From My Desk: Serum Rabies Titers Could Replace Mandatory Rabies Vaccination

Rayne and Me At My Desk

Rayne and Me At My Desk

From Linda’s Desk:
Finally we have some hopeful news about rabies vaccine for the future.

Because of the requirement for so many extra rabies vaccinations to get back into Hawaii, we were unable to have the joy of our Westie, Rayne traveling with us. Let’s all hold the intention that there will be enough awareness raised as a result of this report that perhaps titer checks will be allowed in the future.

By Dr. Becker

I’m very happy to be able to share a bit more encouraging news regarding rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats.

Very recently I reported the results of a study performed by Kansas State University (KSU) that compared “anamnestic” antibody responses of dogs and cats with current vs. out-of-date rabies vaccinations. The animals in the study were given rabies boosters (“booster” is simply another name for a re-vaccination), and then given antibody titer tests to see if the group with current vaccinations had higher titers than the group with out-of-date vaccinations.

Rabies-Vaccine-Shots-Dogs

Good News on the Horizon for Rabies Vaccines?
The study authors’ conclusion:

“Results indicated that dogs with out-of-date vaccination status were not inferior in their antibody response following booster rabies vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status.

Findings supported immediate booster vaccination followed by observation for 45 days of dogs and cats with an out-of-date vaccination status that are exposed to rabies, as is the current practice for dogs and cats with current vaccination status.”…

These study results were published in mid-January 2015, and in August, KSU announced that scientists at the university’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) had “modified a test that measures an animal’s immune response to the rabies virus, a change that will cost pet owners less money and may help reduce the number of yearly vaccines for pets.”

What they’re talking about is a rabies titer test. It’s important to note that state and local laws mandating one or three-year rabies re-vaccinations for dogs and cats are based on zero scientific evidence the “boosters” are actually necessary.

Dr. Dodds forwarded an AHVMA press release titled “Changes Sought to Rabies Vaccination Laws Based on Scientific Research.” As it turns out, the AHVMA has been working in support of Kansas State University on the rabies antibody titer test project. This makes all kinds of sense, since it is the holistic and integrative veterinary community that has been leading the charge against over-vaccinating pets.

Veterinary vaccine authority, Dr. Jean Dodds and I are fellow members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), and she is Chairperson of the AHVMA Communications Committee. Here is part of Dr. Dodds’ press release:

“The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) became the first national veterinary organization to support efforts by Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (KSVDL) to improve rabies testing with a modified screening test to determine if veterinary patients need to receive rabies booster vaccinations to maintain protective immunity. The AHVMA and its members have long expressed concern over animal vaccination practices. While vaccinations provide important protection against a wide number of serious diseases, they can also cause adverse effects ranging from minor discomfort, autoimmune disorders, and even death on rare occasions.

Veterinarians can offer serum antibody titers, a form of blood testing which is helpful in predicting the need for revaccination. This practice is helpful to reduce the potential dangers to pets from receiving unneeded vaccinations. Currently, laws regulating rabies vaccination are set locally and statewide and may not allow for the use of blood antibody testing to avoid mandatory rabies revaccination. To comply with the law, veterinarians and pet owners vaccinate at prescribed intervals regardless of existing immunity. This practice was developed to protect public health in a time when vaccine titers were not offered by veterinarians, but it increases the risk of vaccine adverse-events for our dog and cat patients.

Recent research at the Rabies Challenge Fund suggests immunity from rabies vaccination lasts much longer than the usual one to three year interval required by current laws. This study added significant evidence that we may be over vaccinating for rabies in our pet population. Public health officials have expressed concern that reducing vaccination for rabies could increase the incidence of this deadly disease. To date, legislatures and public health agencies have resisted changing rabies vaccination laws to reflect current knowledge about rabies vaccine duration of protection.

Rabies vaccinations can be associated with a number of significant, well-documented adverse effects.
Until legal changes occur, animal guardians and veterinarians must comply with existing legal statutes. Rabies serum antibody titering can be performed for information, documentation, and to satisfy export and import requirements, but this does not replace the legal requirement for rabies booster vaccinations.

It is the hope of both organizations that through cooperation and advancements in science we can illustrate our dedication to better health and safety for people and animals. As science advances we must update public policy to reflect our new understandings. This new testing is a great example of such cooperative efforts.”

© 2015, Linda Tellington-Jones. All rights reserved.

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