An article on Understanding the Threat of Rabies in a Michigan paper, the Tri-County Times, caught my eye today. I along with leading veterinary vaccinologists and the AVMA take issue with the statement, "it doesn't hurt to get the [rabies] shot."
Yes it does.
Indeed, a recent report by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association states that "rabies vaccines are the most common group of biological products identified in adverse event reports received by the Center for Veterinary Biologics between April 1,2004 and 2007." Dogs represented 65% of the affected animals.
Rabies vaccinations are implicated in many acute and chronic health conditions that affect the health and quality of life of dogs and cats.
Dogs and cats with mild dispositions can become excessively fearful or aggressive almost overnight. Some effects are short-term, such as anaphylactic shock, seizures and other disorders of the central nervous system. Others manifest over time as chronic dysfunction previously unknown in pets - allergies, asthma, arthritis, ear infections, thyroid disease, heart disease, kidney failure and cancer.
In the most extreme cases, dogs develop deadly autoimmune diseases, cats develop fibrosarcomas at injection sites. Even with extensive - and expensive treatment - their death rate is high.
Furthermore, rabies vaccine should NEVER be administered to a pregnant, sick or senior pet.
For safety and efficacy, rabies vaccine manufacturers' labels state that this potent biologic agent is "for healthy animals only."
The potential for adverse reaction in healthy animals is amplified in dogs and cats with other existing factors, such as when a dog or cat is stressed, under a general anesthetic, recovering from surgery, has a chronic illness, has allergies, is on treatment for an infection, or has a history of immune system disorder, etc.
Also even a slight elevation in temperature can thwart the vaccine leaving the animal - and by extension its human - vulnerable to the rabies virus if exposed.
Finally, there is no medical necessity for repeat rabies administration.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stated in 2003 "that there is no scientific basis for annual revaccination. Re-administering rabies vaccine does not enhance disease resistance and may expose animals to unnecessary risk."
The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), who write the Rabies Compendium adopted by states nationwide as "the Bible" on rabies prevention and control laws, has published this fact every year since 2005 that "No laboratory or epidemiologic data exist to support the annual or biennial administration of 3- or 4-year vaccines following the initial series.".
Repeat rabies vaccination may be law, but it is neither benign nor necessary.
Read it and write the editor