Rabies vaccination is required by law in nearly all areas. Even though protection from rabies is documented to last at least three years, current law in some states or areas still requires that boosters be given annually or biannually rather than the standard policy of every three years. However, 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
Rabies Exemptions and Waivers
Rabies vaccination is required by law. In some instances, it is possible to secure a written waiver for exemption from rabies booster vaccination. A letter justifying the medical reason for such exemption needs to be obtained from your primary care veterinarian. When seeking a waiver, a rabies serum antibody titer should be performed. Adequate serum rabies titers in the USA are at least 0.1 IU/ml (formerly stated as a 1:5 dilution) by the RFFIT method. The international World Health Organization standard for export or in other countries is 0. 5 IU/ml). Waiver requests are not generally accepted based on serum antibody titers alone, but may be granted on a case-by-case basis with justification. Waivers are not granted as a matter of personal preference or advanced pet age, and localities may not permit waivers and exemptions regardless of the justification.