In 2005, I took a healthy 12 year old calico house cat for a rabies booster shot.
Within six months, she began to show signs of ill health - dramatic weight loss, great thirst, poor coat, bad breath, eye discharge, ear mites, frequent urination and frequent vomiting. A year later, after a roller coaster of treatment, progress and regression, in the midst of an ice storm unprecedented in Texas history, Aimee was in kidney failure and dying.
I wanted her passing to be painless and peaceful.
Only one local vet was available in that moment; all the others in our area were ice-bound. She didn't know us and because my cat's "shots were not current," i.e., within the last year - and she could not risk a bite by an "unvaccinated animal" - she would gas down my cat. I could not be present.
My animal was in pain. She had no hope to live. I would not prolong her suffering. So I gave my sweet, warm kitty to the veterinarian who disappeared. When she returned, she handed Aimee to me as a corpse.
While kidney failure was the cause of her demise, it was almost certainly triggered by the rabies shot she received - but did not need - in 2005. I do not want to repeat this scene or see any other pet owner have to go through it.
Petition to Grant Rabies Medical Exemption
I sought the opinion of Dr. Bob Rogers, a Texas veterinarian who is outspoken on the risks of redundant vaccination and who played a key role in the reform of the annual protocol in Texas and nationwide.
"There has never been a cat develop rabies that has had one rabies shot in its life. The last case of a human getting rabies from a cat was 1979 in Indiana." ~Robert L Rogers, DVM, Houston, TexasAllying with Dr. Rogers, I presented a petition to the State of Texas to grant rabies medical exemption for sick and senior dogs and cats. After all, the science has been done. All the major veterinary medical associations endorsed a changing protocol. And the manufacturer's label clearly states that rabies vaccine is for "healthy animals only."
This was a no-brainer or so I thought.
The State of Texas responded by removing the language in the law that directs veterinarians to administer rabies vaccine according to the manufacturer's label directions.
I sure didn't see that coming.
An epidemic of chronic disease
The sad fact is that many cats and dogs are needlessly suffering from this outdated, unscientific practice of redundant vaccination. Some animals are afflicted or killed outright - the cats who develop feline vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS) or dogs who develop immune-mediated blood disease. Others suffer a lifetime of symptoms that rob life of quality and longevity.
Aimee, Shadow, Neptune, Peaches and my dog, Matisse, represent thousands of cases that demonstrate that vaccines are not harmless and rabies vaccination is never routine.
I urge you to read many other personal accounts on our petition to exempt sick and senior pets from rabies vaccine.
We simply cannot account for all the physical, emotional and financial drain caused by rabies control and prevention laws that are based on precedent, not science.
In a new report published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, despite the extreme under-reporting of vaccinal adverse reactions, between April 1, 2004 and March 31, 2007, the Center for Veterinary Biologics stated that, "nearly 10,000 adverse event reports (all animal species) were received by manufacturers of rabies vaccines...Approximately 65% of the manufacturer's reports involved dogs." "Postmarketing Surveillance of Rabies Vaccines for Dogs to Evaluate Safety and Efficacy"JAVMA April 1, 2008 issue, Vol. 232, No. 7What's more, these represent only a fraction of the actual number of adverse events.
Veterinarians are not required by law to report adverse reactions to vaccines, to which the World Small Animal Veterinary Association stated in their 2007 Vaccine Guidelines that there is: "gross under-reporting of vaccine-associated adverse events which impedes knowledge of the ongoing safety of these products."
And in an article entitled, A New Approach to Reporting Medication and Device Adverse Effects and Product Problems, (JAMA - June 2, 1993. Vol.269, No.21. p.2785) Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, reported that "only about 1% of serious events are reported to the FDA." The greater issue may be the unwillingness to connect the practice of bad medicine with the every-growing list of chronic health complaints in dogs and cats.And of course, rabies is not the only culprit. There's ample evidence to suggest that after puppy and kitty shots, no vaccination need be repeated in the life of our dogs and cats.
Yet when we share this information with friends and family, they look at us like we've grown two heads. We all want to do the right thing for our companion animals. None of us can believe that our veterinarian would practice bad medicine.
I understand your consternation. I understand the vaccine dilemma.
I encourage you to do your homework, educate yourself. Then choose your course from a growing body of scientific knowledge not blind faith.
The facts are the facts.
Rabies prevention and control laws are enacted to protect the public by making dogs and cats the buffer between people and wildlife. As a result, the Center for Disease Control announced in 2007 that canine rabies has been eradicated in the United States. But the unintended consequences of mandatory, redundant and medically unnecessary rabies vaccinations are now epidemic.
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 become excessively fearful or aggressive almost overnight. Dogs and cats suffer anaphylactic shock, seizures and other disorders of the central nervous system. Some effects are short-term. 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.
Primum non nocere: First do no harm
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.
In 2005, only five states nationwide made allowance for health status, age or proximity of exposure. In 2013, the number of states granting rabies medical exemption has climbed to 17. All other states - and many local jurisdictions within these states - mandate rabies shots annually or triennually regardless of the risks.
This puts our dogs and cats at risk without reason.
No loss of immunity
Since 1990, veterinary research studies by challenge and serology demonstrate that a single rabies vaccination administered properly confers immunity for up to seven years, possibly for the life of the dog or cat.
In 1992, Michel Aubert, a French research scientist, noted that a dog or cat that has been vaccinated once against rabies has a less than one in eight million chance of contracting the virus if exposed. By contrast, you have a better than one in 600,000 chance of being struck by lightning if you stand in a thunderstorm.
No medical necessity
Yet the practice of re-vaccination at one or three-year intervals persists. This is purely on the basis of precedent, not science.
According to a landmark report on dogs and cat vaccines published in 2002 by the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA), there is no scientific basis for annual revaccination. Re-administering rabies vaccine does not enhance disease resistance and may expose animals to unnecessary risk.
So why do these outdated rabies laws exist? And why is no allowance made for family pets that are especially vulnerable to adverse reactions - the pregnant, aged, ailing, allergic animals in the care of licensed veterinarians?
Read our website to know before you go the danger of rabies vaccine to dogs and cats.
Give responsible pet owners a reasonable way to obey the law and protect the health of our companion animals.
Sign the Petition