9 facts about rabies vaccinations for pets
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
The earliest rabies vaccine was given to dogs in 1885, and by the 1940s, routine rabies vaccination of owned dogs against the fatal virus gradually led to elimination of the canine rabies strain in the United States and Canada by 2008.
Today, rabies in humans is rarely seen in the U.S. and Canada and is primarily transmitted by wild animals. Elsewhere in the world, some 59,000 people die annually from rabies, most frequently transmitted by dog bites.
Getting pets vaccinated for rabies (and other deadly diseases) might seem like a no-brainer, but a study published last month in the journal Vaccine found that of 2,200 people who participated in an online survey, a large minority of dog owners consider vaccines administered to dogs to be unsafe (37%), ineffective (22%) or unnecessary (30%). A slight majority (53%) of dog owners agree with at least one of these positions. Their beliefs have a name: canine vaccine hesitancy, or CVH.
Vaccine hesitancy risks pet lives, especially when it comes to deadly diseases such as rabies, distemper and parvovirus. No vaccine -- human or animal -- offers 100% protection against disease, but vaccinations greatly reduce the risk of disease and improve the chances of survival. With World Rabies Day coming up on Sept. 28, we thought we’d explore the must-know issues related to rabies vaccination.
Rabies vaccination law varies from state to state. Most states mandate rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats and ferrets. In New Jersey, only dogs are required to be vaccinated for rabies, but vaccinations are strongly recommended for cats and ferrets. Kansas, Minnesota and Ohio are the only states that leave rabies law to the discretion of cities and counties.
Not all states mandate rabies vaccination for cats, but all cats, including indoor-only pets, benefit from rabies vaccination. Cats can slip out open doors, and it’s not unusual for bats to fly in through open windows (ask me how I know this).
Hybrid animals, such as dog-wolf crosses or domestic cat-serval crosses, can be vaccinated, but most states don’t recognize them as such. If they’re exposed to a rabid animal or they bite a person, they can be subject to euthanasia rather than home quarantine, which can be 10 days or longer.
Whether for a domestic or hybrid animal, the definition of “exposure” is determined by each state’s public health authority.
Unvaccinated domestic animals exposed to rabies typically must undergo a strict four- to six-month quarantine and vaccination within 96 hours of exposure. The cost of that long quarantine period can be several thousand dollars.
In most cases, euthanasia and testing are not required if an unvaccinated pet bites a person. Typically, exposed animals are subject to home quarantine for a specific period with revaccination on release. However, a person who is bitten by an unvaccinated pet can demand that the animal be euthanized and the brain tested immediately. No blood test or other diagnostic can determine if an animal has rabies.
No states recognize age or health conditions as reasons to discontinue rabies vaccinations. Nor do they recognize rabies titers as proof of vaccination. The only time a rabies titer is required is when a pet will be traveling overseas.
Rabies vaccines can be given annually or triennially (every three years). Generally, the only difference between the one-year and three-year rabies vaccines is how they are labeled. But if a pet is given a rabies vaccine labeled for one year, you can’t argue that you should be allowed to wait three years to revaccinate.
Animals are not considered vaccinated until 28 days after the initial inoculation, but once they receive rabies booster shots, they are considered immunized immediately.
Find more information on your state’s rabies laws at rabiesaware.org.
Real talk on
Q: My kid really, really wants a dog, but my husband has allergies. He says we could get a hypoallergenic breed. Do they exist?
A: One of my pet peeves as a veterinarian is that certain breeds and cross-breeds are described as “hypoallergenic,” meaning they don’t cause allergic reactions. While some dog breeds and crosses (cats, too) may cause less severe reactions, it all depends on the sensitivity of the individual person and the level of allergens produced by the individual animal. Here’s what to know.
Poodles and other curly coated dogs, including doodles, are often said to be hypoallergenic because their coats have a long growth cycle, which means it takes longer for dead hairs to drop off and form dust bunnies in your living room. But it’s not hair that causes allergies, no matter what kind of dog or cat we’re discussing. Whether they’re furry or hairless, wirehaired or single-coated, all dogs and cats produce dander (dead skin cells), saliva and urine, all of which carry allergens.
Some animals produce more allergens than others, which is why people so often say that they’re not allergic to their own dog but they have reactions to the neighbor’s dog. And it may be that so-called hypoallergenic breeds are groomed frequently, so dander is removed on a regular basis. But licking can still set off a reaction because of the allergens in saliva.
Reputable dog and cat breeders, as well as shelters and rescues, never claim that their animals are hypoallergenic and often won’t sell to families if one person has an allergy. If someone tries to sell you a hypoallergenic pet, they’re simply making a money grab.
Now for the good news. If your husband’s allergies are mild, it’s possible to live pretty comfortably with pets. Here are some tips: uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2017/02/27. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
to dog love, lore
-- “Love me, love my dog.” What dog lover hasn’t said that at some point? The saying originated with St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who said it in Latin: “Qui me amat, amet et canem meum.” But the Saint Bernard dog is named for a different cleric, St. Bernard of Menthon, who founded a hospice for travelers in the Great St. Bernard Pass of the Italian Alps. The dogs would go out to help find lost travelers, but it’s a myth that they carried small casks of brandy around their necks. That was a bit of artistic license by Sir Edwin Landseer, in his iconic work “Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler,” painted in 1820. You can see it at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
-- Cat lover Julia Child wrote the following: “We had a cat named Minette Mimosa who came with our first Paris apartment. On our first evening in the apartment, we were having dinner in our Louis XVI dining salon when three mice appeared. We brought in Minette, who caught them and ate all three in three minutes. We both adored her.”
-- Dealing with hairballs -- fur ingested as cats groom themselves, then vomited back up in clumps -- is not the best part of living with a cat, but it can be managed. Adding canned or fresh pureed pumpkin -- not pumpkin pie filling -- is a good way to increase fiber in your cat's diet and help hair work its way through your cat's digestive system. Many cats enjoy a teaspoon of pumpkin daily if it's mixed with something yummy, such as canned food or the water from a can of tuna or clams. Daily brushing can help prevent hairballs as well, by reducing the amount of hair a cat swallows. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.