The Global Alliance for Rabies Control has designated September 28, 2011 as World Rabies Day. The mission of World Rabies Day is to bring about awareness of the sources of rabies in humans and animals and to provide information on how to prevent exposure.
Rabies is a viral disease in mammals that animals and people can get through exposure to saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal. It spreads from the exposure site through the nervous system to the brain, eventually causing death if not immediately treated with medical care. More than 55,000 people die from rabies each year, mostly in Africa and Asia where little medical care exists. The largest source of rabies in humans around the world is due to uncontrolled rabies in dogs, and children are most at risk for being bitten.
While rabies remains prevalent in our wildlife population, it is now relatively rare in Canadian dogs and cats due to strict vaccination policies. This is why it is so important to educate the public on how easy it can be to prevent rabies through animal vaccinations, being aware of your surroundings, and having available medical treatment nearby. Dozens of educational materials and information on rabies are available on the World Rabies Day website at www.worldrabiesday.org.
The promotional material that we received about this event brought to mind the vaccinations that we use routinely in our clinic, including rabies vaccinations. We are asked daily if these vaccinations are really necessary. We do believe that vaccinations are part of a comprehensive preventative health care plan for your pet, and their “annual visit” is also of vital importance to keep them healthy long term.
The veterinarians at Eglinton Vet Facilities support the use of vaccinations to control and prevent feline and canine infectious diseases and reduce the risk of human exposure to pet owners and family members. According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, “vaccines have an important role in protecting animals from infectious diseases. The risks of not vaccinating can be significant, not only to the individual animal, but also to the population at large. The spread of infectious disease is best controlled by vaccinating as many animals as possible in each community. Historically, immunization practices and vaccination protocols have contributed to reduce significantly the incidence of many life-threatening diseases.”
All that being said, it has been shown in the past several years that some vaccines are able to protect animals (particularly dogs) for more than the 1 year as was originally thought. Based on the research, we are now giving rabies vaccinations to dogs every 3 years and vaccinating against Distemper, Adenovirus and Parvovirus every 2 years (for dogs after their first adult vaccine). Other vaccinations such as Leptospirosis and Bordatella, however, have a limited duration of immunity which is one year or less depending on the vaccine.
Feline vaccines have also changed substantially over the past decade. An exciting change came in the development of a feline-specific rabies vaccination, meaning that we no longer use the same rabies vaccine on both dogs and cats. This vaccine was a huge advancement, as it has decreased the risk to our feline patients of a deadly “vaccine associated sarcoma” (Google it!). We continue to give rabies vaccines to all feline patients once per year, but have decreased the frequency of other vaccines in those cats who are indoors 100% of the time.
We recommend that we see all dogs and cats each year (and may recommend that we see a senior pet every 6 months). We treat every consultation as a chance to check the animal over thoroughly and an opportunity to discuss with the owner any concerns that they might have. An annual visit will also likely include some sort of vaccination, but only those that are reasonable given your pet’s age, lifestyle and vaccination history. Please call the clinic if you have any questions about vaccinations for your pets.