Life and Death and Out of Date Rabies
Rabies Laws Changed? No.
There was a rapidly written, poorly thought out article on supposed “big news” this week. To whit:
There have been recent changes in the rabies laws that could mean the difference between life and death for your dog.”
Oh, really? I didn’t read it this way. What laws have changed, specifically? Is this fact or hyperbole?
What Really Happened This Week
You may have read some exciting rabies news back in early 2015 about Kansas State’s research data on “out of date” rabies vaccinated animals. These were dogs and cats who had been exposed to wild rabies and were brought to vets with fears that their animals might be goners.
These “out of date” dogs and cats showed titer levels lower than what’s considered “protective,” meaning their rabies antibody levels had fallen below 0.5.
Oh oh. Does “not protective” mean they were doomed to get rabies from that rabid raccoon they scuffled with?
It turns out, no. They were given booster rabies vaccines and BOOM, they made huge jumps to “protective” titer status in short order. In fact, as I pointed out earlier, they actually did better than those who were “up to date” on their rabies vaccinations!
Well, these data were noticed by the right peeps, luckily for you and your dogs, cats, and ferrets (the main species who can transmit rabies to other animals or humans, if they get it themselves. It takes a biting carnivore to get this done well).
Those officials who noticed, authored a new version of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control. They are the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, or NASPHV for short. And that lengthy compendium document is often referred to by jurisdictions who have say over when your animal must be rabies vaccinated, what happens to her if she bites someone, or if she’s bitten by a rabid animal.
That governing body could be your state, your county, or even your township, to use U.S. parlance.
In this brand spanking new 2016 Compendium recently released, a few things were updated. Based on that cool K State data, the new recommendation by the NASPHV gives a more logical option if your pet was bitten by a known rabid animal. And was “out of date” on her rabies vaccines, according to the vaccine label and/or your governing body.
Here’s that new option:
Your out of date rabies-bitten animal can now receive a booster rabies vaccination (just another dose of the usual vaccine) and a home observation period. Instead of isolation in quarantine or euthanasia.
If you pet was unvaccinated for rabies when the rabid skunk bit her, she will need to go into quarantine. But her sentence has been reduced from six months to four.
Putting This Into Perspective
Let’s look at a version comparison to get a better sense of what that means to you. Remember, this centers around your animal getting a bite from a known rabid animal. This isn’t your animal biting a person. Significantly different scenario there.
Here’s the old version (2011) vs the new version (2016) for a couple of classes of “bitees:”
Abbrev: O = owner; R = rabies
The good news is that the new Compendium recommends treating your “out of date” rabies exposed dog or cat just like those who were “up to date” on their vaccinations: giving an immediate booster vaccination and home observation for 45 days.
In the 2011 Compendium, it was either euthanasia or a six month vet clinic quarantine, at a likely cost of thousands of dollars.
Is that “life or death” news, as the headline screamed?
Nope. It’s just better news if your animals have been exposed to a rabid animal. And that’s a pretty rare event. And, you always had the right to choose quarantine over euthanasia. Now, it’s a couple months shorter.
Did Any Laws Change, Then?
Nope again. This Compendium is merely a guideline. A collection of “best practices” around rabies control. Your governing jurisdiction can choose to follow it or not. It has no legal status what so ever.
But, there was a fine quote that came out of the Kansas State research that is of value to you. I’d suggest you own this understanding deeply, and even keep it in your files next to your rabies vaccination slip and your copy of the Compendium 2016. When you do, your case will be that much stronger to help you stand up to Dr. WhiteCoat when he insists your animal needs another rabies shot STAT!
It’s from Dr. Michael C. Moore, lead author of the study on out-of-date rabies vaccination status at K State. Here’s what he said, in relation to his discovery that “out of date” animals respond even better than “up to date” animals:
When it comes to vaccinating either people or animals, they don’t just all of a sudden on a predetermined date have zero protection (emphasis mine) or loss of priming.”
So, you know that immunity your animal got from that early (over 4 months of age) vaccination? It lasts a long time, as we’ve known now for decades. This is further confirmation for you that, just because the vaccine label said “1 year” or “3 year” rabies, that has no basis in the reality of DOI (duration of immunity).
Odds are, that early immunity lasts a lifetime, say the immunologists.
Those labels came about because, well, that’s how long the manufacturer ran their study. A year for one lot of rabies vaccine. Three years for another (likely identical) lot of rabies vaccine.
Should that label rule your life?
Not if you’re smart.
You May Be the Smartest Person in the Room
An important consideration for you is this. If you’re in a jam with animal control because your animal was either bitten by a rabid animal or bit a person, if you understand what the NASPHV is recommending, you are likely to know more than animal control does.
I’d suggest you keep a copy of the new Compendium printed out in your files. Highlight those areas that say, “If the owner is unwilling to have the animal euthanized…” and “Management of animals that bite humans.”
To make it easy, I’ve done just that for you. You can pick up your highlighted copy on your Member Home page. If you’re not presently a Vital Animal Pack member, you can easily become one, free of charge, to download your free copy. You’ll see a place to register on Member Home, if you haven’t already.
Being Bitten vs Biting: Different Consequences
These are two very different scenarios to be aware of:
- Your animal was bitten by a known rabid animal
- Your animal bit a person
The former has a longer observation or quarantine period because it can take weeks to months to contract rabies from a bite wound. It’s also far more rare than #2.
The latter has a maximum quarantine (sometimes allowed at home) of 10 days.
Why? Well, if your animal bit someone, because she actually had rabies, her condition will deteriorate within 10 days. Rabid animals get crazy and bite as they get close to dying.
Most times, animals bite not because they have rabies. They have poor manners (like Buddy, my patient who ended up in quarantine). They were biting out of fear. They were vaccinated against rabies multiple times in their life, as were their parents and grandparents, and now they are edgy. Quarrelsome. Even vicious.
Let’s Stop the Fear
I really want to put this knee jerk fear of “They’ll chop off your animal’s head if he’s not current on his shots!” to rest. It certainly doesn’t have to be this way. Let us know in the comments if you’ve been through either bite scenario and what the outcome was.
Recently moved from ny to pa and arranged to have my two cats to see one of the only two vets that are near me. Based on recommendations from some of the locals I have met, I went to the one best recommended by everyone. One cat is 16 and has had malignant mammory tumor surgery in the past year and may have to undergo another procedure for the same issue. The other cat (a male) who is 10 is healthy other than a watch-see approach for UTI. I add additional water to his organic chicken diet to keep his kidneys flushed in order to maintain a normal ph and prevent any crystals. Well, upon their initial checkup, I was informed that in the state of pa rabies vaccines are mandatory even if the cats are strictly indoor cats. Due to the wildlife ( I moved to the rural countryside) she pointed out that if a rabid bat gets into the house and bites, my cats lives would be compromised. We would not have to vaccinate the senior cat because she is already with health issues, but the male cat would have to be vacinnated. Asking what the ramifications would be if I didn’t vaccinate, she said by law she would not be allowed to continue his health protocol. I am a very hands on pet owner, have been involved in TNR and both my cats were fully vacinated as kittens. In ny my vets respected my decisions. My cats are 100% indoor kitties. I know there are some herbals that I can administer and wanted your opinion as to which ones and when if I have to vacinate the male. Or should I just forego his wellness visits….ugh! Thank you for your wonderful insiteful newsletters. I read them immediately when they arrive…
So, this is a vet problem, not your problem. Is she suggesting the male’s on again/off again UTI’s are healthy? Normal? Or, suggesting that immunity from earlier vaccines wouldn’t protect against that stray bat (that might be rabid, that might get in, that might bite your cat — gotta eye roll everytime I hear this story)?
I’d fire her and find someone more aware and understanding that neither of your cats A. needs more rabies vaccine (they are already immune), and B. would be benefitted more than harmed by yet another. I’d use the word “sympathetic” here for the next vet, but ultimately, the word is “aware.” None of this is about law enforcement. It’s about the ultimate health of your charges.
Shame on her for putting on the deputy dawg badge, thinking upholding a flaky law beats upholding her veterinarian’s oath to protect her patients.
Next applicant, please?
I am hoping to get some advice about a stray male cat that I have been feeding for a few months now. I have 2 cats that are indoor / outdoor & have concerns to protect all involved in the best way possible. There is a trap & release program that will take care of neutering the stray cat, Bob, & I feel it may be good to get a rabies vaccine since he is so exposed & is also around my other 2 cats. I have taught him to use my kitty doors to come in & get food & water, but he still stays wherever he stays aside from his brief visits.
I am not sure that I can get him in without going this route….but do not want to cause more harm than good either.
Any suggestions are much appreciated.
This is copy & paste of what the program entails……
During surgery, each cat will have their ear clipped. This is mandatory and a universal TNR sign that identifies the cat as a sterile feline. Additionally each cat will receive:
· Ivermectin injection (for worms & mites)
· Rabies vaccination
· FVRCP vaccination
· Penicillin injection
· Time-released pain med injection
· Flea Prevention
Oh my goodness thank you for this valuable information…I have been doing titers for years and always afraid of what might happen if my dog bit someone.
Thank you thank you thank you!
Glad it was of value, Lauri. Just be sure you don’t make the biggest mistake that titers can lead people to. And, as a bonus, save money while you’re at it!
So I just had my first scare.. I found something on my dog’s stub/tail. It is hard to see because of all the hair but it wasn’t on the bone and felt fatty. Called my new vet who is pretty great and understands me not wanting to vaccinate for rabies again so doesn’t say anything. They could not see me today because I noticed it and called them too late. They are closed tomorrow and I have work and other commitments I can’t get out of Friday. They are closed this weekend too so they can’t see me for a week. I called my old vet Dr Whitecoat (mistake?) to see if they could just look at it and tell me what they think, because in the last 2 weeks, one of my friends dogs died from cancer and also my neighbors dog has a few weeks to live because they found a tumor, they took a wait and see approach, it spread and now it’s too late. So I wanted to get this thing looked at asap and not wait a week. So when I got there, the first thing out of the vets mouth was they noticed that she is out of date for rabies and would need proof from the new vet, they offered to call the new vet but I said no, I didn’t want to disclose what new vet I am using, and I would bring them paperwork later (lie). They wanted to give her a booster shot right there and I said no she is not getting one and that I just vaccinated her (lie). The vet ended up giving up and looked at her tumor anyway which she said she wasn’t concerned about and felt fatty. But I had said to them it was no big deal if they couldn’t look at it and I would leave and gladly pay them for whatever time they gave me. Honestly going there felt like a huge mistake and now I feel like they are suspicious and are going to call AC to come check and get verification that she is up to date. My plan is take her to daycare for a couple days so she’s out of the house. I’m very lucky that my daycare (where I also work part time) only believes in 1 rabies shot for life and they accept a Titer from me but only me, no other dog. Other daycares won’t do that.
Hello again, I left questions above on March 8th. no comments were made.
Due to a miller a few show people were trying to put out of business, she sent A.C. after me ” concerned about the number of dogs I have ( 4 !!) and that I dont do rabies.!!”. All the AC was concerned about was having rabies done and licensing them with town. In 10 years I have never licensed due to be totally no-vax. I had paperwork to cover them until this June, and licensed in the fall to cover my butt. I had my 2 older dogs titered last month — the bitch is 9 y.o. and before I got her at 6 months she was vaxed with EVERYTHING at 4 months. She has always had constant allergy problems, the yeasty ear battle never stops. Her titer came back (thru hemopet/ KSU) at .2 — titered good. My 10 y.o. male who has never had any vax (reactions in his breeder’s kennel and in Canada they didnt require rabies anyway). I always thought he would pick up natural immunity thru exposed to all the vaxed dogs we come across at shows. his titer came back basically “0” ! Now, I am NOT giving this old man a needle. Can nosodes boost him enough to titer clear in 6 months or so???? If so, how do I dose him. I also have their 2 kids — 4 y.o, and NEVER vaxed……. I do not want to titer them now because of dad’s O rating. so hopefully the nosodes can help??? HELP !!!!!
Really enjoying this post. Just wanted to comment in regards to titers. I really wish they were more affordable for pets. I would so prefer that over vaccinations with a fixed income I can’t so I just keep all my pets inside. (lost my dog last year) But also we, as humans, should also be getting titers done. I’m going into the nursing field and learned that my mmr was not protecting me any longer. So protect yourself along with your pets, vaccinations don’t last forever. Just fyi.
I recently taught an entire online course re: titers (and nosodes and tautodes). It’ll come out again some months from now.
A key understanding that’s important to glean, and that I emphasized in the course, is that there’s no logical need to repeat titers throughout life. A drop in titer ≠ a drop in immunity. You can learn more about that on this page and others on my site, if you use the search box and “titers.”
I hope you haven’t already gotten another MMR before this reaches you.
Thanks for stopping by.
Hi, First of all — I have show dogs that are totally raw fed, always use herbal, homeopathic and holistic remedies , only see a vet if someone is injured or lame and doesnt improve with rest and natural meds, then it’s pretty mich over to our vet who does accupuncture and chiro work. #1. Question on nosodes — are they widely accepted by the “vet. community” as a safer vaccine? I totally believe in naturally immunity and my dogs are always exposed to a wide range of dogs from across the country at my local shows. My foundation dog and bitch did come down with the “dog flu” about 7 yrs ago (?) when it first appeared, treated at home, and never have been sick since, nor their offspring I have. and I do not touch them with anything else. #2. – has there ever been any kind of reactions from the rabies nosodes? I would rather use these as proof of “vaccination” instead of injection, due to previously serious reactions in the past. and #3 — while I recall previously reading something you wrote suggesting actual vaccine injections at 4 mo (?) then a year, and nosodes thereafter, WHY cannot the nosodes offer the same “so-called” protection boosting immunity??? Can you post a link to that suggestion again?? Thanks !!
A friend’s vet (in Comal County, Texas) told her that she needed to have her dogs vaccinated for rabies YEARY bc of the large bat population. I told her that he just wanted to make a buck. What do you think?
You are calling it correctly. Yearly vaccines 1. fail to stimulate more immunity, and 2. are risky to health.
Fear sells. Luckily, you’re learning to see around that. Good for you!
Dr. Faulconer, I believe the one thing we can all agree on is that is that we do not have all the answers, especially where immunity is concerned. Specialists can only make educated observations based on the results of tests and studies; yet at the end of the day still do not know the full workings of immunity. I believe so many variables affect immunity, i.e. breed, immune system, diet. Wonder if that was taken into account in the challenge? But when it comes to vaccines, we do know with absolute surety that they are dangerous to the health of the dog (as to people). My course of action is to be diligent – about where my dogs roam, not vaccinating annually, titering smartly, and certainly not allowing strangers to haphazardly approach my dogs when out. Education on this topic is also of the utmost importance to me which is why I am taking your nosodes, tautodes and titers seminar right now. Ultimately, it is the health of my dogs that concerns me, not whether my vet is able to pay her rent. Thank you for this article. I am so relieved and hopeful by the results of the KS “out of date” research. It shows that even with my best efforts, if one of my dogs is bitten by a rabid animal, it is not a death sentence. Best to you!
Thanks Kelly. I think you’re on the right track. Fear will send people in wrong directions, and I’m not sure the final word is in on the rabies challenge study. Nor is it, as you say, fully known what the immune system is capable of.
I do know this: unless you are living in a third world country, the incidence of rabies is extremely low. You can track it, in fact, via either your local state’s health department or the CDC or both. It’s a reportable disease.
So, to revaccinate an already immune animal is likely a terrible waste of time and a risk to health.
One thing you know, if you’ve gotten to Module 4 is that titers don’t tell the whole story. Any immunologist will agree, and that’s what the K State study showed.
Also, it might be significant to know what the test animals were “exposed” to: it wasn’t just a scuffle with a wild rabid animal. Not by a long shot.
So, what about the results of the most recent Rabies Challenge Fund results? While many of us had wished for the results we wanted– that rabies vaccinations lasted for a long time, possibly for life– the studies showed they DON’T. While 80% of the 5 years post vaccination dogs lived after the challenge (and 20% did not- they got rabies), 80% of the 7 year dogs became AFFECTED WITH RABIES post-challenge! So, who is willing to let your dog be the 1 in 5 dogs who will die from rabies once they are 5 years out from their last vaccination… Or the 4 in 5 who will die when exposed 7 years out from vaccination? While many people let their dogs go a few months, a year “overdue”, with the knowledge we now have- given to us by the leading veterinary immunologists who WANTED to see the span between rabies vaccination to be increased- how wise is it to both break the law and risk your dog’s life (and possibly your own)? While I don’t vaccinate past puppyhood, and only enough then until they pass a titer test (and continue them periodically to ensure immunity), I won’t be skipping my dogs’ rabies vaccinations now that we know they don’t last as long as we anticipated. What really frightens me is that 1 in 5 of those 5 year post vaccination dogs DID become rabid post exposure; coupled with that these “rescues” are seeing it fit to bring in dogs from out of the country (meanwhile crying overpopulation here and that breeders are bad) with 1) unknown vaccination status, or 2) forged vaccination papers, who are being placed into homes with NO quarantine periods and becoming rabid in those homes…. Nah, I’ll just not risk the life of my animal companions and my service dog who gives me my freedom to live. I owe them that much in return!
But Jen, what about the dogs who do show excellent titre returns every year? I recently had a dog die from an aneurysm (and many other problems from vaccinations) who titered for 8 years after his initial vaccination protocol, and would have again. We titered every year because my other dog who preceded him died from complications due to the Rabies vaccination later in life. There is no middle ground, is there?
I think you need to check the results again. There were two studies run – with two different vaccines: one for 5 years, the other for 7. Both came out with VERY long-lived immunity. Titering is the key and need not be expensive as K State has just two years or so ago, come out with a cheaper, faster Rabies titer. I frankly have no fears in waiting several years between titers as that is what the science is showing. These animals have VERY long-lived immunity. 7 years DOI with one of the vaccines; 5 for the other. If one titers every three years, that’s sufficient and perhaps not even necessary. Laws are being challenged as we speak and the data is VERY promising. Not sure what you saw that you thought the results were not promising, but according to the RC Study folks, the opposite is the case. (BTW, a study done in 2015 resulted in changes to the Compendium which virtually every state follows: study showed that dogs NOT UTD produced ANTIBODIES much FASTER and produced MORE of them than those dogs who were. So much for the scare tactics…..)
Hey Doc! I’m an 8 1/2 yr old terrier due for his rabies vaccine this may.
my old man & old lady have finally wised up to this poop, and wanna skip . I got allergies, and live in your neck of the woods. Can I be exempted from Dr. Whitecoats needle? I’m an inside dog, always on a comfy short leash outside. What are the laws around here in Austin / Cedar park?
Good boy, Miles. Now sit and listen up.
Most of my patients, and their owners, like your smart folks, quietly drop out of the vaccine circus. They stop licensing. They know their animals (like you) are immune, likely for the rest of their lives.
I know that was the case for many years in the Austin area. Is it still? Best policy: don’t ask, don’t tell. The less you interact with the circus, the happier you’ll be.
Now get out there and be a terrier!
Yes but is it really so easy? Sometimes the dog needs to see the vet for medical treatment. If they haven’t been vaccinated, or updated, that will come up for sure. You can’t board a dog not current on vaccinations. So what, you can’t go to Peoria for grandma’s funeral?
And can titers be tested in lieu of rabies boosters, in Texas? Is that acceptable to the state, seeing as how it’s scientific and all? Also, Is rabies still the only mandatory vaccine?
Kate, I’m one of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” people. Fortunately, my dogs do not have to go to the vet – I am VERY careful regarding their food, treats, toys, environment, etc. This could all change in the beat of a heart, I realize. I do not board for many reasons, mainly b/c it would be hard on my dogs. I have family or a friend come by to feed and walk them. I in turn, reciprocate for them. My vet is totally on board with my decision to titer and not vaccinate. Her words regarding the rabies, “in Texas, a titer will not suffice legally if the dog were to bite someone”. It is the only required vaccine. But according to Dr. F’s article above, if you know your rights, it is not an unbearable situation. I also do not allow strange people to willy-nilly approach my dogs. I hope I am a responsible dog mama in all regards.
We just returned from the closest Holistic veterinarian we could find near Denton, Tx. Our puppy is an Affenpinscher and is18 weeks old and has never had any vaccinations by request. Today our Vet did an exam and did a titre test for Parvo and Distemper. We want to see where he is at in immunity after some neighbors yards and sidewalks of frequent dogs to see if he has developed any. He will need to have a Rabies shot before we leave to Europe in June…we did not want to do this to him, but we have no choice. I read some of your material about homeopathic medicines to give before and after. I also want to ask you about Microchips—He just had one implanted—we are required to have this also, and I am concerned that we should be giving him something —maybe the Transfer Factor for the dog? How much possibility does he have of getting cancer and then having a Rabies shot when he is 6/12 months old ? Should we do nosodes for the Parvo and Distemper if he has a good immunity? And if not? We are worried parents in need of your important advice.
If you find titers for parvo/dist, nosodes wouldn’t be necessary. Rare exception: if either disease was in high numbers near enough to you to expose this dog.
Yes, you can give a homeopathic tautode “buffer” as Chris Day calls it, either side of a rabies shot.
I have yet to see cancer around an implant, but I suppose it’s possible. Low risk, compared to vaccination’s risk, in my book.
I am also curious about the homeopathic remedy Lyssin before the vaccination..is this the nosode or is this something different…and does it work any differently than the nosode? Thank you so much for your replies!
One of my dogs is coming up on expiration this year, and I’m leaning towards not updating (I know that she doesn’t need it, and for several reasons it is a real risk to her physically and mentally, the only thing that is keeping me indecisive is the law). I have until September, but this has been stressing me out for months. I’m not at all worried about her biting a person, but she is a risk for biting another dog. In fact, I’m almost positive the RV is why she is so reactive to her own species (among other things). If it weren’t for her risk of biting another dog, I wouldn’t be concerned about any liability where the laws are concerned and I wouldn’t have any issue with not vaccinating. Would the same rules apply as with biting a person?
Liability and rabies in- or out of date are two different things. If she bites and wounds a dog and that dog gets treatment, you could be liable to pay the bills.
I *think* it’s possible animal control could step in and set a 10 day observation period, hopefully at home, but not always. More commonly, that happens when a person is bitten.
One reader recently learned the fine for not “keeping current” where she lived was $35! That’d be a whole lot less expensive than treating chronic disease, especially if she ended up with IMHA. Besides cost, that can be fatal in up to 50% of the ones who get it.
Two years ago…I had two of my dogs get into a fight in my backyard. A neighbor I had never met heard me yelling and “came to help.” She picked up a stick and went at a dog that was not involved in the dog fight. She said she did it to distract him….he bit her on the ankle. She sued me. My dog had just been vaccinated two weeks prior and he still had to be quarantined by the county for 10 days. BS all the way around.
Oh, my! Absolutely crazy!! I hope she didn’t win any judgement against you.
Thus is not what you asked for but…This is a step in the right direction BUT! If these are the findings then make it a manditory change across the board that all must comply with. Not left up to governing bodies or vets to accept or not. One step at a time right?
All discussion on this is fine, Darci, no worries.
Agreed, uniformity is sorely lacking. I’ve now heard of several back water counties that demand annual rabies shots (!). And a few enlightened ones that recognize titers in place of more vaccines!
Opposite ends of the spectrum, depending on where you live. Same with enforcement. Some Calif folks have animal control going door to door to get compliance, others are too busy with other things and people can quietly drop out of the repeated vaccination circus.
And, perhaps most concerning: what about the AC folks who don’t have a clear understanding that euthanasia can be refused?
I moved to California from Hawaii 10 months ago where rabies vaccination is not required.
I had taken her off all poisens and was trying to clean her blood of toxins.
I find I can not even have her nails clipped without rabies vaccination.
Do you recommend a rabies shot, or is there any homeopathic version?
Pat/owner of Bullet (Boxer Staffie mix)
California is terrible for animal control knocking on your door. I’d avoid it if you can. Keep an eye on stats on rabies cases via health dept website or CDC. If none, I’d just keep your animal in your control and learn to trim nails. One nail a day often works.
I have two new very energetic puppies (raw fed) and am planning on getting their rabies vaccinations at 6 mo of age. I’m hoping that what I remember and read that this is not too early or late and would actually like to push the date of vac out later into the future. Am I correct?
You are thinking clearly, yes. Just do a quick check on your county’s health stats to be sure there have been no rabies cases recently.