Dog Medication

Benign Meibomian Gland Cysts in Dogs

Benign meibomian gland cysts in dogs are non-cancerous. They originate in the meibomian gland (or sebaceous glands) of the eye. They tend to occur in older dogs and can affect any breed.

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Are you worried about any unusual lumps and bumps in or around your dog’s eyes?  If so, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a licensed veterinarian for proper diagnosis. There are a variety of eye problems (listed within this post) that can occur in dogs. 

This post will give you a better understanding of what benign meibomian gland cysts in dogs are, when surgery is recommended, what surgery involves, and post-treatment recovery.  In addition, you’ll learn about the possibility of meibomian tumor recurrence. 

What Are Meibomian Glands in Dogs?

The meibomian glands are the oil-producing glands (sebaceous glands) found along the eyelid margins. They’re not underneath the eyelid; rather, they form on the ridge just below or above the lash line. These glands become dysfunctional if blocked, leading to swelling within or on the margins of the eyelid. 

Meibomian glands are responsible for oil secretion (sebum) and help prevent the eyes from drying out.   The oil coats the eye and prevents the teary water component from evaporating.

People have the same glands that form the same function. Everytime we blink (or your dog blinks), the meibomian glands secrete a small amount of sebum to protect the eyeball. This oily substance is what keeps our eyes from drying out. 

The same dysfunction can occur in dogs.  Take a look at the TearScience website to find out more about the effects of meibomian gland dysfunction. Although the information presented is for people, the same principles apply to our canine friends.

Meibomian gland cysts in dogs are tiny little nodules that can form in what’s known as the “third eye”. The third eye (aka nictitating membrane) is the tissue you see in the corner of the eye. If you watch your dog blink, you’ll see movement of that membrane. 

Will My Dog Go Blind?

Meibomian cysts or tumors occur on or under the eyelid margin.  Initially, they are quite small and your dog might not even notice them.  It’s unlikely your dog would go blind, but if these cysts are left unchecked, they could potentially grow large enough to irritate the cornea. That irritation could, conceivably, cause the cornea to become infected and ulcerate. 

What Are the Symptoms of Eyelid Tumors in Dogs?

Meibomian tumors (also called chalazions) don’t show early obvious symptoms other than the swelling of the cyst itself.  They do not cause dogs pain. However, if the cyst is left to grow, there is the possibility it could become big enough to cover and irritate the retina. The size of the cyst can block your dog’s vision.  As the lump grows, you may start to notice redness in your dog’s eye.

There’s a good chance you won’t notice any issue with your dog’s eyes until a benign cyst forms.   In rare cases, the cysts may disappear on their own, but it’s not likely.  Over-the-counter antibiotic drops or creams will not make them go away.  

What Should I Do If My Dog Has Meibomian Cysts?

 If your dog is showing signs of eye irritation, and there’s nothing obviously wrong (like a piece of grass or fleck of dirt in the eye), make an appointment to see the veterinarian. Also, just because the oil glands show signs of dysfunction doesn’t mean your dog has tumors. Listed below are a variety of other eye diseases that can affect dogs.

Dogs have an uncanny ability to hide pain from people.  However, you might notice subtle signs that something is wrong. A dog will lick at spots that are irritated or uncomfortable. Of course, they can’t lick their eyelids. Instead, you might notice your dog pawing at the eye. Dogs will sometimes take their entire paw and rub it over their heads and down over the eyelid. 

Common forms of eye problems in dogs.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy 

Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye 

Cataracts in Dogs 

Glaucoma in Dogs 

Can Meibomian Gland Cysts become Cancerous?

It’s highly unlikely that meibomian gland cysts in dogs will become cancerous. That said, I am not a veterinarian and I cannot diagnose your dog. It can’t be stated enough:  If you suspect any problems with your dog’s eyes, please bring him/her to a licensed veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Will My Dog Need Surgery?

There are a few ways a veterinarian could approach the treatment of benign meibomian gland cysts in dogs.

Wait-and-See Approach

In some cases, meibomian cysts could disappear on their own. In order to do that, however, the dysfunctioning gland needs to be addressed. If the condition is very mild and in its early stages, properly cleaning the eyelids with warm compresses. 

The veterinarian might choose a wait-and-see approach if the cysts are tiny and pose no threat to the dog’s quality of life.  

Surgery Without Anesthesia (Local)

Some dogs can tolerate the removal of benign meibomian gland cysts with a local freezing and some can’t. A “local” refers to freezing just the area around the cyst. You dog stays awake during this painless procedure. For this to be successful, your dog needs to be particularly calm.  

Surgery with Anesthesia (General Anesthesia)

Local anesthesia (staying awake during the procedure) is less risky than being put under.  However, depending on the severity of the cyst and the temperament of your dog, general anesthesia might be preferable. Keep in mind that general anesthesia will cost more than a local.  

What Are the Risks of Anesthetizing My Pet?

Risks of general anesthesia include choking on vomit (if your dog hasn’t been properly fasted in advance), serious allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock), aspiration pneumonia, and in rare cases heart, liver, or kidney failure. 

If your dog is otherwise healthy, the risks are low. Your dog might have mild swelling at the injection site which is not considered serious. 

Since older dogs are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, the veterinarian may prefer to try a local anesthetic instead. 

Evaluating Your Pet’s Condition Pre-Anesthesia

Meibomian gland cysts in dogs are not life-threatening and, for that reason, surgery can be scheduled well in advance. That gives the veterinarian time to explain the pre-surgical procedures. For example, dogs should be fasted up to 12 hours before surgery. 

If your dog is currently on medications like blood thinners, the veterinarian may ask you to reduce the dosage or stop the medication just before the surgery.

NOTE:  Never stop your dog’s medication without first consulting with a veterinarian.  Always follow your veterinarian’s orders regarding pre-surgical preparation for the best possible outcome.

Medications Used in Surgery

Veterinarians have a variety of medications to choose from when performing surgery.  Before surgery, dogs are usually given a sedative like Butorphanol. Butorphanol is thought to reduce post-operative pain and helps the general anesthetic work faster.  The anesthetic itself could be something like Sevoflurane, an inhalation agent.

Please visit the Canine for Veterinary Health Services for more details on anesthetic medications. 

Post-Surgical Expectations

Surgery for benign meibomian gland cysts provides complete removal of the eyelid tumors. 

After surgery, the veterinarian may prescribe pain killers, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories.

An Elizabethan collar is recommended to prevent your dog from pawing at the affected eye.

The Reality of Post-Surgical Recurrence

In some cases, meibomian cysts will recur. Dogs and people may develop these benign cysts if they have a history of blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids due to blocked oil glands) or conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva). The conjunctiva is a thin mucus membrane that partially covers the eye. 

Surgical removal of benign meibomian cysts is curative; however, there are hundreds of meibomian glands that can also become infected. In other words, that particular cyst can be removed and cured, but there are many other areas where more cysts can come back. 


Cryosurgery is the most common way to surgically remove benign meibomian gland cysts in dogs.  This is, essentially, where they freeze off the affected tissue. 

A chalazion clamp is fitted over the cyst and the rest of the eyelid is covered for protection.  The surgeon applies the device to the tissues which are frozen to at least -25 degrees using either carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide.

This action destroys the intracellular wall and ruptures the unwanted tumor.  A similar action is performed in-office for things like warts in people. 


Meibomian gland cysts in dogs typically occur in older dogs, although they can occur in all ages and all breeds.  Pay particular attention to your dog’s eyes for any changes, however subtle.  Redness, swelling, pawing at the area, crusting of the eyelids and fur loss around the eyes could be signs of trouble. Also watch the cornea itself for signs of opaqueness (cataracts). 

Anytime your dog seems to be “off” is a good time to visit a licensed veterinarian. After all, you know your dog better than anyone else so trust your intuition.

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Putting a Dog to Sleep with Benadryl

A dog owner’s best over-the-counter friend is without a doubt the antihistamine Benadryl! There are so many reasons to keep a stock of this medicine on hand for your dog, even if you don’t use it for yourself. It can help with allergies and even insect bites and stings, but did you know you can also use it for sedation? That’s right! Putting a dog to sleep with Benadryl is a pretty safe and easy way to make the side effects work for you.

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While it is best to talk to your veterinarian about putting a dog to sleep with Benadryl, this is one of those medications that is used frequently in dogs at home. It is a safe and effective way to treat minor allergic reactions, and it is a great way to help your pet stay calm when you don’t want to use a more powerful sedative.

Putting a Dog to Sleep with Benadryl

The recommended dose for Benadryl in dogs is 1 mg of Benadryl per pound, based on your dog’s weigh.  It is usually given when needed, up to three times a day.

The good news is that putting a dog to sleep with Benadryl has a pretty wide safety margin in its dosing recommendations for dogs!

The challenge is that the medication is usually sold in 25 mg tablets. So unless your dog weighs exactly 25 pounds (or 50, or 75 etc), you will likely have to divide a tablet to get the correct dose.

You might also want to read:  Benadryl Dosage for Dogs 

You don’t need to be too concerned about getting this division down to the milligram. For instance, if your dog weighs 14 pounds, you don’t need to try and divide a tablet into 16 sections in order to give them an exact dose of 14 mg’s. You can just give them half a tablet of Benadryl (a 12.5 pound dose) and call it close enough.

Avoid Using Benadryl on Dogs under 6 pounds

The exception to this loose dosing guide is for really small dogs, under 6 pounds. For these little guys, I would really recommend talking to your vet about the dose before using Benadryl at home. The chance of giving your dog too much Benadryl and causing unintended side effects is just too likely without guidance.

Putting Your Dog to Sleep with Benadryl
These dogs think they’re going to fight sleep…but not for long!

Think about it. A quarter tablet of Benadryl is the perfect dose for a 6.25 pound dog. It’s a little more than a 6 pound dogs needs, but still pretty close. But it is a lot more than a 5 pound dog should have!

The smaller the dog, the more likely they are to be negatively affected by giving the wrong dose.  Before putting a dog to sleep with Benadryl, it’s best to consider the dog’s size.

Some folks get around this by using a children’s formula and measuring out the correct dose with a syringe. This works well, but I still advise you to get your veterinarian to calculate the dose. The dosing guide below is intended for dogs over 6 pounds.

The following YouTube Video talks about Benadryl for Dogs

Benadryl Dose for Dogs

This guide is for dosing dogs from 6-25 pounds in weight, or for larger dogs who fall in between tablet sizes. So, for a 30 pound dog, you would give one full tablet (25 mg) and then another quarter tablet (6.25 mg).

It is safer to err on the side of not giving too much, rather than worry about underdosing. You can always give another dose in a few hours if needed. You may have to play around with the dose and find what works best for your dog.

Also, different circumstances can affect how your dog reacts to the medication.A smaller dose might work to put your dog to sleep on a quiet night, but have little effect on them during a fireworks show.

For 6-8.5 pound dogs, give ¼ of a tablet

For 8.6-12.5 pound dogs, give ½ tablet

For 12.6-19 pound dogs, give ¼ of a tablet along with ½ a tablet (¾ tablet total)

For 20-25 pound dogs, give 1 full tablet

How to Divide Tablets

The easiest way to divide Benadryl tablets is to use a pill splitter. You can get one online or from a pharmacist for a few dollars. It is much easier to split a tablet in half than in quarters.

One reason the pills are tough to split accurately is that they are coated with a layer of material that keeps the tablets from crushing against each other in the bottle. This layer often makes the tablets split unevenly, or worse, causes them to crush when quartering.

The man on this youtube video talks about antihistamines for sleep

I admit that when I was working in veterinary medicine, I usually avoided the pill splitters and used a surgical blade to divide tablets instead. It was more accurate and was easier to avoid accidentally crushing the tablets. I have tried using a kitchen knife for this at home, and it has never worked well for me. If you have a very sharp, thin blade (think boning knife), it might work for you.

Another option is to use a kitchen scale to weigh the Benadryl pieces, if you have one that is accurate for measurements of 1 milligram.

For most dogs, this shouldn’t be a big problem. The dose doesn’t need to be precise, so there’s no reason to sweat over slightly uneven fractions.


You can safely use Benadryl to put your dog to sleep! Just follow the dosing guide, and always talk to your vet if you have any questions or concerns!


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website


Cerenia for Dogs – Side Effects

Excessive drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and mild pain (from injection) are a few common side effects of Cerenia for dogs

It is never fun when your dog vomits!  Vomiting usually happens at the worst possible moments. Motion sickness, a bad diet, or illness can cause vomiting.

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Thankfully, there is a great medication that prevents motion sickness in dogs, and can stop vomiting in its tracks.

Cerenia for dogs comes in both tablets and an injectable.  

In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about using Cerenia for dogs!

Cerenia for Dogs

Cerenia (Maropitant) has been on the market for more than 10 years, and is designed to work specifically to prevent vomiting in dogs and cats.

The drug works by binding to the receptors in parts of the brain that trigger vomiting. Cerenia effectively treats a broad range of gastric symptoms.

Cerenia can prevent motion sickness in dogs. It can also help a dog tolerate chemotherapy, or ease them through the symptoms of gastritis or pancreatitis.

It works well at stopping the vomiting associated with eating inappropriate things (assuming that there is no likelihood of a toxin or foreign body still in your dog’s system).

Cerenia is primarily an antiemetic, but it also has mild effects in preventing pain, anxiety and inflammation.

Why Use Cerenia for Dogs?

Cerenia is not appropriate for all dogs.  You should talk with your veterinarian if you think your dog needs a prescription.

Motion Sickness

Cerenia works very well at preventing nausea associated with motion sickness. Anyone who has ever had a dog who puked at the mention of a car ride will appreciate the power of Cerenia!

Cerenia can stop vomiting for a full 24 hours. It should be given several hours before a trip.

If you dread taking car rides with your puking pooch, Cerenia may be just what you need to get back to day tripping!

Medication-Induced Nausea 

Cerenia can prevent this nausea/vomiting when given a couple of hours before the other medication.

Cerenia is also a common component of pretreatment for surgery. Many of the medications used before and during a dog’s surgery can cause nausea or vomiting. Having an owner pretreat with Cerenia can make these dogs much more comfortable as they recover.

Veterinarians sometimes use Cerenia as an injectable medication at the time of a surgery, or during the recovery period. 

Upset Stomach

Sometimes your dog is vomiting, and you have no idea why. As far as you know, they didn’t get into anything. They just starting puking, and maybe they have diarrhea as well.

Often we try to treat an upset stomach at home, using a bland or homemade diet, probiotics and maybe even over-the-counter medications. But when the upset tummy continues on for a couple of days, getting a veterinarian’s opinion becomes essential.

cerenia for dogs side effects
ROAD TRIP! Let’s hope they had Cerenia for dogs in their breakfast.

It is pretty common for a veterinarian to give a dose of Cerenia when they are faced with a puking but otherwise health-looking dog.  Staff will give some fluids under the skin to rehydrate the dog, and then inject the Cerenia into this fluid pocket.

Cerenia stings when it is given as a subcutaneous injection. I will mention this again in the side effects section, but it is true that getting this drug injected hurts a bit. But it hurts less when it is injected into a fluid pocket. Using the injectable form is the best way to treat a general upset stomach.

I want to give a special thank you to Loved at Last Dog Rescue ( for this photo!

Side Effects of Cerenia for Dogs

Cerenia is a pretty safe medication, but any drug can have side effects. Most of the time, these side effects are not severe enough to prevent a dog from using Cerenia.  Always check with your vet if you notice any of these side effects while giving Cerenia.

If you look at list of common side effects, you may notice that most of them are the same symptoms the Cerenia is being given to treat!  It can be difficult to tell  Cerenia is causing the side effects.or if it isn’t working and that is why you are still seeing these symptoms.

Signs of negative reactions appear soon after Cerenia is administered.  The medication can affect the stomach, especially if the stomach was already upset.  This can cause vomiting.

The injectable form is often used if a dog’s stomach is already upset.

How to give Cerenia to Your Dog

Veterinarians usually prescribe Cerenia in tablet form.

Keep the tablets wrapped in the silver foil until they are given to your dog, and keep the medication out of the heat and in a dark location. The active ingredient breaks down when exposed to air and light, so protect your investment.

Cerenia is best given on an empty stomach.   Don’t feed your dog for at least an hour before giving the medication. Administer the tablet with food. It prevents your dog from vomiting the dose back up.

Don’t wrap the pill tightly in food. Instead, loosely use a bit of bread or deli meat to get your dog to take the tablet.

Tightly wrapped medicine might not get fully absorbed. If that happens, it’s not as effective.

When to Give Cerenia for Dogs

Offer your dog Cerenia about 2 hours prior to the trip/medication dose. This gives your dog time to absorb the Cerenia and get it working effectively. A dose of Cerenia is good for 24 hours.

Most of the time, the veterinarian will recommend you only use the Cerenia for 2 or 3 days in a row, up to a maximum of 5 days in a row. It depends on your dog, though. Follow your veterinarians instructions, and call them if you have any questions or concerns.

Contraindications of Cerenia for Dogs

Dogs with liver disease may not tolerate the medication well.  NSAIDS and other medications may react with Cerenia.  Be sure your vet knows everything your dog is taking before prescribing Cerenia.

Cerenia is designed for use in dogs older than 16 weeks of age.

he injectable form may be used short term in puppies as young as 8 weeks. Uncontrolled vomiting is the main reason Cerenia is administered to puppies.

Cerenia should not be used if a dog is suspected of having ingested a toxin, or if a veterinarian thinks there may be a foreign body trapped

Cerenia vs Maropitant?

I will note one interesting thing about Cerenia and veterinary medicine: In clinics, most vet staff refer to Cerenia by its medical name, Maropitant.

The reason for this is to avoid confusion with another medication with a similar sounding brand name. Convenia is an injectable antibiotic used to treat abscesses and other infections in pets who don’t tolerate oral antibiotics.

But when you are busy, it is very easy for the brain to confuse Cerenia and Convenia! So, staff are often trained to always use the name Maropitant to avoid making mistakes.

I hope this explanation of Cerenia is helpful to you and your dog! It is a great medication that really benefits the majority of dogs who are prescribed it. Good luck with the vomiting, and I hope your dog feels better soon!

11 Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine in Dogs

Common side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs include low fever, fatigue, and localized swelling at the site of the injection.  

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Rare, but serious, side effects can occur. This includes hives, minor swelling (especially around the face), acute onset of vomiting and/or diarrhea, and breathing changes.

This post starts with 11 side-effects of the rabies vaccine in dogs, and also discusses the pros and cons of vaccinations in general. 

As dog owners, it is up to us to make the best medical choices for our pets. This is tricky when our personal beliefs come into conflict with the legal system.

11 Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine in Dogs
A special thank you to Loved at Last Dog Rescue for allowing me to use this photo.  Rescue a dog at

Dog owners have a lot of choices…except when it comes to the rabies vaccine. Legally, we are required to keep them up to date, regardless of the side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs.

Common Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine In Dogs

FAST FACT:  Dogs contribute up to 99% of rabies transmission.  It can be passed from animal to human through a dog bite.  A rabid dog is more likely to bite than a healthy dog.

1. Discomfort and Swelling

Vaccinations are normally given as injections and whenever you stick a needle into the skin, it’s going to hurt. This is temporary and not harmful.

2. Mild Fever 

Mild fevers are common side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. Vaccines do not contain live disease, but they do create a temporary immune-response that tells the body, “Hey, let’s get busy fighting this new thing.”

3. Nope – Not Hungry Mom

While the antibodies “get to work”, the body slows down other functions including the appetite.    This is temporary.

4. No Playing Ball Today!

Some dogs will be a little drowsy after a vaccination. Again, this is temporary and not harmful. 

5. Mom! I’m All Dubbed Up!

Some side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs includes cold or flu-like symptoms.

Sneezing, mild cough, or even a runny nose are all possibilities. It could take up to 5 days for these symptoms to disappear, but they are not serious.

A deranged animal foaming at the mouth?? Take a second and watch this video!

6. Hard Lump Under the Skin

The rabies vaccine is an injection.  A little swelling can occur at the site of the injection.  This is one of a few minor side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. It’s nothing to be alarmed about.

If you suspect your dog might be experiencing more severe side-effects (like facial swelling) please don’t hesitate and get your dog to the veterinarian.

7. Severe Vomiting

This is one of the more severe side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. If your dog starts vomiting frequently after a rabies vaccination (or any vaccination), bring him/her to the vet.

8. Your Dog Can’t Stop Itching

We’ve all seen dogs writhe around on their backs, blissfully getting that itchy spot. The difference with this is that the dog will become frantically itchy. His/her skin may even develop hives.

9. Face, Neck, or Eye Swelling

NOTE: More severe side effects like this usually occur within 30 minutes of the injection.

This is a serious side effect of rabies vaccine in dogs.  If you notice any swelling around your dogs face get your dog to a veterinarian right away.  Do not wait until it gets worse. Swelling can cut off your dog’s airway.

Watch the YouTube Video about Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Dogs

10. Severe Cough

This is a rare side effect of rabies vaccine in dogs, but it can happen.  You might notice a mild cough along with the sneezing and runny nose mentioned above. However, if the coughing gets worse, consult your veterinarian. 

11. Difficulty Breathing

If your dog is having difficulty breathing, you’ll see it in the rise and fall of his/her chest cavity. Your dog will be distressed and might paw at his/her mouth. As your dog tries to take in more oxygen, it might sound like he/she is coughing. This could go hand-in-hand with the symptom above.

NOTE: Your vet will report serious reactions, and often the vaccine manufacturer will pick up part or all of the tab for the emergency treatment.

Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine, or Something Else?

The one challenge with identifying side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs is that the vaccine is often given with other vaccines, usually at an annual exam.

If It Hasn’t Happened Yet, It Probably Never Will

Uncommon and rare side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs will usually show up the very first time your dog is given the vaccine.  If your dog has never had a strong reaction to the rabies vaccine, chances are very high that they never will!

Pre-Vaccination Prep

If your dog does experience some swelling and/or itching, your veterinarian might recommend a medication like Benadryl.

NOTE: Most vets will not recommend stopping vaccinations entirely just because of a minor vaccine reaction.

Was it Really the Rabies Vaccine that Caused the Side Effects?

Veterinarians usually give each vaccine in a separate location. That way they can identify local reactions to specific vaccines. But this still leaves a grey area when a dog has general side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs.

One way to avoid this problem is to break up the vaccines, and give them separately a few weeks apart.

Some veterinarians encourage this and some don’t. Talk to you vet about splitting up your dog’s vaccines if this concerns you. It absolutely can’t hurt to do them each separately!

STATISTICS:  40% of people bitten by a rabid animal are under the age of 15. ~ World Health Matters Organization

What is IN a Rabies Vaccine for Dogs?

A rabies vaccine is manufactured from a killed form of the rabies virus. There is no chance of your dog getting rabies from having the vaccine.

When injected under the skin (subcutaneous injection) or into the muscle (intramuscular injection), it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to the virus.

Rabies Outbreak 2018 – Watch the Video!

These antibodies will prevent your dog from contracting an active form of rabies if they should happen to be exposed to the virus. 

Who Can Give a Rabies Vaccine to a Dog?

A rabies vaccine is not one that you can buy and give at home, like many other canine vaccines. It must be given by a licensed veterinarian, or a certified veterinary technician under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Records of rabies vaccinations are kept meticulously by all veterinarians. Every time your dog gets a rabies shot, you should receive a certificate proving your dog has had the vaccine. Your vet will also keep this information, which includes the vaccine brand and lot number.

Your vet may be legally obligated to provide your home county or state with a listing of every pet they have given rabies vaccines to. This will vary from location to location. In my area, vets must be mandatory reporters to the county. This allows the county to ensure that all of the dogs get licensed locally.

Rabies is Fatal in Humans and Other Animals

Once an animal or person is showing signs of rabies infection, there is no cure. It is 100% fatal.  The risk of the vaccination far outweighs the deadly disease.

People exposed to rabies can undergo a series of shots that prevent them from developing the active disease.

This is why the vaccine is a legal requirement of dog ownership. In many parts of the world, rabies still kills animals and people.

Rabies is entirely preventable and, in some countries, vaccinations are the law.

NOTE: In the 10 years I worked in veterinary medicine, I only knew of 1 dog out of thousands who had a severe reaction to the rabies vaccine.

Rare side effects to a rabies vaccine include severe swelling of the face, neck, and possibly other parts of the body (severe anaphylaxis), difficulty breathing, collapse/seizures.

How Often Does a Dog Need a Rabies Vaccine?

Your dog should get a rabies vaccine between 4 to 6 months of age. It is good for 1 year.

The manufacturer recommends your dog get a rabies vaccine at 6 months old, then a booster at a year and a half, followed by a second booster at age 4 and a half (and every 3 years thereafter).

Some areas have laws that require the rabies vaccine be given more frequently. I have seen locations that require the vaccine to be given every year- even though the manufacturer has licensed it as a 3 year vaccine!

What About Doing a Rabies Titer Test instead of Vaccinating?

Many owners are interested in doing titer testing, rather than just routinely vaccinating their dogs.

A titer test is a blood test that measures whether a dog is producing antibodies to a specific, vaccine preventable disease.

Titer testing is only done by some laboratories, and is more expensive than vaccinating.

Problems with Titer Testing

Problems with titer testing rather than straight vaccination include not being able to license your dog. Authorities will not consider your dog as having been vaccinated.  It is not legally recognized.

Second, there is not enough science behind titer testing to know when a specific immune response means a dog is protected from contracting rabies.

What this means is while a titer test can show that a dog is producing antibodies in response to a vaccine, we have no idea where the cut off is for immunity.

There is no magic number a vet can point to and say “your dog is immune to rabies.” This is why titers are not a legal substitute to vaccination against rabies.

The third problem with titer testing, and the rabies vaccine in general, is that we have no idea how long the titer/vaccine is good for beyond the manufacturer’s 3 year license. It probably varies from dog to dog.

Try out the lifestyle-based vaccine calculator. It was created by the AAHA and should give you a clearer picture of what you should do.

Rabies Laws Are Strict

If you are concerned about the side effects of rabies vaccines in dogs, please talk to your vet. They can give you information about your local laws, and your dog’s specific risks based on their lifestyle.

If, like me, you have a dog who should not have vaccines due to a medical problem, please know that in many locations a veterinarian can NOT exempt your dog from the legal requirement to be up to date on the rabies vaccine.

NOTE: Current laws about rabies vaccination derive from a time when most dogs lived outside and were exposed to wild animals frequently. The laws have not been updated much to reflect that most of our dogs now live indoors, as members of the family.

When It’s Just Too Dangerous

Legally, I am suppose to give my dog the rabies vaccine, even though it could kill her. If she were to bite someone (no teeth left, so I’m not very concerned), I could be in serious legal jeopardy.

To protect myself, and her, I make sure that this problem never comes up.


The ramifications could be anything from a state mandated quarantine period and heavy fines, all the way to having your dog euthanized.

Rabies is no joke, and the law is firmly on the side of public safety. If you can, keep your dog’s rabies vaccines up to date. 


Rabies is a serious, fatal disease both to humans and animals.  Mild side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs do occur, but serious side effects are rare. 

Getting your dog vaccinated against rabies is the law. There can be serious consequences for not having it done, including euthanizing your dog.

If you are worried, or if your dog has had reactions to vaccines before, talk to the veterinarian.  Don’t miss those vaccination appointments!

11 Rabies Side Effects in Dogs
Rabies Side Effects in Dogs Do NOT include lips and ear growth.

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Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website

Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs

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Phenobarbital side effects in dogs include fatigue, anxiety, increased thirst, extra food intake, anemia, and sometimes weight gain.

Epilepsy and seizure disorders in dogs are scary. They often start without any warning, sometimes with a cause.  I know if my dog had a seizure, I would totally panic.

By the time you’re finished this post, you’ll have a better understanding of seizures, and the medications used to treat them, including phenobarbital.  

Most Common Breeds Prone to Seizures Include:

Australian shepherds, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, border collies, boxers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Irish setters.

Other dogs more likely to have seizures include Labrador retrievers, poodles, Saint Bernards, Shetland sheepdogs, Siberian huskies, springer spaniels, Welsh corgies, wirehair fox terriers and vizslas. 

Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs versus Seizure Activity

We often have no idea why some dogs start having seizures. Sometimes it is linked to illness or trauma, but many times it just comes out of nowhere. One minute your dog is fine, the next they are having a seizure. 

Epilepsy, however, can occur in dogs of all ages.  Seizures may also be caused because of liver disease, brain tumors/trauma, or toxins (poisons) in the body.

Some dogs, like this one, are trained to detect early signs of seizures in their owners.

As frightening as seizures can be, you may not need to take your dog in. The general protocol is three seizures in a 24-hour period.

Seizures in Dogs Might Not Look the Way you Expected Them to.

Dogs might foam at the mouth, twitch, drool, chomp, collapse and make paddling motions with their legs when having a seizure.

If your dog suddenly has a seizure for the first time, make sure he/she hasn’t gotten into something toxic or deadly, like rat poison or antifreeze.

How to Help Your Dog During a Seizure

Try to stay calm and quiet if you notice your dog having a seizure.  It’s not easy to do, but it will help your dog tremendously. Move furniture out of the way and quickly move any other animals out of the room.  

Don’t try to put anything in your dog’s mouth when he/she is having a seizure.  There’s no need to hold your dog down either. The seizure should stop as quickly as it started.  As noted above, it could just be a one-time thing.  Frankly, I would still give the veterinarian a call just to see whether he/she recommends a visit.

Keep a Seizure Log!

The most common thing recommended to an owner whose dog has had seizures is that they keep a seizure log, listing the time of day and any activities that happened right before the event. These logs can help in piecing together the reasons (triggers) for the seizure.

If you are concerned about phenobarbital side effects in dogs, consider keeping track of signs and symptoms.  These could come in handy at some point.

When a veterinarian recommends starting a dog on phenobarbital, it is usually because the seizures are frequent enough and strong enough to risk brain damage if the activity continues.

In a case like that, any side effects of phenobarbital in dogs is going to outweigh the risk of brain damage. 

Keep a Log for Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs

If your dog continues to have seizures and the veterinarian prescribes phenobarbital, you might want to keep a checklist nearby for any unusual symptoms. 

Starting Phenobarbital- Common Side Effects

Phenobarbital is a controlled drug, and requires a prescription from a veterinarian. It is a member of the barbiturate family, and works as a sedative and anticonvulsant (anti seizure) medication. Vets usually don’t prescribe this medication lightly.

Phenobarbital side effects in dogs usually occur within the first few weeks.  If the dosage needs to be increased, you might notice more pronounced side-effects.

Most dogs develop a tolerance to the medication soon after starting it, and these side effects decrease or disappear.

You Don’t Want to Miss Follow-Up Appointments, and Here’s Why:

Mild phenobarbital side effects in dogs are usually nothing to worry about. However, the veterinarian still needs to make sure that the dosage is appropriate and that the medication is working.

Sometimes, dogs with epilepsy require more than one medication to keep seizures under control. Follow-up visits and blood work will measure levels of phenobarbital in their system, and will provide an indication of how the liver and kidneys are dealing with the medication.

Every animal (including humans) metabolizes phenobarbital differently, and so blood work is the only way to be sure the dosing is at the right level.

Maintaining the Phenobarbital Levels

You will be instructed to give your dog the medication every 12 hours, and it is important to give it as directed. The goal is to reach a “therapeutic” level of phenobarbital in your dog’s blood.

Giving the medication on a more erratic schedule could lead to your dog having breakthrough seizures, where the amount of phenobarbital in the dog’s system drops too low.

Dosing on a different schedule can make your blood test results unreliable. If you have missed doses, or given doses off schedule, then let your vet know this when you come in for blood work. They might want to postpone the test for a week while you focus on giving the medications correctly.

Never just stop giving phenobarbital! The medication can cause withdrawal symptoms, including severe seizures, if it is stopped suddenly. Talk to your vet about how to wean your dog off phenobarbital safely.

Other Options for Seizure Disorders

Phenobarbital is not the only medication that vets prescribe for seizures in dogs. Potassium Bromide (KBr) is alternative that is frequently used, especially when phenobarbital isn’t working well or a dog is having severe side effects from the first medication.

The side effects of KBr are similar to phenobarbital. 

Here’s Something You Should Know:

I’ve noticed that some websites list diazepam as an alternative medication for seizures, but this is a bit of a misunderstanding.

Diazepam is usually prescribed as an emergency medication for pets with severe and dangerous seizure disorders.

It is given (usually rectally) during a seizure event to stop a seizure and allow the owner time to rush the pet to an emergency clinic. It is short acting (around 20 minutes), and it is not a medication given as a normal anticonvulsant preventative.

What About CBD Oil/Treats?

CBD oils, treats and potions for dogs are all over the internet, and they promise many miracle effects. So should you consider switching your dog from phenobarbital to a CBD product?

Poor Dog!  This tweet shows a dog having a mild seizure. The owners feel confident that CBD oil has helped.  I am not endorsing or recommending CBD oil use in your dog, however.  Always check with your veterinarian.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients in the marijuana plant. CBD is the active ingredient that does not get a person high (that would be THC). There have been NO laboratory studies proving that CBD works to prevent seizures in dogs.

There are a LOT of anecdotes about CBD on the internet. There is some research in humans that indicates the potential for CBD products to suppress some kinds of seizures. So CBD could very well be a magic pill for dogs with seizure disorders. We just don’t know enough yet to say so with any certainty.

The next video shows the other side of the discussion regarding CBD oil for dogs.

Since CBD products for dogs are usually supplements and not medications, they are not tested or monitored by any agency. You really have no way to know that any given treat or oil contains what it says it contains, unless you are buying a product in a state that sells legal cannabis products. Often, these products undergo state mandated testing.

I am not against CBD products! I think they show a lot of promise! But…when it comes to my dogs, I am super cautious.

Switching from Phenobarbital to a CBD Product

If you decide you would like to try this kind of anti seizure therapy, I recommend you seek out a holistic or naturopathic veterinarian with experience in using CBD products.

They can guide you in making the switch safely, and can point you towards a product they have had good experiences with. Please, do not make this switch without the input of a Vet!

Seizures in dogs are scary, but they can be medically controlled. While phenobarbital side effects in dogs can be disturbing, they usually subside within a few weeks.

If your dog does not tolerate the phenobarbital, there are other options. Talk to your veterinarian…they are a great resource!

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Special thanks to the writer of this post, Jen Clifford. Please check out her bio below!


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website