Rabies Vaccination: Caution! The Devil is in the Details

Written by Jan on August 23, 2011 – 12:01 am

It’s that time again: time for your dog to get her rabies shot. Wait! Proceed with caution. This is a serious medical procedure. And no, you can’t just leave it to your vet.  Please read on for answers to questions you may not even have thought to ask.

How long do rabies vaccines last?  The “three-year” vaccine has been proven by vaccine manufacturers, to the satisfaction of the US Department of Agriculture, to be effective for at least three years.  Despite this, many veterinarians vaccinate every one or two years. In fact, in a recent article by Edie Lau for the Veterinary Information News Service, the Vice-President of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association admitted that he gives a “3 year” rabies vaccine every 2 years!  Surely, these vets have seen the “3” on the label.  Or have read the 1992 French study proving five year immunity, or the blood studies suggesting seven or more years immunity. The Rabies Challenge Fund (a nonprofit funded solely by dog lovers) expects to confirm five year immunity in the US by November 2012 and seven years immunity two years later. 

Why is vaccinating more often than required a problem? In addition to the unnecessary expense for the office visit and innoculations, this shot can be dangerous for your dog.  According to a 2008 Report: “Rabies vaccines are the most common group of biological products identified in adverse event reports received by the USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB).”

Adverse reactions, by percentage reported, include: Vomiting-28.1%; facial swelling-26.3%; injection site swelling or lump-19.4%; lethargy-12%; urticaria-10.1%; circulatory shock-8.3%; injection site pain-7.4%; pruritus-7.4%; injection site alopecia or hair loss-6.9%; death-5.5%; lack of consciousness-5.5; diarrhea-4.6%; hypersensitivity (not specified)-4.6%; fever-4.1%;, anaphylaxis-2.8%; ataxia-2.8%; lameness-2.8%; general signs of pain-2.3%; hyperactivity-2.3%; injection site scab or crust-2.3%;, muscle tremor-2.3%; tachycardia-2.3%; and thrombocytopenia-2.3%.

Even adverse reactions occuring within several days of vaccination are reported only an estimated 1% of the time (according to a former FDA official). Most long-term reactions are not reported at all — or even recognized. Long-term studies using a large number of dogs are not performed because of the expense. Long-term reactions, to name just some, include injection-site and other tumors, autoimmune diseases, lack of rear end coordination and seizures. Read the comments on my rabies vaccine reactions page for reactions reported by readers of this blog. And see other reactions reported by this holistic veterinarian.

Do you have a knowledgeable vet? Has your vet informed you of the potential health risks of the rabies vaccine?  Has your vet told you about the legal requirements?  Or explained about the possibility of a medical exemption for your health compromised dog? If not, why?

Why would vets (and localities) vaccinate more often than legally and medically required? Perhaps because of increased revenue from county license fees and vet visits, or ignorance of current laws, or fear that clients can’t be trusted to vaccinate on time. To my mind, however, vaccinating more often than legally required, and more often than manufacturers recommend, without informing clients of the law, manufacturer recommendations and potential health risks, is unethical and a violation of the legal doctrine of informed consent. It may also be consumer fraud.  

Why is there a one-year vaccine and a three-year vaccine?  World-renowned vaccination expert Dr. Ron Schultz, whose studies have been the basis for guidelines for the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association), AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and other organizations confirmed this in our  vaccination DVD (see below). In his report “What Everyone Needs to Know About Canine Vaccines and Vaccination Programshe wrote: “There is no benefit from annual rabies vaccination and most one year rabies products are similar or identical to the 3-year products with regard to duration of immunity and effectiveness.”

Ms. Lau wrote in her article, “Manufacturers’ representatives say a key distinction between most one- and three-year rabies vaccines is the testing they undergo to demonstrate the duration for which they confer immunity.” She added: “Some one- and three-year formulations do differ, but exactly in what ways is considered a trade secret.” 

That is, manufacturers test basically the same formulation for one year for the one-year shot, then stop the study. The three-year vaccine study is stopped at three years. How long these vaccines might potentially last is unknown. And manufacturer’s have no incentive to find out.

Is the one-year shot safer than the three-year?  No. In fact, it’s probably more dangerous because it has to be given much more often.

Why label the vaccine “one-year” if it really lasts three years? In short, to simplify paper work. The USDA requires an initial shot followed by another a year later.  That is, one-year shots require a “booster” a year later; three year shots require boosters three years later.The different labels make record keeping easier.

At present, every state in the US requires an initial “one-year” shot (around 3-6 months of age) followed a year later by the three-year vaccine, with revaccination  every three years thereafter.  

What you need to know about the two rabies vaccines:

  • If you give the one-year vaccine when the three-year vaccine is due, you will have to vaccinate one year later even if the vaccines are identical.
  • If you can’t prove the one-year vaccine was followed by the three-year vaccine a year later, or if a three-year wasn’t followed by another within three years, you will have to start all over again.
  • Vets lose records and make errors. Check the vaccine label BEFORE your dog is vaccinated and check the license paperwork and vet notes immediately afterward. Paperwork, not reality, rules.
  • If you are even one day late with the vaccine, and your dog bites someone, your local Animal Control will control your dog’s fate. They can mandate in-house quarantine or in-shelter quarantine or even euthanasia — depending on where you live. Proof of  strong antibody titers is not a legal substiture for vaccination paperwork.
  • A licensed veterinarian must give the innoculation and provide you with accurate paperwork. Otherwise, your dog will require revaccination.
  • Give the rabies shot 3-4 weeks apart from the distemper/parvovirus booster or any other vaccine, heartworm med, flea med, etc. Failure to do so will greatly increase the likelihood of a rabies reaction.
  • According to manufacturer’s label recommendations, only healthy dogs should be vaccinated. if your dog has a documented history of health problems, or problems with this or any other vaccines, you may be able to get a special exemptiono or postponement  from your local Animal Control.  (Consult your vet or local animal control for exemption requirements; exemption availability varies from locale to locale. Willingness to request an exemption varies from vet to vet. Again, you may have to vet shop.)

Which brand should you use?  All of the US brands used “killed” vaccines, not “modified live” vaccines.  A “modified live” vaccine would be too dangerous as sometimes, although rarely, it can cause the disease it is meant to prevent. 

Many of my veterinarian friends mostly recommend the Merial IMRAB TF 1 or 3 year. For cats, the Merial PUREVAX Feline Rabies.  But remember, all rabies vaccines have the potential of causing serious adverse reactions.  And some animals will react differently to different vaccines. 

“TF” stands for thimerosol free, that is, free of a mercury adjuvant.  Mercury is used as a preservative in vaccines, and can be present even if it is not on the label.  The ingredients are part of the proprietary stew. Many experts believe it to be dangerous. Note: Several manufacturers offer thimerosol-free rabies vaccines.

Unfortunately, most vets carry only one brand and it’s probably not thimerosol free. In larger practices, some of the vets may not even like the brand they carry. It is often selected by price, because the senior partner or corporate buyer like it and/or because one manufacturer’s rep does a better job than another. You cannot buy the brand you want and vaccinate yourself.  Most vets won’t even order the brand you want if you offer to pay for a whole case.

How do you get the brand you want? Find another vet.

So, as you see, rabies vaccination is a complicated, potentially dangerous, procedure. Educate your self and proceed with caution.  

Unless your dog is granted a rabies vaccination exemption, you are legally required to vaccinate.  Vaccination with any vaccine is serious business. Your dog’s future health, and even her life, may be at stake. Vaccinate cautiously.

***   Renowned pet vaccination scientists Drs. Jean Dodds and Ron Schultz spoke at my Safer Pet Vaccination Benefit Seminar in 2010.  Click here to purchase a DVD of the event, the proceeds of which benefit the Rabies Challenge Fund.

Other articles of interest:

Rabies Vaccination Medical Exemptions for Unhealthy Dogs
Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely
What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction

Posted under Medical Exemptions from Rabies Shots, Rabies Shots, Uncategorized, Vaccination, Vaccine Reactions | 39 Comments » | Email This Post

What to Do When Your Dog Has a Vaccine Reaction

Written by Jan on December 2, 2010 – 1:32 pm

IS THIS AN EMERGENCY?  If your dog is breathing heavily, his face is swelling and eyes watering, and/or he’s vomiting, has hives or is having a seizure or collapsing, your dog is having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY! and start for your vet’s office or an emergency facility while, preferably, someone else drives.  (You do know where the nearest emergency vet is, don’t you?)

Your vet may not recognize your dog’s symptoms as a vaccine reaction and probably won’t want to believe or admit that the shot he/she administered brought on this problem.  If you believe it’s a vaccine reaction, be strong. You know your dog better than your vet does. Above all, keep your wits about you. Don’t be pressured into doing anything that doesn’t feel right. For example, if your dog has her first seizure ever soon after vaccination, she is probably having a vaccine reaction; she probably does NOT suddenly have a brain tumor requiring a $800 MRI!  As they say, when you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras!  Read more »

Posted under Rabies Shots, Uncategorized, Vaccination, Vaccine Reactions, Veterinarians | 270 Comments » | Email This Post

Rabies Vaccination Caution: A Veterinarian Speaks Out

Written by Jan on November 22, 2010 – 4:45 pm

I recently posted Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely.  Adverse reactions to rabies vaccines are the most common reactions reported to the USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics.  Some reactions are mild — but others can prove deadly. A little knowledge can help you prevent many of them.  

After reading my article, Patricia Jordan, veterinarian, vaccination expert and author of Mark of the Beast, sent me some additional cautions to pass along (condensed with her permission).  Please read my first article in addition to this one.  Here are Dr. Jordan’s tips augmented with a few thoughts from me:

1. Get the vaccine name, serial number, lot number and expiration date.  Vets move away, retire and lose records — and vaccines are recalled. You’ll be prepared in case an adverse reaction shows up (which could be as long as 10 years later as in the case of mast cell tumors).  Even if your dog or cat has an immediate reaction, you’ll want to  file a report with the manufacturer yourself.  (Sometimes medical expenses will be reimbursed by the manufacturer, but too few vets take the time to report the reaction.) Read more »

Tags: cat, dog, preventing vaccine reactions, rabies shot, rabies vaccination, rabies vaccine, shot reactions, side effects, vaccination reactions, vaccine reactions
Posted under Preventing Vaccine Reactions, Rabies Shots, Uncategorized, Vaccination | 20 Comments » | Email This Post

Rabies Vaccination: 13 Ways to Vaccinate More Safely

Written by Jan on September 23, 2010 – 12:01 am

Peaches Displaying Her Rabies Vaccine Reaction

Note: this is an expanded version of an article by Jan Rasmusen previously published by DogsNaturallyMagazine.com

Animal Control sends a notice stating that your dog’s rabies vaccination is due. Some of us will vaccinate readily. Because it’s legally mandated, it must be safe, right? Besides, what choice do we have?

Others of us panic, desperate to avoid the shot at any cost. We remember what happened the last time our dog had a rabies vaccination. We wonder, will our dog survive another?

World-renowned pet vaccination scientist, Dr. Jean Dodds, wrote recently: “Rabies vaccines are the most common group of biological products identified in adverse event reports received by the USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB).”

An adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine may exact a high price – to your dog’s health and your wallet. Here’s what you need to know to make vaccinating your dog safer:

1. Learn to recognize adverse reactions. Short-term reactions include vomiting, facial Read more »

Tags: dog, dogs, preventing reactions, rabbies, rabies exemptions, rabies shot, rabies vaccination, rabies vaccine, reactions to the rabies vaccine
Posted under Preventing Vaccine Reactions, Rabies Shots, Uncategorized, Vaccination | 93 Comments » | Email This Post

Rabies Vaccination Medical Exemptions for Unhealthy Dogs

Written by Jan on June 15, 2010 – 10:42 am

Note: This letter by Dr. Jean Dodds is important to everyone living in a state (including California) that does not allow medical exemptions from rabies vaccination even if  vaccination may kill the animal.  See the rabies laws in the US, plus the states offering medical exemptions, at www.dogs4dogs.com/rabies-laws  PERMISSION TO CROSS POST.

California is currently considering AB2000, a bill to allow dogs with health problems an exemption to rabies vaccination until their health improves enough to get the vaccine. Early on this bill had a quarantine clause which was removed because of public outcry. This law, called Molly’s Law because Molly’s owners asked for an exemption that was not allowed, is supported by me and by the Rabies Challenge Fund.  The Concerned Dog Owners of California, another supportive group, report that AB2000 is supported by the California Veterinary Medical Association, Save Our Dogs, PetPac, HSUS, ASPCA  and dog owners all over the state.  However, the California of Public Health has recently come out against it.  Below is Dr. Jean Dodds’ response to their letter. It is posted here with Dr. Dodds’ permission. Read more »

Tags: AB 2000, AB2000, dogs, exemptions, Jean Dodds, medical, rabies, Rabies Challenge Fund, rabies law, rabies shot, rabies vaccine, Safety, sick dogs
Posted under Medical Exemptions from Rabies Shots, Rabies Shots, Vaccination | 26 Comments » | Email This Post