Rabies vaccine is not given to your dog to protect it. It is given to protect you! Rabies is an always fatal disease. Throughout human history only one person has survived and that was with a modern experimental procedure not yet approved for treatment. That is why Human Public Health agencies, not any veterinary organization, are in charge of rabies regulation nationwide.
Let me share an experience that occurred at my cat only practice in Alta Loma in the 1990’s. A client became furious with me because I required her cats to have rabies vaccines to be patients at my hospital. I explained that her cats were more likely to bite us than her, so I needed to protect myself and staff from the deadly disease. She continued her tirade as she left with her cat carrier. Years later she returned to my hospital to apologize for her previous conduct. I assured her that no apology was necessary, we simply had different views. She insisted and then shared the incident that occurred to prompt her apology. She lived in an apartment in San Dimas. A bat flew into her home and bit both of her cats. You guessed it. The bat had rabies. California laws requires a pet with no rabies vaccination bitten by a rabid animal be destroyed immediately or vaccinated immediately and placed in 180-day quarantine. I don’t remember what the client decided to do. But what if she didn’t know her cats were bitten by the bat? What if they developed neurological symptoms and she took them to a veterinarian for treatment? What if the vet and staff were bit or got a scratch that became contaminated by saliva? That is why I require rabies vaccine for all of my patients because you just never know.
Sources of Rabies Infection
Wildlife is the major reservoir of rabies virus. In our area, the most common carriers are bats, racoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Opossums, rats, mice and rabbits are resistant to rabies infection. Recently, however there have been several reports of humans that were bit by rabid kittens and puppies they were rescuing from homelessness.
What are the rabies regulations?
California public health requirements for rabies are that all dogs have 3 rabies vaccines within 5 years no matter what the dog’s age at the first vaccination. Further re-vaccination is required every 3 years. Blood titers indicating protection from rabies is not accepted by public health agencies in lieu of vaccines.
Are rabies vaccinations harmful to dogs?
Unfortunately, rabies vaccines have been unfairly demonized. Most vaccine reactions occur from vaccines for distemper, parvo, and hepatitis viruses, not rabies. Vaccine for the bacteria, Leptosporosis, is the worst offender for vaccine reactions. The mercury adjuvant (enhances immune stimulation) has been studied for causing injections site tumors and other reactions. There is no hard evidence proving these possibilities, but mercury free vaccines are readily available for veterinarians at the same cost as vaccines containing mercury. We use only mercury-free for all of our injectable vaccines.
The blogs this month concern diseases or issues surrounding vaccinations for dogs. Our next blog will reveal the distemper and parvo threat to your dog you are not aware of.
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