January 6, 2016 | Erin | 10 Comments Current Rabies Laws In the United states, a dog owner is legally required to to vaccinate their dog every three years. The reasoning behind this is that if your dog was exposed to rabies, extreme consequences could result. It is still important though to ask the question, is the Rabies shot really designed to protect my dog? Recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state: Any dog that has not been vaccinated for rabies and has been exposed to a rabid animal should be immediately euthanized. If an owner does not agree with #1, the animal should be isolated for 6 months and they should receive the rabies vaccine one month before they are released from isolation. Exposure by a pet whose vaccine has expired needs to be individually evaluated. Pets with a current vaccine that are exposed should be kept under observation for a 45 day period. The CDC states that about 6% of the 120,000 animals tested in the US annually for Rabies are positive. That number drops to less than 1% for domestic animals. What Research Has Shown According to Dr. Ronald Schultz, a veterinary immunologist considered a leader in vaccination research, the duration of immunity for the Rabies vaccine is at least 7 years. The law however has decided that protection is no longer effective after 3 years. So just what could be the reason behind such a difference of opinion? The results of a study completed by the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory offers hope for future change in vaccine requirements. The Rabies vaccine introduces a “killed” germ which the dog’s immune system reacts to, as if it were exposed to the actual disease. Antibodies are produced that provide immunity. Veterinarians are now able to rapidly screen a dogs immunity to Rabies through a new testing procedure, the Rapid Fluorescent Focus Inhibition Test. The researchers determined that: “Results indicated that dogs with out-of-date vaccination status were not inferior in their antibody response following booster rabies vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status. Findings supported immediate booster vaccination followed by observation for 45 days of dogs and cats with an out-of-date vaccination status that are exposed to rabies, as is the current practice for dogs and cats with current vaccination status.” It is felt this test should be standard practice rather than requiring a dog to receive an immunization it does not need. The anitbody test not only protects any public health concerns, it also protects dogs from possible unnecessary side effects from the vaccine that include pain, fever, encephalitis, seizures, injection site cancers and anaphylactic shock. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association has issued official support of the findings of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and is calling for reform of current Rabies laws. They state: “If an animal undergoes testing and is found to have adequate protection, the AHVMA supports reform of public health laws that require automatic revaccination. Such booster vaccinations may not be medically necessary. This new testing procedure allows screening for continued rabies vaccine response. This allows veterinarians and pet guardians to effectively decide upon a path that reduces risks of an adverse effect for individual animals while protecting any public health concerns.” Considering all that research has recently determined, it is important to question the role of our veterinarians in this. We all need to have confidence in the care that our vets provide, but I feel it is just as important that our vets question standards of care within their practice. The current schedule for vaccines dates back to 1978 and was initiated without any scientific basis. So why has it continued? Critics of our vaccine policy point to money. They state that our vets perpetuate the need for vaccines as a way to ensure their profit margins as vaccines can represent up to 14% of an average veterinarians income. I am truly unsure if this makes me more angry than just plain sad. While no changes have been made to current vaccination laws, there is optimism for a future where dogs would not be required to have unnecessary and possibly harmful vaccinations simply to be in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, considering the slowness our legal system is known for, it is impossible to predict when change will be here.