks at bran or alfalfa mashes. She has produced urine and manure (in reduced quantities, as would be expected, but she pees normally especially after receiving fluids), but she simply is not happy, is eating minimally and drinking almost nothing.

    Vet took blood tonight, fingers crossed it gives some guidance because we are stumped. She seems to cycle between looking mostly normal - bright, alert, happy to take a carrot or 2, and completely miserable - lying down, grinding teeth, groaning.

    Mare is a very healthy, fit 19 y/o WB with absolutely no previously known health issues.

    If anyone has had any experiences with this, would really appreciate hearing from you.

    I don't have any advice specific to this particular rabies vaccine, but if she's down a lot have you been checking digital pulses? I have a mare who had escalating adverse vaccine reactions over the course of a couple years until finally it resulted in laminitis. Extreme lethargy, lying down and groaning, and being off feed for a few days were part of her suite of post-vaccine symptoms, but mine typically also experienced hives, tremors, and head-pressing so I have no idea whether this is relevant to you. I hope it's not!

    Keep monitoring vitals, inputs/outputs, and behavior. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the blood panel doesn't show anything bad and that she recovers quickly!


      I had no idea rabies could be given sub Q.


        Scary. I hope someone else has suggestions. I've always been reluctant to vaccinate for rabies.


          I will second what x-halt-salute posted. Have you checked her feet?

          Another thought, is she ulcer prone? All that banamine plus originally not eating well because she felt yucky could have lead to an ulcer flair up which is now why she does not want to eat.


            Originally posted by Alterwho? View Post
            I had no idea rabies could be given sub Q.
            It is given sub-q to small animals (cats/ dogs). I've never heard of anyone giving it that way to a horse.


              My ponies are due for rabies next week and my vet said the same thing about the vaccine. The rabies vaccine that is specifically made for horses is unavailable and they need to give the small animal vaccine instead.

              My vet did warn me that he has had more adverse reactions with it, and he's not happy giving the shot but we have no choice really (we cross the border so need to have it done). He will not administer the rabies with any other shots as he finds they cope a bit better that way.

              I just had him out the other day to do the first round of shots (West Nile, EEE/WEE and tetanus) and will have him come back next week for the rabies.

              I'm sorry to hear that your mare has had a hard time with it. Hope she bounces back quickly. I don't really have any advice, I just wanted to pass along what my vet told me about the "new" rabies vaccine for this year


                One of our vets got some new combo of rabies + West Nile that seemed to cause a lot of reactions. Some had fevers (but that could have been from the other shots, who knows). Several had necks so sore they couldn’t move their muzzles below their knees to eat. However, they generally would eat if you elevated their hay, and even the ones with fever seemed to eat most of their grain meals (also not fed on the ground).

                Other vet just said he couldn’t use the one he had last year but didn’t say anything about this year’s one being the small animal vaccine. Whichever one this was was the one I got. It’s usually the adjuvants that cause the reactions, and since those are proprietary the vets never know what it is and how to avoid a particular one for a particular horse. I have no idea how the adjuvants might differ between horse and small animal vaccine.

                Thankfully, mine only had a mild reaction to the 5 way this year and not the rabies (warm lump for a few days on the side where that one was administered). We used to give rabies in the fall which I liked better because there were fewer total vaccines at that time. Not sure why everyone switched to spring here.

                I do think it’s worth trying some ulcer support at this stage.


                  Original Poster

                  Thanks for the thoughts folks

                  The dear girl had two normal size poops overnight (hurray!!) and ate a flake of soaked hay this am. No drinking, but she received oral fluids last night so not surprised. Banamine again last night and this am and she's quite perky, annoying her paddock neighbours and nibbling on the grass that is struggling to grow in the snowy () weather.

                  She's currently hooked up to IV fluids - vet originally thought we'd do 20 litres but we've decided on 5 based on her improvement from yesterday. Can't say we're out of the woods yet, but things are looking up. She is a decidedly un-ulcery horse - truly the chillest of the chill and a great eater () but it's a very good thought and I will talk to our vet about it.

                  My vet is actually meeting with the rep from the company that puts out this specific vaccine tomorrow and he's already made them aware of this reaction. This is a vaccine that was used in years past, but was not previously indicated for sub-Q administration and he is really unhappy with the reactions he's seeing with the sub-Q horses. My mare is the only one who's really struggling, but the subcutaneous route does not seem to be working well.

                  Thanks again for the support and ideas.


                    Sounds like you're doing everything you can. Just keep a close eye on her feet, and if in doubt, ice. Don't back off the IV fluids until she seems to be consuming water on her own again.


                      I wonder if some of these reactions are tied to the "new" Zoetis vaccines. They're the company formerly known at Fort Dodge and sure were known for causing reactions under that label

                      Mine just got rabies, no mention of it being different, and no reactions. I'll consider that lucky!


                        Original Poster

                        Another update -

                        3 very normal poops post IV fluid! We've been instructed to offer small amounts of very soaked hay and she's cleaning up what we are giving. Just gave her PM banamine and she was quiet but in a restful, sleepy way not a stressed, sick way. Feet are cool, can barely get a feel of the digital pulse, and no attempts to lie down at all today. Snarfed down a carrot and a few pink peppermints.

                        I don't say we're out of the woods yet, but today was a good day

                        ETA - my very dedicated and lovely vet went back to the clinic after leaving the barn at 10pm last night and ran her blood immediately. All in good order, nothing concerning.


                          I think every horse owner needs to start keeping track of the BRAND of vaccines that causes a bad reaction in their horse.

                          there are usually a choice of a couple manufacturers and if one causes a bad reaction, ask for the brand name and ask

                          your vet to note that in their records so they can use a different mfgr. next time. And before each shot, remind the vet

                          as to what brand NOT to use. Some vets' offices do not keep accurate records so it's up to the horse owners to do so.
                          "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                            Absolutely Marla 100 - people need to get MUCH more involved with the details of their horse's care. What are they fed and how much. When do they get vaccines, which ones, and what brands. Yes, it IS important. When do they get dewormed and with what? Be their advocate. Learn how they are taken care of. You might not be able to affect much, if any change where they are boarded, but you can't even start to do better if you don't know anything.
                            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                              Speaking of knowing what vaccines your horse is getting and being a good advocate for their veterinary needs...

                              kashmere, DiamondJubilee, and IPEsq, do you guys know the brands of rabies vaccines that have caused the reactions you mention? If you don't want to post such things publicly but feel inclined to send a PM it would be much appreciated!

                              Rabies is one of the deadly things I still cautiously vaccinate my incredibly vaccine-reactive mare for, but in the name of risk management I'd like to avoid the products that have caused these problems. I don't want to re-live some of the terrible moments this horse has been through after various vaccinations and would prefer not to tempt fate if I can help it!

                              PS kashmere, so glad to hear that the blood panel was normal and that things seem to be improving!


                                My understanding is that there are only three brands approved for horses-- Equirab (Merck), which is equine only and is currently unavailable, Rabvac 3 (Boehringer), and Imrab 3 (Merial) although I guess Boehringer now owns Merial?.

                                I know that we've given both Rabvac (which is sold in single doses/ multidose as both small animal and equine-- horses get 2 vials) and Imrab (comes in Imrab large animal, which is a multidose vial, and small animal-- I;m not sure if there are any difference besides bottle size/ doseage) to a number of horses without issue-- my vet actually stocks/ uses the Imrab large animal.


                                  The rabies combo one that caused the problems at my barn was called Core EQ from Zoetis


                                    Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
                                    The rabies combo one that caused the problems at my barn was called Core EQ from Zoetis
                                    Fort Dodge strikes again!


                                      Originally posted by JB View Post
                                      Absolutely Marla 100 - people need to get MUCH more involved with the details of their horse's care. What are they fed and how much. When do they get vaccines, which ones, and what brands. Yes, it IS important. When do they get dewormed and with what? Be their advocate. Learn how they are taken care of. You might not be able to affect much, if any change where they are boarded, but you can't even start to do better if you don't know anything.
                                      A good habit to get into for horse owners (even if you board) is to keep a file for your horse's records. All health records

                                      should be kept here along with farriery records and food records. So when you have a question in the future you can refer

                                      to your file. It's amazing that many boarders have no idea what their horse is fed, or when he's due for what vaccine.

                                      Once when I was leaving a boarding barn, the owner came up with a sudden farrier's bill that she said was never paid.

                                      Well I had my records in my file and even had the check # to prove the bill was paid.
                                      "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                                        Original Poster

                                        x-halt-salute : I will find out and PM you. It was not the combo vaccine, and since the one from Merck is the one having issues, it would be one of the others that Highflyer mentioned.

                                        Marla 100 : totally agree with you. The issue in this particular case is not that the horse was vaccinated with something willy nilly and without an understanding of what may have caused previous issues. It's that this particular vaccine was indicated for administration in a way that it had not previously been (subcutaneous vs IM). The horse had had this brand prior, and we were prepared for her usual reaction of muscle soreness and mild lethargy, but what we got was something VERY different and concerning.

                                        Rabies is something I waffle about vaccinating against - it is not reeeeally endemic here with VERY few cases historically. I was on the fence about even doing it for this mare, and I am totally kicking myself now. Though, that being said, no one could have anticipated this reaction. It is a career first for my vet

                                        In happy news: a perky mare this morning who was back to her normal behaviour of stall kicking for hay and had a dirty stall with poop and pee. Water buckets had a few scraps of hay in them, so looks like she may have dunked her nighttime snack a bit. She gets most of her water by creating a gross hay soup in her buckets, so looks like we are continuing on the right path.