It is generally accepted in most states that young puppies and kittens need to be vaccinated by four months of age against the rabies virus. One year later, these animals can receive a booster good for three years. In the eyes of the law, animals who have been vaccinated are protected from rabies infection as long as their vaccine is current.
Because rabies is a deadly virus with no known treatment, and humans can be infected from bites of infected animals, our national policy is to vaccinate domesticated pets.
But what happens when a pet owner lives where the rabies vaccination laws are archaic? For example, in Pennsylvania, the state law is as discussed above – an initial vaccine as a puppy or kitten, followed a year later with a rabies vaccine licensed for three years.
Recently, I was discussing local county laws with a pet owner. Believe it or not, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania the law states every time a vaccinated animal is taken to the veterinarian for a puncture wound, bite or scratch of unknown origin that animal must receive yet another booster against rabies!
In this poor woman’s case, her blind 18-year-old cat, with high blood pressure and thyroid disease, received a routine three-year rabies vaccine, and was given yet another three-year vaccine three months later, and reported to the county health department, due to a scratch of unknown origin.
Unless this woman lives where rabies is more virulent than anywhere else in the world, her county’s laws were passed due to lawmakers’ lack of education and to fill the pockets of members of the local veterinary establishment. Not only does the veterinarian receive additional income with every vaccination, but the vaccine company sells more product, and animals are over vaccinated. Consequently, some pets develop vaccinosis (illness due to over-vaccination), then these animals go to their veterinarian yet again! The ones who lose due to laws promoting over-vaccination are pets and their owners.
This particular cat is a marvelous man – at 18 years old, he’s loved as much as any cat should be. He is in good spirits, he still enjoys life, he is eating a home prepared diet, and his mother is concerned because she’s being forced by the local laws to over-vaccinate her fragile cat.
Apparently, the lawmakers in Montgomery county Pennsylvania are not aware of modern research, although the most recent version of their law was passed in 2012.
Dr. Jean Dodds has conducted a long-term study into the effectiveness of rabies vaccines. Dr Dodds’ study shows half dose rabies boosters are as effective as full dose boosters – we are talking boosters here, not initial vaccines. Furthermore, there are numerous peer reviewed articles in the literature that demonstrate that giving 1/10 of the dose of rabies vaccine provides protection against the deadly virus. This means one rabies vaccine which costs most pet owners between $20 and $40, can actually be used to vaccinate 10 animals! Whose pockets are being lined now?
Rabies is a deadly virus. No one wants to be bitten by a rabid animal. Therefore, vaccination of domesticated pets against rabies make sense. However, well conducted research, and commonsense, says our fear of the rabies virus is blown out of proportion.
The goal of a society is to protect members of that society. Our society involves sharing our lives with domesticated dogs and cats. Over-vaccination of any species only profits Big Business. Their profits are made not only in selling the original vaccine, but also in manufacturing and selling the medication needed to treat the clinical signs of vaccinosis.
The only way archaic laws like those in Montgomery County Pennsylvania will change is if the citizens of Montgomery County insist lawmakers learn more about modern research. Lawmakers are people just like ourselves, they can learn too. Sometimes they just need a push from their constituents.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com