As an adult, I had a vaccination for Yellow Fever. Hours afterward I began to feel like I had the flu, which is a common side effect. My travel mate felt no side effects to her vaccination. So yes, we're all different. And there is no doubt that certain breeds of dogs are more sensitive to the rabies vaccine. In the past 3 years, just in my own neighbourhood, I've met two Weimaraners who lost their sight shortly after a rabies combination vaccination. It is very important to find out what the recommended protocol is for your specific type of dog, because most veterinarians still work under a one-size-fits-all assumption.
Thankfully some vets are actually working to educate patients and change the way the rabies vaccine is administered. For example Dr. Jean Dodds has created a study called the Rabies Challenge, to prove that one rabies vaccination can last at least SEVEN years (a far cry from the 1-3 years claimed by vaccine manufacturers). Most observers suspect the vaccine lasts for life. There is a way to find out if your dog is still immune; it's called a titer test (a blood test which measures antibodies). About 2 years ago I titer-tested my own dog who was 6 years "overdue" for Parvo and Distemper and he came well within the protected range. This week I received the results of his rabies titer. He's 10.5 years old and was vaccinated once at 6 months old. Currently he scores SIX times the required amount for immunity.
Unfortunately, the USDA won't accept titer tests, so at the end of the study all the dogs have to be injected with the actual rabies virus. But everyone at "the challenge" is working towards changing that too.
As per Dr. Dodds' website, documented reactions to the rabies vaccine include:
- Behaviour changes such as aggression and separation anxiety
- Obsessive behaviour, self-mutilation, tail chewing
- Pica - eating wood, stones, earth, stool
- Destructive behaviour, 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 the central nervous system
- Muscular weakness and or atrophy
- Chronic digestive problems
My wish is that veterinarians would take more time to educate themselves on the risks, updated protocols, and breed-specific studies before insisting upon boosters. As with most of the decisions you make that affect your dog, doing your own research and forming your own opinions will be your best bet for doing right by them. This article will provide you with some good tips for doing just that.
At the very least, never vaccinate elderly or sick dogs, or dogs who have had a negative vaccine reaction in the past. It will dramatically increase the risk of serious side effects.
*small disclaimer: I am in NO away advocating against core vaccines such as Parvo,
given at puppy-hood*