Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog The Change For Animals: Rabies Challenge Fund

"A deliberately broken wasp nest, and an accidentally broken wasp nest, look exactly the same."
Rabies is a well known,  feared disease, and justifiably so. It can infect people as well as animals, and it is deadly. Eradication of the disease is nowhere in sight, on the contrary, it has been making news recently.

Rabies is most commonly transmitted through a bite from an infected animal but the fact is that any contact of infected saliva with mucous membranes or an open wound can also lead to transmission.

The good news is, there is a rabies vaccine available for our dogs.

But how much of a good thing is too much?

It has become clear that our dogs are being notoriously over-vaccinated.

There is also growing evidence that all those vaccinations are not entirely without adverse effects, sometimes severe.

Reactions that have been documented include:
  • Behavior changes such as aggression and separation anxiety
  • Obsessive behavior,self-mutilation, tail chewing
  • Pica - eating wood, stones, earth, stool
  • Destructive behavior, shredding bedding
  • Seizures, epilepsy
  • Fibrosarcomas at injection site
  • Autoimmune diseases such as those affecting bone marrow and blood cells, joints, eyes, skin, kidney, liver, bowel and central nervous system
  • Muscular weakness and or atrophy
  • Chronic digestive problems

Rabies vaccination is required by law in nearly all areas. Even though protection from rabies is documented to last at least three years, current law in some states or areas still requires that boosters be given annually or biannually rather than the standard policy of every three years.

Some veterinarians, even though using a three-year vaccine, push for re-vaccinating annually, or every two years.

There is no such thing as a two-year rabies vaccine.

A friend of mine, over from Champion of My Heart, is dealing with the outcome of a severe reaction her dog, Lilly, had to a rabies vaccine. Even though Lilly's situation is rare, adverse reactions of various severity do occur.

We want our dogs protected from this horrible disease. But are we vaccinating more often than we need to?

The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust is working to determine the duration of immunity provided by rabies vaccines. The goal is to extend the required interval for rabies boosters to 5 and then to 7 years.

Jasmine and JD will be due for their rabies vaccination next spring.

They never had a visible adverse reaction to it but, like with most things, there never is a problem until there is one. We vaccinate very discriminately and titer. But rabies vaccination is legislated.

I don't want to risk my guys contracting rabies but I don't like risking potential adverse effects from too much of a good thing either.

I support the Rabies Challenge Fund and really hoping that their study might show that the immunity from a rabies vaccine does indeed last at least 5 years.

It is time to find out.

Related articles:
Lilly's Meningoencephalomyelitis
Adverse Rabies Vaccine Reaction: Lilly Needs Our Help 
The Vaccination Conundrum

Further reading:
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Why Challenge Current Rabies Vaccine Policy?
Duration of Immunity to Canine Vaccines: What We Know and Don't Know
ASPCA on Rabies
Rabies in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Vaccination


  1. Thank you for blogging about the Rabies Challenge Fund. I was unaware such an organization existed, even with all the talk about over vaccinating our pets. This could be the answer to our concerns about our beloved pets, especially the ones who are hyper-reactive to shots. Great job!

    1. Thank you, yes, this study should determine how long the immunity really lasts and hopefully that will then reflect in the legislation and policies.

  2. Agreed. When it comes to health, we can't have too much information. I've never owned a pet who has had an averse reaction so can only imagine the heartbreak. We vaccinate because we want to protect our animals and it's terrifying to think this could actually bring them harm.

    The rabies vaccine is not required by law in my community and I question whether this legislation isn't outdated. It's time to put science to work instead of just fear.

    1. Where you live there is no law requiring rabies vaccination? Wow, typically the problem is quite the opposite.

      I believe that vaccinating against rabies IS important, however, the question is how often this really needs to be done.

  3. We agree completely! If the vaccine provides several years' worth of immunity, we need to be given the option to not over vaccinate. Many veterinarians feel this way too but are held hostage to local city ordinances.

  4. Great cause to highlight today. It seems crazy to me that vets would advocate for a 2 year cycle on a 3 year vaccine.

    Roxanne's situation has really opened my eyes about vaccines - thanks for giving me more to think about.

    Be the Change for Animals
    I Still Want More Puppies

    1. Hi A.J., thank you for stopping by. I do hope that the study will bring some solid, conclusive results.

      Yes, Lilly's case, though rare, is quite an eye-opener, isn't it?

      I'm glad our vet agrees to titering; but the rabies are legislated, so not much can be done unless something changes. We do the 3-year cycle.

  5. This is very interesting and informative, thank you for sharing! I also didn't know that the Rabies Challenge Fund existed and I am all for it. I work at an SPCA and I see cats and dogs get over vaccinated ALL the time, and it's extremely frustrating because I know that it has to has some kind of adverse affect on them I just never really knew what. We've had a handful who have had a bad reaction to it too, because the owners don't bring in their shot records or lose we have to vaccinate them and they get over vaccinated. I hope science and studies can challenge this very soon!

    1. Yes, I hope so too. Unfortunately, some adverse effects are "subtle" enough, happen long enough after vaccination or are inconclusive enough that the possibility of a vaccine being behind them is dismissed.

  6. Thank you, Jana, for bringing this to light. There are surely many folks who are not aware of this fund, or even that there can be health risks with the rabies vaccines. I join you in hoping the study will show effectiveness for at least five years!

    Thank you for blogging the change for animals,
    Kim Thomas
    Be the Change for Animals
    CindyLu's Muse

    1. Thank you, Kim, yes hoping that perhaps our guys' next vaccine might be their last; at least Jasmine's.

  7. We live in an age where we over-distribute antibiotics (and create super bugs), medicate children for "behavioral" issues (read: for being children)and over vaccinate to preserve health (while not being sure of the true benefits or side effects). I'm glad to know that somebody is working on answers. Thank you for bringing this cause to our attention!

    Thanks so much for Blogging the Change!

    Kim Clune

    1. Thank you, Kim. I even saw some "underground" documentaries in which they were making a point of some vaccines actually not only not being effective at all, but being even counter-productive.

      Of course, I have no way of verifying the data they used, but it certainly was interesting.

      Either way, though, as good and protective as vaccines may or may not be, too much of a good thing is typically not good.