Most people think of vaccines as safe and protective, but vaccination
is a serious medical procedure with significant risks. The rabies vaccine,
in particular, is notorious when it comes to adverse reactions. Here are
some potentially life-saving tips to help your dog or cat.
Does my dog or cat really need a rabies shot?
The rabies vaccine is the ONLY shot required by law for dogs and cats in the
United States. This is primarily to protect humans from getting rabies from their
The Center for Disease Control declared in 2007 that canine
rabies no longer exists in the United States. Your dog will not contract
rabies from another dog, but only from wild animals such as bats, coyotes,
skunks, raccoons and foxes. However, in most areas, only young puppies,
and dogs with written exemptions from their local Animal Control, are exempt
from getting this shot.
Consequences for not vaccinating against rabies depends on the
Animal Control laws in your area. At the very least, you won't be able
to board your pet, participate in training classes or shows, or use a professional
groomer. Many vets will insist on vaccination before boarding or treating
your pet. If you do not vaccinate your pet, it is possible that if your
dog or cat bites or scratches anyone, or is picked up by Animal Control,
there will surely be a stiff fine and your pet will be impounded and vaccinated,
and in extreme instances possibly euthanized.
When should I vaccinate my pet?
Most localities require vaccination every three years
even though studies in France and blood antibody tests in this country
show that the rabies vaccine's immunity lasts for seven years. Be aware,
that some localities
require annual vaccination even though the "three
year" shot is guaranteed by manufacturers to give immunity for three years.
To make certain you are meeting the requirements in your area, check with
your vet and your local Animal Control Department for complete information
and any special instructions.
The one-year shot is NOT safer than the three-year shot, and
has to be given more often, making it potentially more dangerous because
the health risks to your pet are faced annually rather than every three
years. Puppies are generally required to get their first shot around four
months, then again one year later and thereafter as required by local law. Check
with your vet or Animal Control for details.
Are there any instances when I should NOT vaccinate?
Informed veterinarians generally recommend that you should NOT vaccinate
when the following scenerios exist:
- Puppies younger than 4 months
- A pet that has reacted adversely to a vaccination in the
- A sick pet, especially a dog with cancer or autoimmune
- Before, during or after surgery, chemotherapy or other major medical procedure
- Within 3-4 weeks of other shots
Important: When getting a new dog or cat,
get shot records. Pets from shelters, pet stores and most rescue
groups will have been recently vaccinated, just as animals from
individuals may have been. Don't vaccinate unnecessarily. Find out exactly
which shots your pet has gotten, and when they were administered. Get documentation
What are some of the possible adverse reactions my pet
After a rabies vaccination, your dog or cat may experience
fever, malaise or even life-threatening anaphylactic shock. Non-immediate
reactions can occur days or even months after the actual vaccination (called "vaccinosis")
and can include the following symptoms but are not limited to:
- Aggression or destructive behavior
- Separation anxiety
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors (like chasing tails or licking paws)
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin problems
- Digestive disorders
- Muscle weakness
- Pica (eating inappropriate materials)
- Fibrocarcinomas at the injection site
(particularly in cats)
Inexplicably, few vets warn about these possible adverse effects
or even admit to the possibility even after they occur. If your pet experiences
any of these reactions. ALWAYS REPORT THESE SYMPTOMS TO YOUR VET.
What can I do to protect my pet?
There are things you can do. If your dog is at high risk for
contracting rabies, know that the only way to guarantee immunity to the
rabies virus is with a simple blood test called an antibody titer (pronounced
Tight er). Ask your vet about it.
- Never give the rabies vaccine with other shots -- especially
not with a combination shot (one that vaccinates against several diseases
at once). In fact, don't give combos at all. They are linked to serious
adverse reactions. This is even more important for small dogs whose bodies
can't withstand multiple shots at once.
- If your pet has documented health problems and a low likelihood
of contracting rabies, ask your vet to apply for a rabies vaccination
extension or exemption. A rabies titer test showing immunity may help
your cause. Expect to pay license fees, and to reapply in the next licensing
period. If your current vet won't do this for you, consult another
- If you have to vaccinate, consult a vet trained in
homeopathy. There's a homeopathic "remedy" that
can be given with the shot to lessen the chance of ill effects.
- Report ALL reactions to vaccines to your vet; and make sure
the reactions are recorded in your pet's file. Have the veterinarian
sign the page showing your pet's reactions. Remember to get a copy for your
personal files too. Documentation will be necessary if you ever need
to apply for an exemption, and will be helpful if years from now you need
to remember the details.
- If your dog has any adverse reaction to a shot, but your vet
dismisses your concerns, take matters into your own hands. Contact a
holistic veterinarian, as there are things that can be done to alleviate
even long-standing problems.
- Kennels, groomers, trainers and dog day care facilities may
require proof of rabies, but more and more establishments accept titer
testing. If they require vaccination more frequently than legally required,
educate them or find another establishment. Their lack of knowledge is potentially
hazardous to your pet's health.