The Rabies Vaccine for Dogs and Cats: What You Need to Know Now
The Rabies Vaccine Can Be Hazardous to Your Pet's Health
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. My conclusions are the result of extensive research and interviews with countless experts. I have no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. I profit in NO way from your vaccination decisions.
Emergency: What to Do If Your Dog is Having a Reaction to the Rabies Vaccine
If your dog is breathing heavy, his face is swelling and eyes watering, and/or he's throwing up, your dog is having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY! If possible, start for your vet's office, or an emergency facility, and call on the way while some else does the driving.
If your dog develops any health problem after the shot, read the list of common reactions below. It may be an adverse reaction to the rabies shot. Your vet may not recognize it as a reaction and may not want to believe he/she brought on this problem. It's up to you to bring up the subject and investigate.
Note that your vet will likely treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. Homeopathy is your best bet. Call an expert.
Important: Make sure your vet records the reaction in detail in your dog's file and get a copy of the file. Put it in a safe place. When the rabies shot is due again, ask your vet to apply for an exemption. Read our page on vaccinating before you give another shot of any kind.
Sign our Change.org Petition to Eliminate Unnecessary Vaccination
Most of us are giving our pets more vaccines than they really need.
Please read and sign our new petition: Veterinarians: Fully Inform Us Before Vaccinating Our Dogs and Cats Help stop vaccine reactions by giving only the vaccines our pets really need.
Watch Our Informative (and Entertaining) Video - WATCH IT FULL-SIZE by clicking the "Comments" link below the player.
- 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 pets.
- 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. Click here to read the CDC press release.
- In most areas, only young puppies, and dogs with written exemptions from their local Animal Control, are exempt from getting this shot. (More on this later.)
- Consequences for not vaccinating against rabies depend 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. And 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 (or worse).
When Do You Have to Vaccinate?
- 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. Worse yet, whether because of habit, ignorance or greed, some localities require annual vaccination--although the "three year" shot is guaranteed by manufacturers to give immunity for three years.
- The one-year shot is NOT safer than the three-year shot, and has to be given more often, making it potentially more dangerous.
- 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.
Read my new blog post on ELIMINATING UNNECESSARY SHOTS.
When Should You NOT Vaccinate?
Informed veterinarians generally recommend that you should NOT vaccinate:
- Puppies younger than 4 months
- A pet that has reacted adversely to vaccination in the past
- A sick pet, especially a dog with cancer or an autoimmune disease (read this important article on the dangers of vaccinating unhealthy pets)
- 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, too. Pets from shelters, pet stores and most rescue groups will have been recently vaccinated, as may have animals from individuals. Don't vaccinate unnecessarily. Find out exactly which shots your pet got, and when. Get documentation from the vet in question if your pet had a rabies shot.
You have options to vaccinating (discussed below) which you should discuss with your veterinarian.
Disclaimer: Jan Rasmusen is not a veterinarian. The information above is provided for information purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for advice from a qualified health practitioner.
Vaccine Reactions Can Be Devastating
Please watch our 3-minute video telling the poignant stories of dogs and cats with vaccine reactions. It will open your eyes.
After rabies vaccination, your dog may experience fever, malaise or even life-threatening anaphylactic shot. Non-immediate reactions days or even months after vaccination (called "vaccinosis") include, but aren't 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-see below--but also in dogs)
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, REPORT THEM TO YOUR VET. Also know that there are things you can do. (Read on.)
Tell Us About the Rabies Vaccine and Your Dog
Have you noticed that your dog has begun experiencing any of the health or behavior problems mentioned above within several months of receiving a rabies vaccination?
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What Can You Do to Protect Your Pet?
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 vet won't do it, consult another vet.
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. Find a vet at Holistic Vet List. Or try Homeopathy Trained Vets.
***Report ALL reactions to vaccines to your vet; make sure the reactions are recorded in your pet's file. Have the vet sign the page showing reactions. Get a copy! Documentation will be necessary if you ever need to apply for an exemption. Also, years from now, you may forget 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 vet. There are things that can be done to alleviate even long-standing problems. At least, check out the links on this page (below) and do a web search. Surely, others have experienced the same problem and may have solutions.
Kennels, groomers, trainers and doggy 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.
Tell them that only a titer test guarantees immunity and, because canine rabies has been declared non-existent in the US, requiring rabies shots to protect dogs from each another is illogical!
NEVER vaccinate within a week of travel. Your animal may experience a life-threatening shot reaction and may die without immediate medical assistance.
Keep copies of your vaccination records and titer tests in your cars. Keep license tags on your dog's collar or harness. You don't want to have to revaccinate should you need to board your pet unexpectedly or should she bite someone.
Print a list of emergency vet clinics along your route at Pets911.
If you suspect your dog is suffering adverse reactions from a rabies shot, I suggest you consult a holistic (not a traditional) vet. If you treat symptoms without addressing the cause, your dog's health will surely decline. Holistic Vets, particularly those trained in homeopathy, should be able to treat the cause of the vaccinosis.
Do Cats Have Special Needs?
Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM and former Editor-in-Chief of The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal, writes: Ideally, for cats the Merial Purevax recombinant vaccine can be used in place of the older killed vaccines that can cause injection-site tumors. She adds: When vaccines were given between the shoulder blades, these cancers were inoperable because they would grow into the spine, ribcage, and chest. This became such a serious problem that now it is recommended to give the rabies vaccine in the right hind leg so that when a tumor does develop, the whole leg can be amputated and thus the cat's life can be saved.
There are countless websites with out-of-date and misleading information about vaccination for dogs and cats. Many are sponsored by people or companies benefiting from the sale or administering of vaccines. Although I can't guarantee all information on other people's sites, the following are links I personally like.
- My Website and E-newsletter
Learn more about my research, holistic dog care, buying a healthy puppy, anesthesia-free dental care, vaccine damage, Maltese dogs, and much more. Get alerted when I publish another Squidoo page. My free e-newsletter comes out 6 times a year and c
- AAHA 2006 Canine Vaccine Task Force Report
The American Animal Hospital Association Taskforce examined the safety and efficacy of canine vaccines in 2003 and 2006, changing vaccination recommendations for vet schools and organizations throughout the US. Follow this link, then click on the sm
This is another website of mine with even more information about rabies vaccination.
- Dogs Adverse Reactions
This link will take you directly to this site's vaccine problems page. It has other great pages on drugs that can harm your pets.
- Rabies Threat to Humans
Click the Health Care Practitioners or Adult signpost for information about the rabies threat to humans.
- Animal Talk Naturally Podcast
Host Kim Bloomer hosts an info-packed 60 minute interview with rabies vaccine experts Dr. Jean Dodds and Kris L. Christine, founders of the Rabies Challenge Fund. Recorded 7/31/08.
- Vaccine Side Effects Anecdotes
On-line anecdotes about vaccination side effects.
- General Vaccination Information
Find my video Vaccinating Dogs and links to important articles on Vaccine Damage, breeds predisposed to vaccine damage, and more.
- AVMA on Vaccination Site Tumors
This discusses treatment options for tumors in cats caused by vaccines, but much of it also applies to dogs.
- Which Cat Shots to Give
Poke around this website to find important information.
- Follow me (K9Author) on Twitter
Get health alerts and my new articles by following me on Twitter. I only post when I have something important for your dog.
- Vaccinating Unhealthy Pets: Expect Reactions and Failures
Pets that may experience reactions or immunity failures include, but aren't limited to, pets with autoimmune disease … pets undergoing chemo, radiation or surgery (even dental cleaning or neutering) … pets with autoimmune disease, cancer, severe alle
- Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots
Actually IMPROVE your dog's health by eliminating these shots.
- Aimee's Medical Exemption Blog
Pamela Picard's blog arguing for rabies medical exemption in Texas and nationwide for sick and senior pets.
Other Books and DVDs I like on Vaccinating
This book goes deeply into each vaccine's risks. It's for people who want to know all the technical details.
Voted the best DVD of 2008 by the Dog Writers’ Association of America. Catherine O’Driscoll interviews leading vets, including Richard Allport, Michael Fox and Christopher Day, the scientist Gary Smith, and professional dog trainer Keith Dickinson about switching dogs to raw, biologically appropriate food, and saying ‘no’ to unnecessary and potentially harmful vaccines.
Help Change Dangerous and Antiquated Rabies Vaccination Laws
World famous pet vaccination experts Drs. Jean Dodds and Ronald Schultz (Chair of the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) are volunteering their efforts (and the University has waived its usual overhead fee). They're doing five- and seven-year studies to test duration of vaccine protection so that we can vaccinate our animals less frequently. They will also test the safety of the shot's ingredients and establish a much-needed reporting system for adverse shot reactions.
The Challenge Fund has raised money for the first year, but needs to fund future years. Learn more about the vaccine and their work, or donate to this wonderful cause, at Rabies Challenge Fund Note: the term challenge refers to the type of testing. They are NOT challenging the need for the vaccine.
As of the Spring of 2008, Kansas and Wyoming are rethinking their laws. Arkansas is next. If you want to get e-mail alerts about how you can help, click Rabies Alert and ask to be added to the e-mail list.
Disclaimer: Jan Rasmusen is a researcher and author, not a veterinarian. Please consult a knowledgeable health care practitioner for more information or if your dog shows signs of illness.