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BREAKING NEWS: New Rules About Pets Exposed To Rabies

A new recommendation was issued this month by The National Association of State Public Heath Veterinarians in the 2016 edition of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control that may bring hope to some owners who pets come in contact with a rabid animals after their vaccines have expired.

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The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) reported:

“The update pertaining to out-of-date vaccination status follows publication in the Jan. 15, 2015, issue of JAVMA of a report on “Comparison of anamnestic responses to rabies vaccination in dogs and cats with current and out-of-date vaccination status” (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;246:205-211). According to the abstract, “Results indicated that dogs with out-of-date vaccination status were not inferior in their antibody response following booster rabies vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status.”

In other words, some pets were still protected against rabies even though the vaccine had technically expired.

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The current rules about animals that come into contact with an animal known or suspected of having rabies was a six month quarantine or mandatory euthanasia and testing of that animal for rabies. Why? Because the only way to test for rabies is to examine brain tissue of a deceased animal. (americanhumane.org)

According to the JAVMA, “The 2016 edition of the compendium also advises reducing the quarantine period from six months to four for unvaccinated cats and dogs exposed to rabies. The compendium committee based the guidance on unpublished data from various states.”

Your vet can tell if your pet still has the antibodies from the rabies vaccine with a simple Titer test. (Incidentally, some pet parents opt to get Titer tests done rather than vaccinate their pet all the time).

The Titer Test

Dr. Micheal C. Moore has been working on figuring out whether animals with out-of-date rabies vaccines responded as well to the booster as those whose rabies was current.

He told JAVMA:

“The initial results were pretty outstanding, we felt, so we proactively started recruiting people,” Dr. Moore said. 

Between 2010 and 2014, the researchers obtained serum samples from a total of 74 dogs and 33 cats that, according to the study abstract, “had been exposed to rabies and brought to a veterinarian for proactive serologic monitoring or that had been brought to a veterinarian for booster rabies vaccination.”

Results: “All animals had an antirabies antibody titer ≥ 0.5 IU/mL 5 to 15 days after booster vaccination. Dogs with an out-of-date vaccination status had a higher median increase in titer, higher median fold increase in titer, and higher median titer following booster vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status.

According to the report, “Because of the small number of cats in the study and the fact that most cats … had a titer ≥ 12 IU/mL 5 to 15 days after booster vaccination, proportional hazards analysis could not be used to analyze the response to booster vaccination in cats with current versus out-of-date vaccination status.”

The authors concluded, “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.”

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The end result is that:

  • Pets who are current on vaccines should receive vet care, a booster shot, and then be observed by the owner for 45 days.
  • Pets who have never been vaccinated (if the owner refuses euthanasia) should be given a vaccination and then put under strict quarantine for (now) four months.
  • Pets who have been vaccinated but the vaccine has expired will be treated similarly to pets who are currently vaccinated – given a booster and put under observation for 45 days.

These, of course, are just guidelines and every jurisdiction can choose to follow them or not.

You can read more at AVMA.org 

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Written by Kristina Lotz
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