Rabies shots -- aren't we overdoing it?

drstove

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jan 19, 2013
Messages
1
Purraise
2
When adopting my cat 3 years ago I was surprised to hear the vet say that she would need an annual rabies shot every year for 3 years and then one every three years. Cats used to get one rabies shot as a kitten that lasted a lifetime. So what caused the change? Does anyone know? Is this just a "lets support our local vet" thing or is there a scientific basis as to why one shot for life no longer sufficient?
 

sivyaleah

TCS Member
Veteran
Joined
Dec 16, 2011
Messages
5,398
Purraise
3,770
Location
New Jersey
I'd love to know the reason behind this also. Our cats are totally indoor cats.  I'm about to bring in our older one for his annual check up and I know they are going to approach me about this and would love to have an informed answer if I chose to decline.  Same goes for other vaccinations which they always want to order on a yearly basis that seem unnecessary considering their indoor status.
 

otto

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 7, 2008
Messages
9,836
Purraise
190
When adopting my cat 3 years ago I was surprised to hear the vet say that she would need an annual rabies shot every year for 3 years and then one every three years. Cats used to get one rabies shot as a kitten that lasted a lifetime. So what caused the change? Does anyone know? Is this just a "lets support our local vet" thing or is there a scientific basis as to why one shot for life no longer sufficient?
The vets don't make the laws, the states make the laws. I never heard of "one rabies shot lasting a lifetime", in fact the adjuvanted rabies used to be an annual shot, it's only been about..20 years? (guessing) since it went to a three year shot. The pureVax rabies shot (non adjuvanted) is still approved for only one year.

I'd be more likely to place the blame on the pharmaceutical companies for clinging to the old regimens. If the PureVax shot (much safe than the adjuvanted shots) for instance is approved as a three year vaccine, think of all the revenue Merial will lose.

My cats are indoor cats, but I follow the laws of my state for my cats' protection, and that means a PureVax rabies vaccine annually (or an adjuvanted rabies every three years, but I won't allow adjuvanted vaccines used in my cats)

Rabies is taken very seriously where I live, as it should be. If an un-vaccinated cat should bite someone that cat is either immediately destroyed, or kept in a 6 month quarantine, at the pet owner's expense, depending on the official making the decisions at the time. If an emergency arises and you have to use a vet other than your own, around here one of the first things you are asked when you call for an emergency appointment is "is your cat up to date on the rabies vaccine".

I and my vet both believe that the PureVax vaccine protects for at LEAST three years, but neither of us are willing to break the law and not vaccinate my cats. There is just too much at risk.
 
Last edited:

Willowy

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 1, 2009
Messages
30,390
Purraise
25,755
Location
South Dakota
When the rabies vaccine was first discovered/invented, it was considered a "once for life" vaccine, for cats and dogs. It was considered quite dangerous, too (and nothing about the vaccine has changed since then!).

But anyway, look into your local laws and talk to your vet. I don't know of any localities that require one shot a year for 3 years, then every 3 years: the ones I know require the initial shot, one a year later, then once every 3 years. Perhaps your vet is misreading the statute.
 

otto

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 7, 2008
Messages
9,836
Purraise
190
When the rabies vaccine was first discovered/invented, it was considered a "once for life" vaccine, for cats and dogs. It was considered quite dangerous, too (and nothing about the vaccine has changed since then!).
Where are you finding this info? Only knowing laws of rabies vaccines since I've had my own cats. I remember our cats being vaccinated when I was a girl (in the 1970s) but do not remember the durations of the vaccines. My own cats when I first became an adult in the 1980s were first vaccinated every year, then, I think it was the late 80s or maybe early 90s the vet told me they only need the vaccine every 3 years from now on. Then in the early 2000s enter the non-adjuvanted PureVax which, currently, is still approved only for one year in my state.

I've done some searching and am finding many contradicting "histories" of the rabies vaccine.

I just read that the vaccine has changed much over the years since it was first discovered in 1884 by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, but that was in wikpedia, not the most reliable source. Another article (The National Network for Immunization Information website) states the rabies vaccine was invented in 1960s?

I just have no skills when it comes to searching, but now I am curious about the history of the rabies vaccine. Can someone post some reliable links to information about this?
 
Last edited:

minka

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
May 4, 2011
Messages
2,437
Purraise
49
Location
Denton, Texas
I'll have to look up the articles, but yes, technically rabies is only needed once to make your cat immune. The only reason it is done more than once is to satisfy city ordinances.
 

violet

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Messages
1,220
Purraise
30
Location
MA
Originally posted by otto

The vets don't make the laws, the states make the laws. I never heard of "one rabies shot lasting a lifetime", in fact the adjuvanted rabies used to be an annual shot, it's only been about..20 years? (guessing) since it went to a three year shot. The pureVax rabies shot (non adjuvanted) is still approved for only one year.
True, true, true.

"The vets don't make the laws, the states make the laws." is a MOST important consideration when it comes to the importance of up-to-date rabies vaccinations and the consequences of not vaccinating cats in states where getting rabies from encounters with wildlife can be a very real possibility. In my state this is the case and even holistic vets are not willing to skip rabies shots based on the facts how the disease can be transmitted.

The real and scary problem is that, just one encounter with a rabid animal is enough to transmit the disease to a cat - and then the cat transmitting the disease to humans and other pets. There is no cure for rabies when the disease reaches the brain. And there are no warning signs before it does. A wound, especially a tiny puncture wound can go undetected and it can take months, sometimes close to a year for the infection to travel to the brain.

For an unvaccinated indoor cat one escape from the house can be enough to get infected with this deadly disease.

Many years ago I had to fight for the life of a stray that was found to have a healing wound of unknown origin. Animal control wanted to euthanize, no questions asked. Long story short, I had to put up a fight as if this cat had been one of my own and quarantine him for 6 months to save his life. (During that time I had the opportunity of a lifetime to study up on rabies, the transmission of the disease and the time for the disease to reach the brain. Incredible lessons learned, for which I will always be grateful.)

Some states/towns don't give people an option. Any possibility of rabies or just biting someone - immediate euthanasia

So, anyone who is reluctant to vaccinate indoor cats for rabies, please check most carefully with your local health department, find out what the laws are that apply. You absolutely need to be aware of those laws.

Speaking of rabies brings back to mind a story in my area. Some years ago people (living in the town of Marlborough) found an abandoned baby raccoon. They took it home, trying to save its life. It was a sweet little thing and everything was going well. It became a "pet" and lots and lots of people had close contact with it. (I really can't remember the gender of this baby after all these years.) Anyway, to make a long story short, eventually, the baby raccoon, growing up. started showing signs that were clearly indicating a rabies infection. It had to be euthanized and rabies was confirmed. People were speculating the mother must have known something and that's why the baby was abandoned. The fate of the mother was never known based on the available information at the time.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make with this story is that, when the health department was done with all its work, more than a hundred people (everyone who had ever had any contact with this baby raccoon - the people who kept it like a pet it took it to public places, even the beach) had to get rabies shots to prevent possible infection. Yeah, it was sucking on people's fingers. etc, just an adorable, sweet little thing.

Sad and tragic as it was, this case was clear proof that rabies can be a real threat anywhere at any time and the need for vaccination even for indoor cats is not something greedy vets dream up to line their pockets. The vaccinations do protect and in case of an unexpected encounter with wildlife outdoors, a booster will protect our pets and ourselves.
 

Willowy

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 1, 2009
Messages
30,390
Purraise
25,755
Location
South Dakota
Where are you finding this info? Only knowing laws of rabies vaccines since I've had my own cats. I remember our cats being vaccinated when I was a girl (in the 1970s) but do not remember the durations of the vaccines. My own cats when I first became an adult in the 1980s were first vaccinated every year, then, I think it was the late 80s or maybe early 90s the vet told me they only need the vaccine every 3 years from now on. Then in the early 2000s enter the non-adjuvanted PureVax which, currently, is still approved only for one year in my state.

I've done some searching and am finding many contradicting "histories" of the rabies vaccine.

I just read that the vaccine has changed much over the years since it was first discovered in 1884 by Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux, but that was in wikpedia, not the most reliable source. Another article (The National Network for Immunization Information website) states the rabies vaccine was invented in 1960s?

I just have no skills when it comes to searching, but now I am curious about the history of the rabies vaccine. Can someone post some reliable links to information about this?
LOL, now I'm having trouble finding any reliable info. I was mostly going on some things I've read in dog forums, plus a childrens' book I read, it's a 1964 Newbery medal Honor book, so must have been written in 1963 or 1964. And one of the storylines is how the shepherd is scared to give her sheepdogs the rabies vaccine because one of her dogs died from it, and the boy convinces her to do it anyway, and once it was done they were glad they didn't have to worry about it anymore. . .well, not scientific, but maybe it shows the general attitude about the rabies vaccine back then?

I'll try to find more on it later. Maybe ask around the dog forum.
 

flintmccullough

TCS Member
Alpha Cat
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
552
Purraise
39
Location
Dallas, Texas
Everyone-gave-some-great-information,and,the-reasons,why,one-should-vaccinate-for-rabies.


From-a-show-perspective,its-required.The-Health-Dept,not-the-show-manager,will-spot-check,and-ya-don't-want-to-be-caught,at-a-show,without,your-rabies-certificate.You-will-be-asked-to-leave,as-well,as-anyone-who-is-traveling-with-you.

From-a-pet-parent-perspective,if-your-kitty,even-an-indoor-kitty,should-bite-someone,even-accidently,the-doctor-or-ER-is-required,by-law,to-report-it.The-Health-Dept-will-contact-the-owner,and-request-a-rabies-certificate,from,your-vet,they-fax-it-over.Your-vet-faxes-it-over,have-a-good-day.No-rabies-certificate......they-will-confiscate-the-cat,and-quarantine,for-6-months,at-the-owners-expense,which,if-one-is-familiar-with-pet-boarding,its-very,expensive.

What-if-the-indoor-kitty-accidently-got-out,and-bite-someone,or-worse,came-in-contact,with-a-rabid-animal?

Mine-are-chipped,that-links-them-to-the-vet,and-they-wear-their-rabies-tag,and-chip-tag,just-in-case.I-got-a-better-chance-of-getting-them-back,and-it-proves,they-have-had-their-rabies-shot.

I-am-not-going-to-break-the-law,and-neither-is-my-vet.And-I-know-they-are-protected,just-in-case,from-a-rabid-animal,from-being-put-down,and-nobody,is-going-to-come-take-my-kitties,nooooobody.Shotgun,loaded-and-ready,easier-to-just-get-the-shot,LOL.


I-like-doing-research-for-other-kitty-parents,I-learn-alot-too,and-playoffs-don't-start-for-awhile,so-now,I-got-something-to-do.History-of-rabies.
 

Willowy

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 1, 2009
Messages
30,390
Purraise
25,755
Location
South Dakota
More specifically, the history of the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs. There's lots of history about the human vaccine, but the available history of giving it to cats and dogs is spotty at best. Let us know what you find!
 
Last edited:

minka

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
May 4, 2011
Messages
2,437
Purraise
49
Location
Denton, Texas
More specifically, the history of the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs. There's lots of history about the human vaccine, but the available history of giving it to cats and dogs is spotty at best. Let us know what you find!
Did you check my post above that I updated?

@Flint -maybe it varies from state to state, but in Texas, the waiting period is only ten days. I know cuz I got bit and they said I had to wait that long basically to see if I got rabies X__X

Also, if your cat was vaccinated as a kitten, you can be excused from getting the shot by your vet. That's what Carolina is doing for Bugsy and what I'm going to do for Grim. He already has a compromised immune system as it is. :nono:

Also, it would seem like such a rare thing for a cat to bite if he escaped. Unless he was always a biter, he'd be more likely to run first and scratch second. :nod:
 

Willowy

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 1, 2009
Messages
30,390
Purraise
25,755
Location
South Dakota
Did you check my post above that I updated?
I only looked at a few of them and didn't see any history but did any talk about the history of the rabies vaccine? Like from the '40s, '50s, '60s? That's what I'm all curious about now :lol3:.
 
Last edited:

otto

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 7, 2008
Messages
9,836
Purraise
190
Did you check my post above that I updated?

@Flint -maybe it varies from state to state, but in Texas, the waiting period is only ten days. I know cuz I got bit and they said I had to wait that long basically to see if I got rabies X__X

Also, if your cat was vaccinated as a kitten, you can be excused from getting the shot by your vet. That's what Carolina is doing for Bugsy and what I'm going to do for Grim. He already has a compromised immune system as it is. :nono:

Also, it would seem like such a rare thing for a cat to bite if he escaped. Unless he was always a biter, he'd be more likely to run first and scratch second. :nod:
These laws vary from state to state. Vet excuses to avoid a rabies shot are not admissible in my state. Nor are titers. Titers are not always an accurate indication of protection.

Rare is not impossible. And a cat doesn't have to go out, to have exposure. I had a bat in my house last fall.

One wonders how many indoor cats who get out and disappear for all time were indeed lost to rabies. Rabies is alive and well in many communities. The only way to stop it from spreading is to vaccinate. It would be nice if the laws could be updated to reflect newer knowledge about the longevity of the protection of the vaccines. Those kinds of things take time, and unfortunately Big Pharma has a long arm.

In the meantime I believe animals, for their own protection, should be vaccinated according to law regardless of their indoor/outdoor status.
 

violet

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Messages
1,220
Purraise
30
Location
MA
Since in one of her posts (post #16) otto mentioned bats, I'd like add a little bit of information that shows that bats can be a serious threat to human health as well. We really need to be aware of this.

Human Rabies -- Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas, 1994

South Carolina has first human rabies case in 50 years | Reuters

Fatal Human Rabies Caused by European Bat Lyssavirus Type 2a Infection in Scotland

Rabies | Communicable Disease Control & Surveillance | New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

Two Fairfield County residents recommended for Rabies Treatment : News : MidlandsConnect.com

Understanding Rabies : The Humane Society of the United States

Also, this thread made me remember a case of rabies some years ago in a dairy cow here in MA - not that I could ever forget that. The people who owned the farm were selling raw milk and drinking that same milk themselves. (Back in those days it was normal for us to be able to go to a farm and pick up fresh milk. We could drink it/use it raw or boil it.) Now there are no more farms, those farms are all gone. There is only one left in my area and so far that place is still allowed to sell raw milk. (Sadly, they charge $9.00 for a gallon.)

Anyway, when that poor cow came down with rabies and the disease was confirmed, all the people drinking the milk raw, including the couple that owned the farm, had to get rabies shots to prevent possible transmission to humans. How the poor unfortunate cow got infected was a mystery. I don't know if the authorities were ever able to figure it out. Unfortunately the newspapers didn't stick with the story long enough. (A bite from an infected raccoon, etc, or a puncture wound from a bat were the two possibilities they were considering.)
 

minka

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
May 4, 2011
Messages
2,437
Purraise
49
Location
Denton, Texas
These laws vary from state to state. Vet excuses to avoid a rabies shot are not admissible in my state. Nor are titers. Titers are not always an accurate indication of protection.

Rare is not impossible. And a cat doesn't have to go out, to have exposure. I had a bat in my house last fall.

One wonders how many indoor cats who get out and disappear for all time were indeed lost to rabies. Rabies is alive and well in many communities. The only way to stop it from spreading is to vaccinate. It would be nice if the laws could be updated to reflect newer knowledge about the longevity of the protection of the vaccines. Those kinds of things take time, and unfortunately Big Pharma has a long arm.
Doesn't matter if your cat is indoor Or outdoor, the point these articles make is that one shot is probably enough to last your whole cats life. Doesn't matter if it's bit by a bat or a raccoon or anything if it's got the immunity it will stay immune.

Also, the occurance of rabies is Not that prevelent at all in domestic animals anymore.. Like I said, I was bitten myself, so I had the chance to talk to a doctor who actually specialized in rabies research and lived in areas that were 'high prevalence.' And even then it's not that bad. If you want to talk about being scared, visit Mexico.

In the meantime I believe animals, for their own protection, should be vaccinated according to law regardless of their indoor/outdoor status.
Even if it compromises their own health and safety??
If we just Let the states and pharmacies do whatever they want, soon they'll have us vaccinating every few months..
 
Last edited:

otto

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Mar 7, 2008
Messages
9,836
Purraise
190
Even if it compromises their own health and safety??
If we just Let the states and pharmacies do whatever they want, soon they'll have us vaccinating every few months..
I have explained why I feel the laws should be complied with, for the cat's safety. Everyone has to make their own choices about this, and educating oneself on the local laws and practices can help. Where I live rabies is taken very seriously.

An un-vaccinated cat who has bitten someone is either immediately destroyed, or kept in quarantine for 6 months, depending on who is doing the officiating. The quarantine means isolated, in a cage, for six months. (at the pet owner's expense). I prefer to not risk any of my cats going through that. Ever.

To be treated for a cat bite from one of your own cats, who is unvaccinated, one can lie and say "I was bitten by a stray" and be subjected to the post exposure shots, and the expense of them. Or, tell the truth and say "My cat bit me accidentally when he was startled by a siren going off outside, while I was trimming his nails" (or whatever actually happened). When the truth is told, you better have the rabies certificate in hand. Even WITH that certificate, the reports are made, the forms are filled out, the attending vet is contacted, the dept. of health calls you at home to confirm that the vaccinated cat will be kept in at-home quarantine for 10 days. When the 10 days are up, they call again, to make sure all is well. If you don't return the call, they keep calling, until you do. I have been through this three times.

If I have an emergency, say, and have to rush my cat to Cornell Companion Animal Hospital, the first thing I am asked is if the cat is vaccinated and to please bring a copy of the certificate with me.

When there is a bat in my house, I have the peace of mind of knowing my cats are protected.

Regardless of what I believe is right, I choose to abide by the state law regarding rabies vaccines, for my cats' sake. And so I share my opinion on this, not to try to make other people think the same way, but to help them think it through for themselves, by providing another point of view.

The occurrence of rabies in domestic animals is high enough to warrant that all animals be vaccinated. At least 7 dogs in my area in 2012.

Rabies is prevalent in the USA. More in some areas than in others. But if people stop vaccinating completely, it will eventually be prevalent everywhere.
 
Last edited:
Top