Rabies inoculations for dogs - a challenge

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 2/12/12
By: Gail T. Fisher


My grandmother, who died in 1979 at the age of 98, was born in 1881 in Zglobnia, Galicia-Austria (now Poland). In 1962, when she was 80, she wrote her autobiography. It’s a wonderful view of what it was like to live through, as she wrote “the end of an era, the beginning of a new one: electricity, the telephone, gas replacing oil, coal and wood burning stoves, stationary tin bathtubs in tenements (America), water in sinks instead of one pump on each floor for the tenants, and of course toilets instead of the “backhouses” in the yard, one “locker” to each floor.

The picture my grandmother painted of her early years in Europe was an idyllic one, with glimpses of the reality of the era: “It was a quiet, pastoral sort of village; white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, flowers in little gardens in front, sending forth their fragrance into the air. Fences were really pretty, made of willow withes woven like basket work. Very few houses had wooden floors, just packed down earth, easy to sweep never got muddy.”

She wrote about an incident that transported me to a time when a bite from a rabid animal was a certain death warrant: “There was a natural pool hollowed out in the brook not far from our house, and we would go there to bathe, as is. Once, returning from our private bathing resort, a big Dalmatian, foaming at the mouth, came running towards us. We ran for dear life, but I stumbled and fell prone. The dog ran right over me, and bit the last little girl in the running group – a fatal accident.”

I envisioned this poor little girl with her distraught family watching helplessly as she succumbed to this horrible disease. Even more so, I realized that, but for my six-year-old grandmother tripping and falling, I wouldn’t be writing this today.

Rabies is still one of, if not the most frightening of the zoonotic illnesses (transmissible from animals to humans). That’s why virtually every State has a law requiring rabies vaccination, ranging from annual to tri-annual requirements. Have you ever wondered why vaccinations have to be repeated every three years? Most likely you think it’s because their effectiveness must diminish over time. The fact is, rabies vaccines are required every three years because a three-year study demonstrated that vaccines were effective in providing immunity for three years—and the study ended. Since no one has yet demonstrated immunity beyond 36 months, our dogs must get rabies boosters every three years.
There is a movement to fund a longer study to demonstrate a five- or even a seven-year duration. The reason for the study, to quote from the Rabies Challenge Fund website is that “vaccination against rabies virus is occasionally associated with debilitating adverse effects. According to the CDC domestic animals account for less than 10% of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle, and dogs most often reported rabid. Scientific data indicate that vaccinating dogs against rabies every three years, as most states require, is unnecessary.
Studies have shown the duration of protective immunity as measured by serum antibody titers against rabies virus to persist for seven years post-vaccination. By validating the 'true' life of rabies virus immunity and moving to five and hopefully seven years, we will decrease the risk of adverse reactions in our animals and minimize their repeated exposure to foreign substances. Killed vaccines like those for rabies virus can trigger both immediate and delayed adverse vaccine reactions (termed "vaccinosis"). While there may be immediate hypersensitivity reactions, other acute events tend to occur 24-72 hours afterwards, or up to 45 days later in the case of delayed reactions.
Reactions that have been documented include:
Behavior changes such as aggression and separation anxiety
Obsessive behavior, self-mutilation, tail chewing
Pica - eating wood, stones, earth, stool
Destructive behavior, shredding bedding
Seizures, epilepsy
Fibrosarcomas at injection site
Autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and central nervous system
Muscular weakness and or atrophy
Chronic digestive problems”
It would be wonderful if our dogs did not have to receive this inoculation every three years. For more information, or to donate to the Rabies Challenge Fund, visit their website.
Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2012. All rights reserved. http://www.alldogsgym.com For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.