Why can’t I do a blood titer instead? At The Well Dog Place we are hearing these questions on almost a daily basis. They are good questions but the answer is not very satisfying. Presently, rabies vaccines have to be given to dogs every 3 years. Here’s why.
Rabies vaccines are given to protect people, not dogs. Because rabies is an always fatal disease after the onset of symptoms, the goal is to protect the public from contracting rabies. The rules are not made by veterinary organizations, but by state and county human public health departments. They set the rules that veterinarians and animal shelters must follow. In California, the law reads that any dog must receive 3 rabies vaccines in the first 5 years of life. That means 1 is given at 3-4 months of age, then at 1 year and 3-4 months of age and then 3 years later. After this, dogs are then required to be vaccinated every 3 years.
The regulations can vary between states and counties based on the amount of rabies detected in wildlife in that area. States and counties with high rates of wildlife rabies require yearly rabies vaccines for dogs! No public health agency accepts rabies blood titers as proof of protection.
Even if rabies titers were accepted, the cost is almost prohibitive. Only the lab at Kansas State University Veterinary School is allowed to perform the titer test. Each test cost the owners about $400.
The Good News
For now, there is no alternative for the California rabies vaccination regulations. Here at The Well Dog Place we follow that law but have always used mercury free rabies.
We do not like to over vaccinate or give unnecessary vaccines. Instead we do vaccine titer tests for Distemper, Parvovirus and Hepatitis and vaccinate only when the tests indicate that your dog does not have protective titer protection from any of these diseases. We recommend Bordetella, or Kennel Cough, vaccine only for high risk puppies (socialization classes, day care, etc.) or when groomers, boarding facilities or other dog related businesses require them. Other vaccines are unnecessary for most dogs so do your research and decide if your dog's lifestyle puts them at risk for these diseases (lyme's, influenza, corona, etc.) before considering vaccination.