March 29, 2009

Pet Owners: To Vaccinate or Not

Many pet owners have asked me how to reconcile the dangers of adverse reaction to rabies vaccine and the risks of complying with outdated rabies compliance laws. Regrettably, this is Sophie's Choice - protect your pet's health or obey the law at its expense. Either way, your beloved companion is at risk.

Thirty years ago, rabies prevention and control ordinances were instituted in order to protect the public from rabies, one of the few wildlife diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Insofar as public safety is concerned, these laws have done their job admirably well.

Cat rabies cases slightly out number dog rabies cases. On the east coast where raccoon rabies is prevalent cats are more likely to get exposed as cats are more likely to mix with raccoons. Everywhere else, where fox and skunk rabies prevail, dogs are more likely exposed. Bat rabies is everywhere.

Most human cases (27 of the last 30) are from bat rabies (excluding 5 cases from organ transplants.)

Human cases of rabies contracted from cats are extremely rare, the last case being in Indiana in 1979.

Rabies variants tend to be species specific and stay compartmentalized. If a raccoon with the raccoon variant bites a cat the rabies virus is in the wrong host and it is not likely to be transmitted. A dead end host. If a bat bites a dog the bat rabies variant is in the wrong host and it is not likely to be transmitted. There is no cat variant in the US and the dog variant has been eliminated for over three years.

Yet in the 30 years since rabies vaccine was mandated, our knowledge of vaccinology has evolved while our laws have not. Today, we know that repeat rabies inoculations do nothing to improve the immunity of the animal and open it to a great deal of harm.


The Center for Disease Control’s National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control 2008 warns that "no laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual or biennial administration of 3- or 4-year vaccines following the initial series."

So, after the initial series of two rabies shots, we are vaccinating to protect our pets from people.

Since 2002, most states have adopted guidelines that approve a three year interval for rabies booster shots for family pets. Regrettably, this has done little to abate the risks of adverse reactions - most notably VAS - in cats who are more susceptible to the adjuvants used in rabies vaccine as well as PLP, RHCV and FeLV.

Adjuvant has been shown to cause mutations in the genes that prevent cancer. Adjuvanted vaccines are 5 times more likely to cause VAS (vaccine associated sarcoma - a deadly cancer that forms at the site of the inoculation.) This holds true for all vaccines, not just rabies.

The dilemma: to vaccinate or not?

The following information from Dr. Bob Rogers, a Texas veterinarian and one of the leading advocates for rabies vaccine reform, may be helpful when you are on the horns of this dilemma.

1. Reduce the number of vaccines your pet receives.

2. Whenever possible, use alternative methods of immunization such as intranasal.

3. Avoid vaccines that use adjuvants. The three years rabies vaccine is adjuvanted. Adjuvanted vaccines are not recommended by the Association of Feline Practitioners, the World Health Organization or most Vet Schools including Texas A& M University. The Purevac Rabies shot is non adjuvanted and is much safer. It only has a one year license. Three Purevac rabies shots are safer than one adjuvanted three year shot.

4. Look for a lump at the vaccination site and if one persists have it removed before it becomes cancerous.

Thanks Dr. Bob.

Permission granted to cross post.

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