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Rabies Vaccinations – Caring for Critters

October 20, 2014 15 comments

Caring-For-Critters2-400Due to computer issues (a crashing hard drive), I was unable to participate in the Caring For Critters Round Robin at my assigned time. My sincere apologies to Jodi from Heart Like a Dog for this.

I had planned to write about pancreatitis, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to write about canine vaccinations.

Let me state up front, I am not one of those people who is going to tell you to avoid vaccinating your pet. While I may believe that we are over-vaccinating our pets, I am not someone who believes we should skip them altogether. The risks are too great to assume we know better than our veterinarians.

Instead, I want to share my own experience with vaccinations and what I do now to, hopefully, prevent the same thing from happening again.

Indy

Indy was the very first dog I had ever adopted. She came into my life at a time when I was really missing my childhood dog, Alicia. Adopting a new dog after losing one that had been a part of my life for 15 years was hard, but saying yes to adopting Indy was never in question. She picked me as much as I picked her.

IndyIndy was a Shepherd/Collie mix and the absolutely perfect dog one could ever have. She was well-trained, attentive, smart, a quick learner and very, very sweet. I loved her with my whole heart. Some of my favorite memories of her are of our walks together in the woods. I used to love hearing her rumble up behind me to catch up after she had stopped to sniff something alongside the trail. The sound of her thundering feet when she ran, the smile on her face when she knew we were heading out on the trail, and the swish of her tail in complete happiness; these were all things I loved about her. She was a very special dog.

Like most pet owners, I was diligent about getting Indy in for her vaccinations and yearly check ups. When she was 9 years old, I brought her in for her usual vet visit. Everything that visit was normal, completely normal, even the vaccination portion of the visit. Indy received all her vaccinations at once – rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper and bordatella, and appeared to be fine. But, as it turned out, all was not fine.

The next morning Indy had a major seizure and was rushed to the vet and then on to the emergency vet. She had to be given Valium to stop another seizure and to let her body rest. The vets suspected that Indy was having a reaction to the vaccinations she had been given the day before. The rabies vaccine seemed to be one of greatest concern.

Indy spent the night at the emergency vet so they could observe her in case she were to have another seizure. She was released the next day – groggy and disoriented.

At home, she recovered quickly and soon we were taking our walks in the woods again. All was well.

Until the next month.

Indy 2Indy had another seizure. We made another trip to the vet, but by then she seemed to have recovered. I was given a Valium pill to take home with me as a precaution. I was nervous and afraid and worried. The next month, Indy had yet another seizure, and then another one the month after that. As the months went one, Indy’s seizures increased in frequency. Now they were every 3 weeks, then every two and finally every week.

Each time she came out of it extremely disoriented and unable to really understand me. She would stumble around the house, despite our best efforts to keep her lying down. She would eventually collapse on the floor and sometimes drool. Often she would sleep the rest of the day, her body exhausted from the seizure. Sometimes she had accidents as her body was wracked by the seizure. It was so sad to see her this way.

When her seizures became more frequent (every other day), we made the difficult decision to say goodbye. It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.  She was one of the best dogs a girl could ever want.

In every other way, Indy was a healthy 10-year-old dog, but her quality of life was not what it had been. She was not the happy dog she used to be. Each seizure seemed to take something from her, leaving a confused empty shell of a dog behind. We said good-bye with her lying in my arms.

What I learned

What I did not know then but I know now is that the rabies vaccine can cause serious side effects. It is also the one that can be the hardest on your dog’s system. The vaccine stimulates an animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions, to severe reactions like seizures, muscle weakness, autoimmune diseases, etc. Because of the virulence of the rabies vaccination, it is best to avoid giving it with the other vaccinations.

Don’t give any other vaccination in combination with the rabies shot. Veterinarians have reported that risk of reaction increases with the number of vaccinations given. Request that your veterinarian not give your dog a combination shot and wait a few weeks before giving another vaccination.

 

What I do now 

I can never know for sure that it was the rabies vaccine that caused Indy’s seizures, but in all likelihood it was the culprit. Although it is not a an experience I ever wanted, my experience with Indy did teach me a lesson I will carry with me the rest of my life  – my dogs will always receive the rabies vaccine separately from the rest of their vaccinations. It is not an option for me.

My vet is aware of my concerns and supports me fully. We usually schedule my dog’s rabies vaccinations so they are 3 weeks before or after their other core vaccinations. This may be a slightly more expensive route to go, but the peace of mind I get in return is worth it. Does this mean none of my dogs will ever experience what Indy went through? No. I know there is never a guarantee of that, but it does make me feel like I am doing everything I can to reduce the chances it will happen again. Titers are another route to go if you choose to do so. I have chosen not to do so. Yet.

Disclosure: Please keep in mind that while I have consulted professionals regarding Indy’s care, this post is not advice on how to heal your pet, but more of a cautionary tale that may be worth heeding.  As always, please consult your vet before making any health decisions for your pets.

This post is part of the Caring for Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. You can find a huge list of helpful posts about a variety of pet illnesses and needs by clicking on the image above. Check out last yesterday’s post from Cascadian Nomads on the dangers of Salmon poisoning. 

Dogs and Rabies Vaccinations – Lies, Lies and More Lies

March 6, 2012 37 comments

A little late-night note: I want to make clear that this rant has very little to do with most honest and caring veterinarians, nor does it have anything to do with my own veterinarian, whom I adore. This is regarding one particular veterinarian clinic in Minnesota that sponsored a vaccination clinic and misrepresented the Rabies vaccine dosage both on their forms and in their reminder notice (see below). I apologize to any veterinarians this offended, but I would hope that you would recognize someone who is at the very least confusing people, and at the most, deceiving them.

A couple of days I ago I received an email that got me hopping mad… all over again. Here is a copy of the email.

You might think that a reminder notice would be a pretty innocuous thing to be mad about. But, it’s not the reminder notice itself that pisses me off. It’s the fact that it contains an outright lie that it is designed to misinform pet owners and will lead to many dogs to be over-vaccinated for no good reason (unless money is at play here?). Do you see the lie yet? I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the orange print. Not yet?

It’s the “2 Year Adult Rabies” description. It doesn’t exist. There is no 2 Year Rabies vaccine. It only comes in 1 Year and 3 Year doses (and most vets have gone to administering the 3 Year vaccine). This is why I am so mad. It’s a deception that most dog owners don’t even know about.

I wrote about this issue last year after viewing a local television news station’s investigation of veterinarians telling people to re-vaccinate their pets sooner than they needed to and for lying to pet owners about the 2 Year Rabies vaccine. I was so surprised to discover that the vet clinic that had held the vaccination clinic I attended had done the very same thing. Their form doesn’t list a 1 Year or 3 Year vaccination. They only mention options of 1 Year or 2 Year vaccinations, even though the 2 Year doesn’t exist. You can read my post in this and view the news report here.

Daisy and Jasper were vaccinated last year with a 3 Year Rabies vaccination, and yet, 1 year later the vet clinic wants to re-vaccinate my dogs – 2 years earlier than necessary! Of all the vaccines dogs get the Rabies vaccine is the one that is the hardest on dogs, but here is a vet clinic encouraging unsuspecting dog owners to re-up their vaccination 2 years early. Do you see anything wrong with that? I do.

More and more vets are learning that we are over-vaccinating our pets and that we may actually be causing more medical issues for them rather than less. Links are being made between the Rabies vaccine and canine auto-immune disorders and canine cancer (I included much of this information in my post from July). So there is reason for pet owners to be cautious (and for me to be mad when a vet clinic knowingly deceives the public).

I’ll be writing that vet clinic today to share my concerns with them, but I suspect they will not change their approach. So I warn all you dog owners out there to be informed. Because in the end, it’s your pet’s life that is at stake.

Resources:
Why Vets Are Getting Away With Murder?
Rabies Challenge Fund
The Rabies Vaccine and Your Dog: Side Effects