By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
Like most pet owners I really didn’t think much about getting my 8-year-old pug’s rabies booster shot last month. It didn’t occur to me she could die from it. I don’t think I ever read a story about a dog dying from a rabies shot. That is until now.
I can’t stop reading about the dangers of rabies shots for animals. Fortunately, Millie (photo left), my pug didn’t die, but she sure got sick! A horrid red rash broke out three days after she got her booster shot. She had lumps the size of marbles all over her body.
My wife and I immediately called the vet and took her in. She was given steroids to combat the effects. For weeks afterward Millie was listless and barely reacted to noises that normally would have sent her into a barking jag. She shivered. The look in her big brown eyes was sad. She’s still not up to snuff.
I want to share some of the things I’ve learned out about rabies vaccinations for animals. One of the first things that struck me is that all dogs - from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane - get the same dosage.
Let me put that into perspective; a 3-pound Chihuahua gets half the dose that is given to a 1200 pound horse! All dogs get 1 ml of vaccine and horses get 2 mls of vaccine. Even a layman such as myself can see that doesn’t add up.
According to Veterinarian Jeffrey Levy DVM PCH, that dosage disparity is why small dogs are 10 times more likely to have problems from vaccines. Makes sense to me. Now, if your vet tells you that “dose doesn’t matter” and “there’s nothing in the vaccine that can hurt your dog,” challenge them to take a rabies vaccine at the same dose per pound they give to a Chihuahua.
My guess is they’ll pass on the offer. I read a recent article about vets who had their titer (an antibody titer is a laboratory test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies in blood) levels tested at their 20th vet school reunion. As you may, or may not know, all vets get rabies vaccinations after graduating from school. Guess what? Everyone who had their titer levels tested was still protected.
So why are dogs supposed to get rabies shots every three years? I know I’m no expert, but there’s more than meets the eye here regarding rabies shots. The law requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. That’s for our safety, not for the animal’s.
You should know however, that all vaccines, including rabies, are medically approved for use in healthy animals only. So if your dog or cat is shows any signs of acute or chronic disease, the manufacturers do not recommend administration of the vaccine.
What are the rabies laws (http://www.dogs4dogs.com/rabies-laws) in your state or locality? Check to see if your state offers medical exemptions to the rabies vaccine for health compromised animals. Personally, I’m going to make sure Millie never gets another booster.
To that effect I found this Petition for Health Exemptions to Rabies Vaccination (http://www.change.org/petitions/california-take-action-to-help-dogs-too-ill-to-receive-the-rabies-vaccine).
If you’re interested in improving your dog's chances for a safe vaccination go to :http://www.dogs4dogs.com/blog/2010/09/23/rabies-vaccination-12-ways-to-vaccinate-more-safely/ .
Here’s a video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pQHQw-5XCw with more good information on the subject. There is a growing awareness of the dangers of rabies shots and titers are increasingly used to demonstrate effective immunity and avoid unnecessary revaccination.
One last resource I want to mention is The Rabies Challenge Fund (www.RabiesChallengeFund.org) which is financing concurrent 5 and 7 year studies at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine in Madison, with a goal of extending the state-mandated interval for boosters.
It’s one of the most important vaccine research studies in veterinary medicine today and it may save the lives of countless cats and dogs in the future.
As It Stands, I don’t want pet owners to be surprised if their dog or cat has a negative reaction, or dies, from a rabies shot - it’s one of those laws that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.