Rabies Titer Gone? Research: Protection is Not!
New Study Says More Than It Lets On
I stumbled on some very hot news in the research world the other day. Hot, because it affects how you think about rabies vaccinations, a sore spot for many of you. The lead author is Michael Moore, D.V.M, Ph.D. who heads the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
This is the lab that runs rabies titers for probably all of North America, and maybe beyond. If you ask your local vet for a rabies titer (and don’t get a quizzical look, “Titer??”), or you ask Dr. Jean Dodds to do it, this is where your animal’s blood gets sent.
As a quick review, a titer is a measure of the antibodies in the blood. Antibodies can come from exposure to disease (like Ida, my dog patient fighting Lyme) or from vaccinations. I’ve warned about over interpreting the latter results, which could result in revaccinating your animal unnecessarily. It’s important that you understand this, if you want to intelligently avoid vaccinations.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics. Oh, and Revelations.
The study, published this week in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is titled, “Comparison of anamnestic responses to rabies vaccination in dogs and cats with current and out-of-date vaccination status.”
It reveals some interesting facts, buried in scientific jargon and statistical analysis guaranteed to give the average reader a headache. [Anamnestic means immune memory response. Think of it as the booster effect.]
One of those facts ought to be of great interest to you. It corroborates something I’ve said for years, based on a conversation with Dr. Ron Schultz over 20 years ago. It’s the fact that one year rabies vaccines and three year rabies vaccines are identical.
Want to reread that? It’s as true now as it was 20 years ago. No difference between 1-year rabies vaccines and 3-year rabies vaccines.
Here’s what the researchers wrote in their peer-reviewed journal article:
The 2 animals with current vaccination status that were quarantined had been exposed > 1 year (but < 3 years) after receiving a rabies vaccine labeled for 1-year duration. However, the manufacturer confirmed that the 1-year and 3-year formulations of this product were identical…”
Here it is again, in the same article, in a deniability statement that would rival the CIA being questioned about dirty tricks on foreign soil:
One animal that received a 1-year vaccine was excluded from the data analysis because the company that manufactured the vaccine would neither confirm nor deny that their 1-year and 3-year formulations were identical.”
The company in question? Merial, maker of Imrab 3, Imrab 1, and Purevax. And yes, the labels for the first two claim to provide three year duration of immunity and one year duration of immunity respectively.
If you’ve been following along, neither of those claims is likely true. Immunologists tell us the immunity from a virus vaccine is much, much longer in duration. Likely lifelong.
Rabid Skunk Bites Your Dog. Who You Gonna Call?
This research paper studied what happens to your dog or cat if she is bitten by a rabid animal, and given a rabies booster soon after. That’s the standard of care for bitten animals, generally: they are given a booster vaccine with the hopes that they make a rapid enough immune response to prevent them from succumbing to rabies.
You remember the scary stories from 40 years ago? A person is bitten by a skunk. The skunk is tested and found to be rabid. The bitten person gets 14 shots in the abdomen! Ouch!
Well, that doesn’t happen any longer. The shots are given in muscles now, and the number is more like 3 or 4. And those shots? They are antibodies, not vaccines. The goal is to get antibodies into the bitten person to quickly neutralize any rabies virus that came from the bite.
The study set out to learn if there was a significant disadvantage to the animals who were “out of date” on their rabies vaccinations as compared to those considered “up to date.” (Again, if you’ve been following the logic of the long DOI (duration of immunity) that comes from viral vaccination, you know this is a moot point.)
What’s The Protocol for Your Bitten Animal?
(Remember, this has nothing to do with humans being bitten by your dog or cat, this is all about your animal being exposed to a rabid or presumed rabid animal.)
There’s a large tome written about rabies, called the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control. It’s published by rabies scientists and public health veterinarians known collectively as the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, Inc. (NASPHV). This guides the response to an animal or a person exposed to rabies. Remember, rabies is a potentially human disease, so health departments get involved.
The intent of these guidelines is to prevent the spread of rabies in animals and people. Here’s what they say about a pet bitten by a rabid animal.
- Pets with “current” rabies vaccination status that have been exposed to known or suspected rabid animals should immediately get a rabies booster vaccination and be observed for 45 days under the owner’s supervision.
- Animals never vaccinated for rabies who’ve had a similar exposure to a rabid animal are to be either euthanized or quarantined for 6 months in a specialized facility.
- Dogs and cats exposed to rabies who’ve been vaccinated but are deemed “out of date” (according to the labels of their respective vaccines, again 1-year or 3-year) are evaluated on a case by case basis. Considerations include,
- How severe was the exposure?
- How long since the last rabies vaccination?
- How many rabies vaccinations were given in the past?
- How healthy is the exposed animal?
- How much rabies has been reported in the area?
Who Did the Study?
The researchers at the rabies lab measured two groups of animals, a mix of dogs and cats:
1. Current vaccinates
2. Out of date vaccinates
Both groups were defined purely by the manufacturers’ vaccine label. Now, we all know those labels have precisely this much basis in immunology:
0%. Nada. Not a lick.
Who says so? Veterinary immunologists, who make no money selling vaccinations but who study the vaccines and their effects in animals.
That being said, “current” vs “out of date” is real to officials in public health apparently, and those were the two groups of rabies-exposed pets compared in this research.
Both groups were given a booster rabies vaccination and their rabies titers were measured at 5 to 15 days post vaccination. These rabies titers (measures of rabies antibodies in the blood) were then compared to the initial rabies titer taken upon intake.
The Envelope, Please
The findings were actually quite remarkable, even to someone like me who is far from an expert in statistics. The design of the study compared the current vaccinated group with the out of date group by a statistical method called “noninferiority.” In other words, the test was to determine if the out of date group would respond worse or the same as the current group. “Better than” was not in the cards to measure, apparently.
But the out of date group actually responded better than the currently vaccinated group! Animals out of date for a long as 46 months jumped at the chance to make protective antibodies once they were given a booster rabies vaccination. Their rabies titers increased very quickly (that’s the anamnestic or memory response).
NONE of the out of date test animals failed to make a titer far exceeding what the World Health Organization considers a “protective titer” of 0.5 IU/ml.
What Was Learned About “Out of Date” Animals?
Though the intent of the study was not to find anything positive about those out of date animals, these data don’t lie. They did really well!
Most of those out of date rabies exposed animals had protective rabies titers already, before being boosted. Some of them were years out of date, yet antibody at protective levels remained in their blood.
Further, some animals, “out of date” by label regs, came in with no measurable titers. Others tested low, with “non-protective” titers (< 0.5 IU/ml).
Gulp. Your worst fear? You’ve stopped vaccinating, told your vet “No more!” after learning about the long DOI for virus vaccinations (and the potential for harm from giving more), and now you’ve got an animal who’s no longer protected?
No. Far from it.
100% of those getting booster vaccines, regardless of their status, showed protective antibody levels 5-15 days later. Every last one of them.
Some of the more dramatic were a few dogs who had supposedly no protection whose rabies titers jumped to 12 IU/ml, the highest level reported. [Note, the study lumped every animal with a titer of 12 or greater as simply 12. You can bet there were even higher titers.]
Here’s one of the graphs from the study that has some stories to tell.
What You Can Learn from This Study (Even Though Its Intent Was Quite Different!)
This study sought to prove or disprove that animals considered “out of date” on their rabies vaccinations were inferior in protection capability to a live rabies challenge. I suspect the researchers were quite surprised at just how well the out of date dogs and cats did.
Quoting the paper,
Dogs with out-of-date vaccination status had a higher median increase in titer, higher median fold increase in titer, and higher median titer following booster vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status. However, statistical analyses were not performed on these parameters. [emphasis mine]”
I can imagine the conversation before deciding how much of these findings to report. Researchers and maybe journal reviewers had concerns. That’s my best guess.
“Hmmm, it sure looks like the out of date dogs smoked the up to date ones in how well they responded to our booster rabies vaccine!”
“Yeah, but we’ve got to decide what we want the pet owning public to take away from this, right? I mean, Dr. WhiteCoat would come at us with scalpels and 12 gauge needles if we let it out that the non-compliers actually did better than the ones who kept repeating vaccines every year or three, wouldn’t he?”
“Oh my, yes. How about we just say we didn’t assign statistical significance to that remarkable performance by the out of date dogs?”
“Brilliant. I can take that to press. That should keep the pitchforks from coming our way.”
But, data is data. Here’s a well done study of 74 dogs and 33 cats that showed all of them, regardless of whether they’d been kept up to date with rabies vaccines or only had one years ago, could respond to a booster after a rabies exposure. A response that should translate to protection against rabies.
It makes me wonder how the exposed would respond to just the rabies virus in the bite itself? I suspect, even without the recommended booster vaccination, they’d do just fine.
Feeling Better About Your Decision?
I hope this helps you clarify your stance that “once and done” with a virus vaccine is likely to confer a long lived immunity in your animal. You have more science on your side now, behind stopping repeated vaccinations. You can add this research to your Evernote or what ever else you use to keep track of things in your life.
I have a feeling this may not be freely available online for too long. There are likely a number who’d like to “disappear” it to help keep up the façade that repeated vaccinations throughout life is the responsible course for pet owners to take. Better copy it before that happens.
Let us know in the comments if this helps you in your present decision not to repeat vaccines. Or if it helps you now decide that all those postcards to repeat vaccinations aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Wow, great article, this one and the 7 myths article. Thanks. I had a rabies titer done a several years ago after my dog’s one rabies shot. (We are in a rural area of south Texas so felt the shot was best. Thankful no major issues. He does scratch a lot but I think that was happening before the vaccine. Could have made it worse?) The titer was .4 but I had heard about the “protective level” being .5 and so the vet encouraged the booster vaccine. “No thanks!” I was planning to get another titer this week but reading more and re-processing some of this information after several years, I am encouraged that the protective factor is really more residual, if even unmeasurable.
I am just now seeing this article and I am so grateful for it. I have an Elnglish lab, Archer, who was diagnosed with IBD by our integrative vet at 9 months old. He had chronic diarrhoea and bile vomiting from the minute we brought him home from the breeder. Our vet at the time (traditional vet) kept going through dewormers, antibiotics, food trials, vaccines, etc. He is now a little more than 3 years and has eaten raw with veggies and fruit since his diagnosis. Recent blood work showed elevated TLI with no other issues and his c Reactive protein was “Optimum.” He’s on probiotics, Chinese herbs for “heat”, turmeric, anchovy/sardine oil. Oh – his previous infants test last year was perfect, too. Since diagnosis he accidentally (long story) received a parvo booster (we detoxed afterward) and has not other vaccinations. I’m in Illinois and have a medical waiver for rabies. So he’s only ever had his 1 year as a puppy. The issue is that, even after the parvo booster, his titers barely went up. His rabies titer measured less than WHOs acceptable level, but KS doesn’t tell you the number only that it measured less than. So, given that we think he is a low responder (maybe because of autoimmune issues), is it possible the first rabies never “took”? Or is there a way to find out if there is a measure or if it’s “0”? At this point, I’m more curious than anything because he will never get another vaccine as long as I’m alive. He is active and goes on hikes, swims, etc., but I absolutely refuse to knowingly give him something that could kill him (cancer at the site or more autoimmune issues). I’ve worked so hard to get him where he is today and he is such a trooper. I so appreciate your work and thank you for your time and consideration.
Kirsten (and Arch)
There are different levels of titer reading results, screen or endpoint:
Thanks for another fantastic article Dr. Falconer. I am “flying under the radar” with my little poodle and her shots. I adopted her from the local shelter a little over 2 years ago and have been dealing with severe skin issues ever since. She didn’t look too bad when I adopted her and they said she just needs a bath. Well, even though I switched her to a natural raw diet and some great supplements, she continued to get worse and worse. I tried to use you, but at the time you were not taking new patients. I found a great Homeopath in AZ and have been using her by phone and computer (I live in a different state) for over a year now. I found out that in her 3 weeks at the shelter, she was dewormed twice, given rabies, 6 way combo, bordatella, flea treatment, heartworm test and spayed! No wonder she continued to get worse. After one year I was sent a license renewal that required another rabies shot. They would not accept an exemption letter from an out of state Vet, so I had to lie and say I no longer have this dog! But I live in fear that they will find out and take my dog from me! I cannot board her, I don’t take her to dog parks, and when we travel in our motor home, I have to lie to the RV parks and say that she is current on her rabies and we can’t go into Mexico or Canada as they require proof of rabies to cross the border. But it’s all worth it as she is finally starting to look and feel good and we love her to death. By the way, she also had 9 teeth pulled because of bone loss and she was 4 years old. Thank you and the homeopathic community for everything you do and all the support you provide to all of us struggling against the “traditional” methods. (Sorry this is so long!)
I think this statement is a little misleading ” It’s the fact that one year rabies vaccines and three year rabies vaccines are identical.” Yes, the adjuvanted 3-year Rabies vaccine is identical to an adjuvanted 1-year Rabies vaccine and this was the only vaccine available 20 years ago. But a 1-year Purevax isn’t the same as a 3-year adjuvanted vaccine, and may be safer in terms of the risk of sarcoma. As far as the new 3-year Purevax is concerned (released in 2014), from what I read Merial added more antigen, so it’s not the same formulation as 1-year Purevax. Regardless, because Merial spent so much on the clinical trials having to do them twice, they priced their new 3-year Purevax Rabies at about three times the cost of a one-year vaccine, and I heard many vets don’t use it for this reason thinking they’d not find enough people who are willing to pay to sell all doses (it’s sold in batches) before it expires. I cannot find a single vet in my area who’d carry 3-year Purevax.
Dr Falconer, in reading the article and the protocols for an animal who has had a potential exposure several questions come to mind. If an “out of date”‘dog suffers a possible exposure, wouldn’t the exposure to the rabies virus itself be enough to initiate the immune response of the animal to start producing antibodies? Would a “booster” shot be superfluous? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the booster shot as the adjuvants in the vaccine have an immunosuppressive effect and the animal would have a more effective immune response without the “help” of the vaccine. Your thoughts???
I think your logic is sound, John. If we believe vaccines work to establish immunity (and rabies vaccine seems like one of the best at that job), the immune system should spring into action with exposure to the real virus.
Now, whether you’ll have a choice may be another question. If I did, I’d not revaccinate. And, I’d give a remedy like ledum.
I love all this information because I do believe that vaccinations are not safe like everyone wants to believe they are. I haven’t vaccinated any of my dogs in the past 3 years but I have to say that I am so nervous about getting “caught.” I don’t want to pay a fine for not having them up-to-date and not licensed but I think it’s worth the risk.
I wrote an article about vaccines in my blog. I love what you have written though; it takes it up quite a few notches. Thank you for sharing.
I suppose that when a dog is vaccinated, his/her body is building antibodies. I suppose it takes a lot of work for the internal system of a dog to accommodate a vaccine in order to build immunity. As the expression goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix.” Why take a dog who has sufficient immunity and pump more chemicals in and demand that the internal system do all that exhausting work for no reason? I think that if we look at it in that simplistic way, we can conclude that the body deals with the excess by breaking down (keratin cysts, cancer…). It just doesn’t know what to do with that additional vaccine because the first vaccine had already doe its job. The new vaccine becomes a trouble-maker because its job was already done. Instead of sitting idle, it does damage to the immune system which leaves dogs susceptible to problems that require the immune system to work to protect against issues unrelated to rabies. That explanation is suitable for a 10 year old child to gather an understanding. Why is it that most vets can’t catch on???
Please let me know if I am off base. I appreciate being corrected by someone whom I respect.
I think you’ve got a fair amount of it, yes. There’s little efficacy in repeating vaccines, though the research shows a booster effect here in previously vaccinated dogs. Titers clearly increased in response.
The other piece is that every vaccine, even the very first, is the injection of foreign disease material into the body. The route is one that the immune system has never known before: suddenly it’s there in the blood, bypassing all the natural defense gates Nature has set up.
That sets up “immune confusion” that can easily become chronic, and spans the bodily systems from allergic skin/ear disease to brain inflammation like seizures or ADD or suspicion or paralyzing fear. Autoimmune disease, attack on one’s own bodily cells, is not uncommon after vaccination, as my posts about little Tigger addressed in How Safe is Your Pet from “Just a Rabies Vaccine?”
All of this is why I consider vaccination the decision that animal folks need to think most clearly about. It’s not in any sense the benign procedure that’s painted by Big Pharma and Dr. WhiteCoat.
Question–you mentioned that the shots given WHEN bitten by a rabid animal are antibodies, not vaccines…are these antibodies available for our canine friends…for rabies, parvo, should they contract the disease.
Good question, Erica. I got the feeling from this research and the Compendium that it’s the vaccine inducing the dog’s rise in antibodies that is the treatment of choice.
My guess is that’s because the dog has been (presumably) primed with a vaccine earlier in life, so they’ll jump into gear and rapidly make antibodies with a booster vaccine, whereas people have likely not been vaccinated for rabies, so they wouldn’t.
Dr. Falconer. Thanks so much for the wonderful article! I happened to read in Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s book “The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat” that she (who was trained as a Veterinarian at Oxford, just a few credits shy of graduation) once treated Rabies in 3 dogs, not knowing that was what she was treating. Once was a small dog fed kibble and not healthy, 1 was some sort of wild dog that an Israeli soldier had adopted that bite the small dog and gave him Rabies and one was her own Afghan Hound. The exhibited signs of poisoning in her opinion, so she treated them as if they were posioned. Only the small, kibble fed dog succombed to Rabies, the other 2 dogs (both raw fed and completely unvaccinated) recovered. I wish she wewre still alive or I could find her out of print book, that describes her treatment in detail. Have you ever heard of an unvaccinated dog who does NOT receiver the Rabies shot after infection from rabid animal bite surviving? I find this fascinating. I know all treatments she did were herbal in nature and taught to her NOt at veterinary University but instead by the nomads of the world (Gypsies, Berbers, bedouins, etc.). I suppose it makes sense that nomad, who live among wildlife, would know how to treat rabies.
I know there are cases of humans who’ve been diagnosed, treated with homeopathy, and survived. I’m not aware of it in animals, but I’m certain it could happen. Scary part is all the potential for disease exposure during the treatment phase.
Juliette’s dog may have had distemper, too, we’d not know for sure as they can present with similar CNS symptoms. Either one would be a credit to cure with herbs, so hats off to her and her vast knowledge of what worked from the natural world.
Thanks for sharing this with us, Mary.
Now would be a good time to plug the Rabies Challenge fund. I think they still need $20-30K to finish their work
I never believed the 1 yr vs 3 yr labeling, and I haven’t trusted the standard vet recommendations for a very long time.
Dr. Falconer, my entire family has been following you for well over a year now….I can remember when you just barely had 1,000 followers and now look how far you’ve come and that’s just in a year. Yes, you do provide us all with “VITAL” information. For some of us it is lifesaving “vital” information for our so loved, furry family! I just would like to input here. We had a a beautiful Golden Retriever and I followed everything the White Coats told me, at the age of nine something happened that the White Coats could not figure out…he swelled in a certain spot of his body and every couple of days that swollen spot moved along his body. All his nodes were swollen, his tongue and eating was pureed food that I fed to him in an eye dropper. He died in my arms in the wee hours about two months after all this began. Six months to the day our wonderful chocolate lab died from bone cancer. We took her to Columbia veterinary school in Columbia, Missouri for help…praying for hope they could fix her. Although they could not help her…took blood samples to help their studies for future dogs with the same problem as hers. It was there that the professors told us that they have studies that are proving that the vaccinations given to our loved ones is causing not only the issue Bella, our lab had, but also the issues Sunny, our golden had. We now have a mix pit that we rescued from a cow pasture around two months old…near death we put her on raw and haven given her no shots and she is still intact. We live in the country and vaccinations are not required. She’s healthy, bouncy and so very full of life. She doesn’t have fear issues as our six year old rescue who had shots and neutered. Our hearts go out to all that are forced to vaccinate. Our daughter is having issues now because the apartments that she is currently looking at require up-to-date shot records. Perhaps these White Coats need a lesson from the studies that are coming in within the human world of what vaccines do to the living and breathing humans of this planet. Do all you can to fight NOT getting the vaccines…the animal is lost, passed away….anything….maybe even present the records on a nice white document that came from your printer…just anything. It took the painful death of both our loved ones for me to see the light and move away from “traditional”. Remember most of our loved ones live with us, inside our homes, and exposure of anything they are vaccinating them from is almost zilch. We have fenced in yards or we ourselves walk them in a controlled environment…where is the harmful exposure? God Bless to all and thank you for all the time you spend teaching all of us, Dr. Falconer! RJ
Thanks for your kind words, RJ. I’m sorry for your loss. It sounds like cancer took both the animals you describe, the first one likely lymphosarcoma, and the second one you know, bone cancer, usually osteosarcoma.
Homeopaths have seen the association between vaccinations and cancer (and other growths) for about 200 years. I do hope the rest of medicine catches up on this “news.”
If the folks there at my alma mater indeed have studies showing vaccinations –> cancer, I’d love to see them. Not that I need convincing, as I see it all the time.
My dogs are rescues and rescue dogs are filled with every vaccine known to man.
They have not had any since I got them. My holistic vet is very supportive of my decision not to vaccinate.
You’ve found a reasonable holistic vet, Anne. Spread the word. Your rescues are likely immune for life, and he/she is right to follow your wishes not to vaccinate further.
That’s a sweeping generalization, Anne. The truth is, dogs with unknown health histories are vaccinated when their records are not available for making an informed decision. From that point, it is up to the foster family or adopter to make reasonable decisions. I only vaccinate intake dogs when I have no history, and they get rabies and DPAP, period
All shelter animals are vaccinated with 5 to 10 vaccines on the day they arrive. If they’ve already had just 1 vaccine prior to this, they are now over-vaccinated. Combination vaccines are terribly damaging; the immune system is over-loaded instead of being able to deal with 1 disease/vaccine at a time as it would in nature. This is why all good vets like homeopaths recommend only 1 vaccine at a time and at least 4 weeks between each for people who choose to vaccinate.
Our family owned several rescue dogs in the past; all of them had serious health and behavior problems. It usually showed up within days or weeks after they’d been vaccinated by the shelter. Allergies, seizures, aggression. I realize money is an issue for shelters but rescues should run a titer test and save the poor animals from a lifetime of suffering and bad health….safe the owners a lot of heartache, too. Hemopet in CA runs titers for very little and the blood can be sent by mail. I think the last rabies titer we ran was only $80. Distemper and parvo are another test and it was about $40-$45.
All that damage is why my hubby said never again to a shelter or rescued pet. Our next pack will be strictly from a natural rearing breeder.
Thanks for the great info, Dr. Falconer. I haven’t given my 1 1/2 year old Lab mix a rabies vaccine but I do live in an area with a lot of skunks. She’s been sprayed a couple of times for getting too close. If she should get bitten or scratched by a skunk, how should I proceed? Take her to a vet and say she’s “not current” and get a booster? Or just watch her and hope her immune system does its work? She started out her young life with a lot of itchiing, but she has gotten better. Although she still itches, she’s very energetic with a shiny coat, so it seems her immune system has improved and I don’t want to send her the other way by giving a rabies vaccine.
I think having a dog without a single rabies vaccination is playing with fire, unless you live in isolation on a mountain top. You’ll have one option presented to you if your dog ever bites someone, even by mistake: euthanasia. He won’t be considered out of date, he’ll be consider “unvaccinated.” Period.
Not to say you won’t have blow back from just a single rabies vaccine, especially in a dog with a history of itch. You likely will see the itch return. But that’s something you can cure, with a good homeopath to help you.
There’s no cure for euthanasia.
I am not so concerned about the legal aspect of it, insofar as her biting someone. I know that would be a problem. I was more interested in the disease itself… is it automatically a death sentence or can a body’s immune system fight it? You answered that question on another post below where you mentioned you had heard of humans being treated with homeopathy, but that the scary part was during the exposure period. In the past, I have had dogs vaccinated every year and none had a problem (at least as far as I could see). But now that I have read more about vaccines, I have the problem (with too much knowledge)! It is really a tough decision this time.
Nothing’s an automatic death sentence, but you’d have to be really involved and get help in the case of a rabid animal biting your dog.
The first step would be to determine if the animal was indeed rabid. A bite wound from a non-rabid animal is not a big deal to get to heal. How would you find out if rabies was involved? You’d have to get that skunk and bring it to the public health department or a veterinarian. They’d get the head to CDC and get an answer in a day or two.
If it was positive, then you’ve got the regulatory world in your face, because, let’s face it, this is a deadly human disease. “Your dog has never been vaccinated? You have two choices: 1. Immediate euthanasia, or 2. 6 month quarantine in a facility that disallows close contact. At your expense.”
If the skunk’s rabies status is unknown, or it scuffles with your dog and runs off, what will you do? Home care? That’s great if it wasn’t rabid, you’ll do fine. But if it was? Your likelihood of getting rabies from your dog getting rabies is the significant risk here. So, you’re busy nursing your wounded dog back from its wounds and she starts choking a couple weeks later. Thinking it could be a bone, she was just eating one earlier, you reach in her mouth to find it, and you’ve just been exposed to rabies virus in her saliva. A cut, a scrape, a hangnail on that hand? The virus is now in you.
I hope you can appreciate the seriousness of this. I don’t intend to underplay that in this or any of my writings. While repeated vaccinations throughout life for rabies is nonsense, I think it’s not nonsense to get one after 4 months of age, especially living in a skunk populated area like you do.
Please be wise in weighing everything here. You’d be a fool to take this lightly.
Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I do take this seriously, but have been somewhat conflicted by the differing points, such as on your blog about what “just one rabies vaccine” did. I certainly do not want to have to deal with the tyrannical powers-that-be, and because the exposure factor is dangerous as you have described, then it appears that at least one vaccine will be needed. I have the rabies tautode which I received from you and will use it as instructed to help with any possible problems. Thanks again.
Hi Dr. Falconer,
Love your site and am getting a fantastic education as I read through all the articles here.
As I was reading through the above post from last year, I have to admit I am confused by the response you gave to Rebecca (as she has also indicated below) about whether to give the rabies vaccine to her dog. I do understand the legal implications existing in many areas if your dog bites or gets bitten, but suggesting she get a rabies vaccine when it seems clear there are very real health risks (beyond just an itch) in doing so (according to all I have read on this site and elsewhere) seems counter to what you have previously said. From what I have been reading, titers can show antibodies (even for rabies) in an unvaccinated dog.
Were you only speaking to Rebecca’s unique case or are you suggesting that a single rabies vaccine is in general, advisable? I had not planned on getting any vaccines for my new pup.
I’m speaking to Rebecca’s unique situation. Everyone’s is somewhat different. Obviously, a dog living in Gnome or in Hawaii or New Zealand (the latter two being known rabies free) would not need one.
As you’ll read in the thread, she lives in a different world. I think I spelled it out pretty clearly, now that I’ve just reread it after a year.
You have to weigh risks vs benefits where you live and deciding how you and your dog will live in the world. Not an open and shut or “one size fits all” situation, as I hope you can appreciate.
I have learned so much from your blog there are so many wonderful post and this is another wonderful one. Thank you very for much for the informative easy to understand post. It confirms what I suspected. Before I knew any better my dog recieved a 1 year and then a 3 year rabies vaccination. Then I said enough no more, it has been 7 years since his last rabies shot. I was able to find a vet who wrote a letter of medical exemption and is very supportive of no vaccines, feeding a raw diet and using homeopathy for treatment when needed. My vet was pushing to do a titer since it had been so long and of course I was curious myself. But I had no intention of giving a booster no matter what the results showed. Well to my vet’s surprise the results were >15. We go to agility class weekly and do agility trials monthly, I don’t know if the constant exposure to dogs that have been vaccinated accounts for the high number. The down side of this is my state does not except titers as proof so if he got bit or was to bite another dog the regulations states he would either be euthanized or quarantined for 6 months with no human contact in a specialized facility at my expense. So I have decided to accept the risk as I know first hand the damage that can be done. I have another dog with brain damage from a rabies vaccine, we were at the point of putting him down because of aggression toward me and my husband. Homeopathy has been a tremdous help with the symptoms and reversing some of the damage, he is 90% better, a very happy loveable dog and able to compete in agility and be around other dogs and people.
Wow, Charlotte, good for you! I admire your brave and principled stand. You know you have an immune dog, clearly, and further vaccinations for rabies are far more risk than benefit.
In posting this article, it became clear to me that the “out of date” dog who’s bitten (not who bites, but who’s bitten by a rabid animal), is judged on a case by case basis.
Your dog’s high titer is a very favorable finding that would help decide his fate, as is your record of past rabies vaccinations and his current healthy state. If sound minds prevail in this instance, he’d be boostered and observed at home for 45 days. That’s what this paper recommended, based on solid data.
I’d print that study out and keep it in his file. You’ve got the head of the rabies testing lab on your side!
I recently met a guy with two wolf hybrids. They seemed nice enough animals but he could tell I was wary of them. Which I was – they are much closer to wild than my two lazy Great Danes. We started swapping stories about the crazy looks and questions we get about our dogs.
He told me that rabies vaccines don’t actually “take” with a wolf hybrid. Something about their built in immunity. But he found it ironic he could still get a dog license with the city.
I have no idea if this is true but if it is – just goes to show how strange these ” rabies regulations” are.
Hmmm, I’d have to see this scenario to believe him:
1. Wolfie gets a rabies vaccine
2. Wolfie gets a rabies titer a month or two later.
3. Titer shows zero, nada, not a trace of antibodies.
It sounds unlikely. And I’m presuming he’s vaccinated these guys if he’s getting licensed. He could titer any time and know if that were true.
We are not doing anymore vaccinations on our housecats. It’s not very comforting when they give the shot in the hind leg just in case a problem develops and they need to amputate. We’ve done titers on our horses and skipped rabies on them as well.
Good points, Yvonne, and I’m so glad to hear you’ve discontinued this. Horses are an especially over vaccinated species. Breaks my heart how few seem cognizant of this information in the horse owning world.
I hope you’re spreading the word.
BTW: Is it a Pembroke Welsh Corgi? I had one for 9+ years, the best dog ever.
Well, if you no longer have the dog, or the dog has passed away, I would inform the county of such. Problem solved.
My 11 yr old corgi has been diagnosed with diabetes. County says that’s not sick enough to avoid rabies shot!! I’m not giving her rabies shot. Right or wrong?
Absolutely right! Vaccinating a sick animal has a word associated with it: malpractice! Every label on every vaccine says “only for use in healthy dogs, cats, etc.”
Had a vet give my newly dx diabetic dog a series of 7 vaccinations, DALPP, Lyme and 3 yr rabies, without running any bloodwork or other diagnostics short of a single blood sample to dx the diabetes. No urine sample was taken. I was never told vaccinating an unhealthy dog could be dangerous – thus I was not able to make an informed decision.
NY state vet board dismissed my complaint, which not only included the vaccination concern but insulin overdose and missed hypothyroidism dx as well. Needless to say I’ve changed vets and no thanks to the NY vet board, the original vet will continue to put pets at risk.
Wow. What happened after the combo wombo vaccinations? I’d expect all Hell to break loose within a month…
There was way too much going on with the insulin overdosing (dropped bg to under 20 with 1 dose of 40u insulin and put in writing for us to give that same dose twice daily) to know for sure cause and effect. Didn’t see records till 4 months after the fact so had no idea at the time. Last recorded bg reading on my dogs records say Lo, and that was about an hour before he was sent home. He went in wild and lively and very vocal. Came come saturated in urine , had blood shot eyes, hoarse bark, shaking, could hardly walk, and stood with one rear leg held up. Did nothing but curl up and sleep. Was not my crazy dog at all. Insulin dose turned out to be about 50% too much and rebounding saved his life. Vet claimed it was honeymooning. Apparently the ny board agreed with him. Same vet also dx my 11 yr old dog with double ear infection and gave him same 7 vaccinations. Since changing vets he’s never once had an ear infection and will be 14 in March. Dodged a bullet with that one for sure. My diabetic boys health went downhill quickly and recovered once the overdosing stopped and the hypothyroidism was dx. Had mobility problems which impacted in all 4 legs which began the day he came home from his overnight stay and got worse over the course of a year. Ultimately steroids helped him to be able to get up and walk and bought him two extra months. His insulin needs on steroids were 3.5u to 5.5u lev emir. Never vaccinated him again. He Crossed the bridge almost 2 yrs ago.
I love those guys who run titers without ever being vaccinated. I wish they’d do a study with them. I know they never will though, that would blow the whole top off their ‘business’.
I’m pretty sure my girl would run a number. But rabies is not required where I live and I don’t really have money to chuck at the local vet to find out. I doubt he even knows what a titer is, if he does’s he’ll probably want my kidney or a limb or something.
I’m hoping the future of vaccines will turn ‘external’. A dead virus suspended in a non-toxic, degradable solution one can introduce into the environment. Spray it in far corner of the yard and trod the dog through it. Isn’t that basically what we’re doing when we take them to the public parks and walk through urine and feces? This way no one else would have to subject their animal to a vaccine first. Could titer after a certain number of exposures and time to make sure they took.
Thank you Dr. Falconer for another fantastic blog with a wealth of useful information! Do you know where one would start to ‘lobby’ their city for acceptance of the rabies titer?
The best person to ask is Kris Christine, who’s single handedly helped many in various states understand and move to change their local rabies rules. You can find her here: http://www.rabieschallengefund.org
Great! Thank you.
That’s the thing, to license your dog you have to show proof of rabies shot.
I like the “once and done” idea….however vets are required by law to report every rabies shot they give to animal control/town hall, it’s all done electronically. You will then be notified to register your dog or be fined. Many towns do not accept titers.
Maybe laws differ from state to state. Medical exemptions may apply, but in my experience most vets are reluctant to sign them unless a pet is elderly or terminal.
Tell them you went to a low cost rabies clinic. The low cost clinics do not have to report all rabies they give.
With all due respect. That’s not true. You need that piece of paper, with the lot numbers, name of vet and number etc. At least this has been my experience.
This isn’t their first rodeo!
You can buy tags on the web, you can find lot numbers on the internet and you can find vets and their numbers on the internet. Everything is out there you just have to look. It comes down to how bad you want to protect your dogs.
It sounds like you live in a well-wired police state, L. My condolences. I hope there are some in your area who have successfully run these tunnels who can help you do the same.
To quote Jefferson, (ably done by a commenter some time ago):
“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”
Awesome to know the truth, when an empire of profit continues to try to suppress it. There it is in our face, a thriving, not-repeatedly-vaccinated animal next to one suffering the side effects of Whitecoats Syndrome.
Now we need a unified front so we all stand up to the bullies protecting the vaccine industry. The only way to turn it around is to refuse to comply on a mass scale and spread the word to the millions of good pet parents who think outside the box. Without their profits, the vaccine demons will cease to exist!
I think you’ve touched on a point dear to my heart, Nora: it’s going to have to come from consumers, refusing to buy into the machine of vaccinations, that changes things. It will positively not come from the top down.
Nora, you are so spot on!!!! Exactly! We must be a collective United front, and I believe it’s the only way to effect change!
I am a recent student to your writings, Dr. Falconer. I thank you so much for your research and the fact that your writing is very easy to read. I have a 4 year old Westie that started her life with a lot of puppy shots and the vaccinations that my vet recommended. Sadly, I complied with all the requests, for I knew no better. I just had her teeth cleaned in November, and the vet pulled 9 teeth, including all her front lowers, stating “bone loss”. I have to wonder if this was due to her being over-vaccinated her whole life. Her next vet appointment will be titer testing, and no additional Rabies shot. Your information gives us all the ammunition we need to say “NO” to more shots that are affecting our fur-kid’s health.
My pup has been on human grade raw for 3 years, supplemented by greens, and organic supplements. She is thriving, and a healthy 15 pounds.
I wonder as well how to get around the legal side of Rabies certification when we apply for a dog license. Thanks again!!
Bone loss? In a 4 year old? How odd. Maybe they’re talking loss from the neck of the teeth, also known as “neck lesions” or resorptive lesions. There’s a fancier term for it, but I’ve forgotten it. If it’s tooth issues like this, and the jaw bone is normal, yes, that’s vaccine caused.
Some of the comments on earlier posts revealed some “under the radar” means to stay out of harm’s way. Just drop the word “rabies” in the search box on any page, and it’ll bring up every post and page I’ve written on the subject. Read the post comments for some creative ideas. Main thing I’ve recommended: don’t start licensing. If you’re “in the system,” it’s harder to get out later, once you’ve learned your animals are immune long term.
Best of luck Tracy, and we’re glad you’re here, doing good things for your Westie!
Thank you so much for your reply! Makes sense about her teeth, as I was feeling so guilty having them all pulled. The vet scared me into doing it, as she said that my pup may loose her canine, so I didn’t say no.
Good thing is, she won’t get any more shots, just titers.
We have a 5 month old puppy. He has had one combo vaccine at 12 weeks and then followed up with a titer at 16 weeks. We are still on the fence as to whether we should give him one rabies shot to ensure legal protection or whether we should abandon that idea. Our vet (who leans holistic, but still provides limited vaccines and titers, so there you go…) warned us that legally one rabies shot is still considered “never vaccinated” and that to be safe we should allow one 1-year vaccine and then a 3-year vaccine the next year and then be done with it. I’ve never, ever heard of this, have you? Doesn’t even make any sense, but wondering what confounded thinking health departments must have regarding rabies. We have great dog parks here in CO, and our dogs love to go, and I would like to have a bit of legal protection should anything ever happen between dogs.
Also, yes, I absolutely agree with the 1 and 3 year vaccines being identical. Some 15 years ago a vet tech acquaintance pointed this out to me. She figured it out, wonder how this has been such a well-guarded secret?
I enjoy your wisdom and the glimpses into India you have been giving. Thanks so much.
Don’t do the rabies at all. A piece of paper is all you need for proof of rabies. One rabies can cause health problems for life and a dog has the ability to build up immunity to anything. Your holistic vet still has to push vaccinations to make money. I have seen many holistic vets say they cannot make the bills unless they push the money making things like vaccinations. Go to yahoo and research groups like truthaboutvaccines and rawfed dogs to learn with like minded other dog owners.
And how do we get this piece of paper? I want to know.Please share.
thank you, Chris – I am completely with you on no vaccines at all.
I would love to talk with you to get some info where to get all necessary for the paper. Is there a way we can connect. Thank you! Venus 🙂
I live in CO too. I think we should discuss this. If we can help each other, follow me on Twitter @advicefrom2dogs or victoria2dc Then Tweet that it’s you and I’ll follow you and DM…
Debra, 8 yrs ago, my hubby and I gave our 7 lb, 13 month old dog a 1/3 dose of a rabies vaccine. He was raw fed, never had drugs, chemicals or toxic anything in his life. That small dose changed him forever; he is afraid of everything. Before that vaccine, he was an amazing, confident dog that everyone wanted for their own. A breeder who met him told me he was the one of the best representatives of his breed she’d ever met. Gone is that confident, well-adjusted, awesome little guy. We’d give anything to go back in time and reserve it. We’ve done a great deal of research on this and are never again vaccinating any person or animal in our family. I can honestly tell you that my niece and nephew have never been vaccinated and they are incredibly healthy kids. The best way to find a truly natural vet is to go homeopathic like Dr. Falconer. I think you need one in your state to sign off on the rabies exemption. Dr. Falconer will know about that. If that’s the case, it’s certainly worth the drive and most of them won’t make you bring your dog(s) into the office for every issue. We’ve done phone or email consults and it was 100% successful in every case.
Dede, I just want to make it clear: you can get your dog back. It’ll take some skilled homeopathic prescribing, ideally from someone who does mostly or only that kind of medicine, but it’s entirely possible. As this is chronic disease, it’s not DIY. It’ll take skilled case management from a homeopathic vet. But the game is not over, not by a long shot.
If you can’t find anyone that works this way, see my Contact page. I’d be happy to help.
Thank you, Dr. Falconer. I will definitely contact you. Our precious boy deserves every chance to be as good as possible.
Interesting timing for me as I have just paid $250. to have a titer done for my dog in order to get a city licence. (we got caught red handed by animal control with no tags – citation issued – another $100)
The problem I see here, for me at least, is that no matter what this study says, if that titer comes back low, we will be forced to give him another rabies shot in order to comply to city laws. No room for intrepretation. Our other option is to move!
Find a holistic doctor who will give you a letter to the city who will say due to health reason your dog should not be vaccinated.
Apparently those are hard to come by. I’m looking into that myself. My dog was given a 1-year one before I adopted him and I was not happy about that. What sort of conditions merit a bye?
Any thing that makes your animal less than fully healthy. Itchy skin or ears? That’s called allergies. Taking meds for a low thyroid? That’s a disease. On a “prescription” diet? Why? Probably some reason there as well that would contraindicate further vaccinations.
I’ve written these letters in many different variations for my clients over the years and the bottom line is, there’s always a way to phrase them to get acceptance. That said, it depends where you live and how far you’ve let the authorities get their hooks into you. It sounds like there’s quite a variation among the folks who write in here.
how far the authorities’ hooks are in you is actually a big deal if you’re trying to have a dog in an area that’s strict about pet ordinances. some people don’t have the resources for a “holistic” vet, and just because they don’t have thousands to blow on pampering a sensitive animal doesn’t mean that person should be in danger of having their pets confiscated and sent to shelters where they’re likely to be euthanized anyway. i’m astonished sometimes when i see how class-based pet care is-these holistic vets prescribe diets that are better than what i can afford for myself and my family, let alone the cost of immunizations (let’s face it: do you ever see a holistic doctor whose services are afforable to the working poor?) and the penalties assessed for not keeping up with them i’d like to someday see affordable advice geared towards pet owners who struggle to keep up financially, and i’d like to see less vitriol towards us. we sincerely can’t afford to feed our animals meals of organic chicken and wild rice when we’re eating macaroni and canned tuna, and poor people enjoy the companionship of animals too. we need solutions that are applicable to everyone, not to the lucky few who have extra money that isn’t already going towards rent and bills and food for the human members of the household. i would never advise anyone to risk losing their pets because vaccines are such bad bad things and should be avoided.
My dog was “due” for his rabies vax in January. He last had one in January 2018. Not only did he get that one, but days later they gave him a DPP (or whatever it’s called) lepto, Lyme, bordatella…yada yada yada. All in one day. This was before I adopted him. I decided NO MORE! His ear canals are perpetually swollen and itchy. And he has an apparent perianal adenoma to boot- which isn’t bothering him at all. There’s no way I dare go to a conventional Dr WhiteCoat for this! I didn’t register him. (I had registered my previous dogs, which gives them carte blanche to demand anything) But now he needs to be groomed and I need to find a groomer who thinks the same way we do and who won’t demand that he get ANY vaccines and won’t freak over his ears or adenoma chanting “Dr WhiteCoat needs to see this.” He’s raw fed and I don’t use any chemicals on him and he just looks like a wooly mammoth right now but I won’t get him any vax that’s going to aggravate what the others already caused. Yikes!
Grooming should be pretty easy: mobile groomers are in most places, and they shouldn’t even ask re: vaccines. If they do, you waive them off with “He’s current,” (which is true for anyone vaccinated earlier, right?).
More significant is getting him some helpful medical care, and that’s where a homeopathic vet can best be employed. Nothing in conventional medicine cures chronic disease, as you likely know, but carefully prescribed constitutional homeopathy can. See my Recommended Resources page for a video by the AVH link on how to choose a good one, even long distance.
Refusing to take part in damaging medical practices doesn’t mean you can’t get curative help from vets. You just have to choose carefully who you hire.
Every vaccine manufactured comes with the instructions that it’s to be given to healthy animals. To me, that means any disease or health problem an animal has disqualifies it as healthy so it shouldn’t be vaccinated. Allergies, seizures, digestive issues, chronic conditions (lasting 6 mos or more), aggression, fear, hyperactivity…whatever it is, I’d ask a homeopathic vet about it and request a vaccine exemption. Our experience with conventional and holistic vet was a disaster; they know less about the immune system and healing than we do. I know vets who insists on vaccinating animals who have kidney disease, seizures, allergies, etc. Obviously, they don’t understand what “healthy” means.
Sadly true, Dede. “Healthy” at vaccination time ($$) usually means, “No fever or cough today, let’s do this!”
Dr. Falconer I have followed you site for sometime now and I want to thank you for all the information I have received from it. MY 3 Aussies are now eating raw, and I must say are so much more healthier for it, and I have stopped ALL vaccinations after the core puppy shots. I live in rural northern Wisconsin with every critter you can think of so this really puts the theory of immunity to the test yet I am amazed at the healthy appearance and energy these guys continue to have. After reading your information on heartworm prevention, I have gone to all-natural repellents for mosquitoes and ticks. I just want to say a big THANK YOU for providing all this information to people like me who really care about their dogs.
You are most welcome, Jan, and great to have you here on the path with us!
And just to clarify, for new readers: the approach to natural heartworm prevention I write about and have used for years on 100’s of patients in heartworm endemic areas is NOT about natural repellants. It’s about steps you can take to build resistance to all parasites, including heartworm.
Hi Dr. Falconer, I have a 1 year old Standard Poodle, he is raw fed, and has had limited puppy vaccines. I was able to wait until he was a year to get a Rabies, (required by law here). Anyway, I asked for 3yr, they gave a 1yr!! Now I know they are both the same, and they say he has to come back in a yr. for another or they report it. What can I do? I will not bring him back for another, but God forbid he ever bit someone (certainly not expecting that) they would put him down if he was not up to date! Im sick over this!
Thank you for any help you can give.
If you’ve got more wits about you than animal control, and you keep a copy of the Compendium I referred to, you’ll see that euthanasia can be refused in an owned dog who bites a person. Read that section on biting animals, highlight it, and you’ll see quarantine can be asked for and given. Lots of times, that can be observation at your home, by you.
As far as avoiding the year from now shot, you’ll want to visit the comments on the posts entitled, “How Safe is Your Pet from Just a Rabies Vaccine?” You may have to get very creative or even fib. But, I think you’ll agree: your Poodle is now highly likely immune for life, so you have fulfilled the intent of the law, even if you opt not to fulfill the letter of the law. I’d start figuring it out now, so you’re well ahead of the game.
All the best with this. I applaud your resolve!
Thank you so much!