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In the question Anti-rabies vaccination once in 3 years for pets in countries like India? in addition to the proper schedule in their area, the OP is concerned that their dog is getting vaccinated to often and it may cause harm.

Looking at a review(PDF) of Rabies Vaccine laws by the American Veterinary Medical Association finds that while most US states have laws like "in accordance with the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control" or "in accordance with the label of the vaccine used" there are some laws that give specifics instructions. Also as the OP mentions sometimes the Vet just decides to give it more often.

There are without doubt some minor risks with any vaccine, but those are usually considered insufficient to cause to withhold vaccination. In essence all a vaccine does is stimulate your immune system to respond.

I wonder if more often vaccines may cause less side effects because the immune system will be better able to respond. Or if there is some additional danger in recieving more frequent vaccinations.

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The World Small Animal Veterinary Association issued a report (Recommendations on Vaccination for Asian Small Animal Practitioners: A Report of the WSAVA Vaccination Guidelines Group) and on page 15 states that:

Increasing the frequency of vaccination does not provide greater protection to an
individual animal and may increase the risk of an adverse reaction. In areas of high
infectious disease pressure, it is much more important to ensure that as many of the target
population as possible are vaccinated (i.e. increase herd immunity) than to increase the frequency of vaccinations given to individual animal.

I've outlined some of the possible side effects. There are some additional possible side effects not covered here, but I haven't had time to sort through them yet. I'll add them when I can.

Short Term Side Affects

According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the following side effects are common after a rabies vaccine. If they persist longer than 2 days or cause significant discomfort then go see your vet, otherwise don't worry about it.

  • Discomfort and local swelling at the vaccination site
  • Mild fever
  • Decreased appetite and activity
  • Sneezing, mild coughing, "snotty nose" or other respiratory signs may occur 2-5 days after your pet receives an intranasal vaccine

The following symptoms are rare, and the AVMA states that these

reactions can be life-threatening and are medical emergencies. Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop:

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Itchy skin that may seem bumpy ("hives")
  • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
  • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Collapse

The AVMA's information also matches the guidelines given by Cornell's Veterinary College.

Long Term Side Affects

Injection Site Sarcoma (ISS), previously called Vaccine Associated Sarcoma (VAS) is a particularly invasive form of cancer that is believed to form at any injection site that may have some inflammation (Woodward 2011). However, the only proven causes of ISS are prior administration of killed, adjuvanted rabies or leukemia vaccine (Wilcock 2012).

Adjuvanted vaccines have an ingredient that increases the inflammation (to force an immune response to the disease ingredients in the vaccine), and it is believed that that inflammation plays a key role in the development of sarcomas. Adjuvanted vaccines should be avoided for that reason.

The second recommendation can be applied to all injections, and that is that injection sites should be located in an area where if a sarcoma develops, it can easily be removed. That is generally recommended to be the leg (which can be amputated if a sarcoma develops), but I spoke to a vet tech earlier this year who works with an oncologist who recommends the stomach because the chest wall is easy to remove the sarcoma from.

For any injection, I generally weigh the risk of developing an ISS against whatever illness I'm treating. When my cats got a steroid shot for itch relief while the flea medication killed the cheyletiella mites, I requested it in their legs just to be safe. If I was giving fluids to a cat in renal failure, I would not worry about the chance of developing cancer in a few years.

References

Kevin N. Woodward ISRN Veterinary ScienceVolume 2011 (2011), Article ID 210982, Origins of Injection-Site Sarcomas in Cats: The Possible Role of Chronic Inflammation—A Review web abstract

Brian Wilcock, Anne Wilcock, and Katherine Bottoms Can Vet J. Apr 2012; 53(4): 430–434. Feline postvaccinal sarcoma: 20 years later web abstract

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  • So it seems like the risks are related to repeated exposure to the side effects of the vaccine/injection not necessarily a risk of being exposed to the "deactivate version of the real virus" to often or in to great of a dosage? – James Jenkins Jan 15 '15 at 11:18
  • @JamesJenkins There are some immune-related side affects, but I haven't had time to sort through them. I had this part written for another question so I went ahead and posted it. I'm not aware of any benefits at all. – Zaralynda Jan 15 '15 at 15:52

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