Rabies Vaccination for Dogs Part 6


Rabies Vaccination for Dogs – AB 272

Dog Getting Vaccinated


Can a vaccine fail?

 Yes, a vaccine can fail for various reasons:

  • Because of the maternal passive immunity
  • Because it’s a new strain of virus that’s not protected by the vaccine
  • Because the puppy is exposed to the disease before he has finished his vaccines and gotten full immunity
  • Because he has been vaccinated incorrectly by using vaccines that were not stored properly (too hot or too cold), the vaccine has expired,  giving a vaccine nasally when it should have been injected and vice versa, vaccinating a dog with a fever or when he is under anesthetic.
  • Because the vaccine has not been given correctly, for example, if it’s supposed to be given nasally, it was not sprayed into your dog’s nose.  Duh.

How long does a vaccine last?

Different vaccines last different periods of time depending on whether they are killed or modified live.

 Can you determine if a vaccine is working?

Yes, by taking an antibody titer which is a blood test that shows whether there are antibodies for the particular pathogen for which you are testing.  If there are no antibodies, then vaccine needs to be given (again).

Why do we need to vaccinate yearly?

 For most diseases, we don’t.  Annual vaccination was a practice or routine that began in the 1960s because it was less expensive to give vaccines annually than paying for a blood test, a veterinary office exam, and a possible revaccination fee – and it got your dog into the veterinarian’s office for an exam.

Because of Duration of Immunity (DOI) studies, i.e., how long your dog stays immune from the disease, we now know more than we did in the ‘60s.  BUT these DOI studies are very expensive and historically have been generally administered by the vaccine manufacturers.  More on that later.

Many vaccines now last for three years.  Some vaccines, especially bacterial vaccines, have lifetime immunity (When is the last time you got a TB or polio shot?), but some don’t (That’s why it is suggested we get a flu vaccine every year.)  Also, puppies and dogs under eight months old seem to be more susceptible to many of the diseases unless they are poorly cared for or have a genetically compromised immune system.

If your dog develops major signs of infection immediately following vaccination with a live diluted virus vaccine (e.g., he develops full-blown parvovirus) then my suspicion would be that your dog  had either already been exposed to the wild-type virus around the time of vaccination (i.e., before his body had actually built up his immunity) OR that there was some kind of problem with his own immune system making it unable to fight off the ‘mild’ vaccine virus strains. That’s why one of the contraindications (i.e., don’t use it) is the use of live vaccines on dogs whose immune system may be suppressed, including pregnant bitches/fetuses; very sick dogs; dogs on chemotherapy or those on immune suppressant medicines. Infection should not be possible from killed virus vaccines.

What is shedding regarding disease and vaccines?

 Your dog can shed or expel both the disease (if he has contracted it) and the vaccine from his body in one of several ways – by sneezing it out, peeing, or pooping.  Not all dogs shed.  If a dog sheds a vaccine, then the antibodies may have made the shed virus unable to infect.  In order for another dog to be infected, the virus needs to stay alive on a surface, and that dog has to come into contact with it.

How many (percentage?) puppies/dogs have reactions?

 This depends on the definition of “reaction,” and we will talk about that later.

Are vaccine reactions more prevalent in certain breeds?

 The group at the biggest risk for vaccine reactions are small neutered males, less than 11 pounds,  and less than one year old (although another site said 1-3 years old) who receive multiple vaccines in a single visit.

There was a study of vaccine reactions in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association in October, 2005 of 1.2 million dogs receiving 3.5 million vaccine doses. That study found that there were 38 adverse reactions per 10,000 dogs within three days.  The adverse reactions that were reported were allergic reactions, hives, anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest, cardiovascular shock, sudden death, and nonspecific vaccine reactions.

According to one web source whose veracity I could not verify, these figures do not include several other categories, such as those never reported by clients (I personally had a client whose dog passed out after a vaccine, and she never reported it to her vet.), conditions not recognized or not selected for the study, reaction of dogs getting heartworm medication, or going to an emergency vet instead of your regular vet.  And the last reason is that your vet may not want to admit that something he did caused your dog’s reaction, so he does not report it.

That’s the most recent study I could find – and it’s an eight-year-old study based on data that’s ten years old.  How many advances in all areas of science have there been during that ten years?  To put it in perspective, look at the (r)evolution in Smart Phones during that period.

Is there a breed which is most at risk?

 Opinions differ, and it’s not so much the breed as the size.  The one thing everyone agrees on is the dogs that seem to be most at risk are young male neutered dogs weighing less than 11 pounds.

What is a titer?

A titer is a blood test that shows whether a vaccine is still working.

Why don’t we titer our dogs instead of vaccinating them?

 Well, we can.  Each disease needs its own titer (distemper, hepatitis, etc.), and that has previously been very expensive because you would have had to pay for each titer, a vet exam, and, depending on the outcome, a re-vaccination fee.  So it was easier and cheaper to simply vaccinate every year.

There is a new product called VacciCheck which your veterinarian can order to measure the antibodies for

  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper

But you CANNOT titer for rabies.

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Disclaimers – This is a *very* long article (almost 17,000 words) which I have loosely broken up into segments. This is the unedited final draft of the article in its entirety that I wrote in 2013 for a website that is no longer in existence. Not only is the final article no longer available, but I have had computer and Internet issues where some data may have been lost. I have spent several hours trying to piece it together and reformatting.

The article does not reflect current research as of 2018.  However, a good portion of the discussion is still applicable. If there is something that you believe was not true in 2013 or if I have made a mistake in reformatting, please let me know and I will do my best to fix it.

The reason it is posted here is because I was hosting a discussion on DogRead DogRead@yahoogroups.com about my book Doggie Dangers ( Kindle http://tinyurl.com/y8uc4gtc  Paperback http://tinyurl.com/y7vhce9t ), and the subject of rabies vaccines came up when we were talking about wildlife concerns for family dogs. We were discussing how to keep the yard safe from wildlife, but one person mentioned she had a bat fly into her house! Some of the participants requested that I post the article since it is no longer published.

And the final disclaimer – I am a dog trainer, not a veterinarian or medical researcher. Therefore, this article is for information only and not a substitute for any veterinary, medical, or other advice.

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