Saturday, November 24, 2012

What I know - Rabies & Vaccines..

Recently I have been reading more and more about Rabies..

As someone who has made the controversial decision to stop vaccinating my cats, this subject interests me a great deal.  There was an article in my local newspaper about incidences of rabies in the area.  That scared me more than anything else, because if it is "in my back yard" than my cat's risk is greater.  But all of my cats have been vaccinated in the past, and they are indoor only (and show almost no interest in going out - if I leave the door open for an extended period they'll investigate but they are too afraid of being shut out to go far) so I think my risk is minimized.

Then I read this blog post* by Dr. Ernie Ward a vet (I am assuming a DVM, but it does not specifically say on his website) and a triathlete and TV show personality.  This post scared me even more.  It is the story of an indoor only kitty who became rabid.  It bit the owners, so they had to go through rabies treatment.  The kitty had apparently had the vaccine in the past but was currently not up to date.

Talk about frightening.

The added graphic showing that the incidents of rabies in cats and dogs in 2008 & 2009 seemed to highlight the dangers of rabies for cats.. as 75-80 dogs and around 300 cats were infected.

But the thing is..

There is no context to these stats.  Did you know there are 86.4 million owned cats and an estimated 70 million more that are homeless? (some how I find it a good thing there are more cats owned than are not)

So the incidents of rabies in cats is minute.  Even if we are talking just the owned cats being responsible for that 300 number then we are talking 0.000004% of the population.  or 1 in ever 288,000 cats being at risk.  That number may be higher or lower depending on the incidents of rabies in your area.  Prior to the reports, there were only a handful of rabid animals reported in my state, and all were found hundreds of miles from my home.

Did you know the incidence of Vaccine Associated Sarcoma is as low as 1 in every 1,000 cats?  I've seen 1:5,000 and 1:10,000.  Even if we went with the highest ratio the odds of getting VAS are almost 30x greater than getting the disease. (and 300x if you go with the lowest number)

Now granted, VAS is associated with all vaccines, FELV in particular so these numbers are probably a little skewed as I can not adjust for "rabies vaccine incidents only"

The whole reason I'm posting this though, is because that original post didn't even MENTION that there is a darn good reason to consider not giving vaccines.  VAS is not the only adverse reaction.

I think we should all know the risks of the choices we make for our kitties..

*Update 2015: That blog post was removed by Dr. Ward. Other posts from the time frame are still up, but not this one.  Science has also shown that animals in which the rabies vaccine they have been given was expired do just fine after an exposure if a booster shot is given.


  1. It is kinda scary thinking about these thing in the UK we are a rabies free countryand have strict controls on animals comming in to the country to keep it that way,the only time a cat or dog has to be vaccinated against rabies is if they are traveling to Europe on the pet passport scheme so that they cand come back in to the UK with out having to go through 6 months of quarantine plus they have to have all their shots and worming up to date too

  2. I forgot to add that rabbits can come and go freely with out having to go through this to european countrys as they are declared disease free

  3. The boys were vaccinated as kittens, of course, by the shelter, including rabies. I've not had it done since adoption, as I agree that the odds of negative side effects are far higher than the odds of actually contracting rabies.

    That's the problem with all these reports in the media, "expert" opinions, etc. You have to look beyond the words, follow the money to see who gains, etc.

  4. Connie, thank you so much for writing a post about not vaccinating cats. My kitties are all overdue for vaccines, but they, too, are only inside cats and the chances of altercation with an infected animal is minimal. What really concerns me is what pets can contract from the vaccines they are given. If you have an indoor only cat who is healthy, why would you want to inject it with something that has an origin you're trusting others to determine?
    As so often happens, we follow our own health regimen for our animals. If seeing a doctor routinely is something you do, the pets do, too. I don't, and the pets won't--except for an annual physical, and even then, we're all pretty lax. Everyone here, thank God, is healthy, happy and wants for Maine, that's living the simple life.

    By the way, I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, too!


  5. Very good post! we agree with you :)
    Just a few weeks ago a small vollenteer based animal welfare organization offered very affordable rabies and core vacc. for both dogs and cats... a great way to get your pets taken care of and at a good price too.
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  6. That's the problem with stats.. they're not usually informative enough. And usually said in such a way to support what the writer wants to say. For instance "Only 4 percent!" As opposed to "5000 cases!" they always leave me with more questions..
    I'm still not getting rabies shots, but I accept that is my choice and if something happens, it's my fault.

  7. We are all indoor cats as well and had all the shots initially, and none since and we don't travel. If it exists where we are, we would point at the raccoon population, but usually news bulletins are issued if there is reason.

  8. Mowzers...we hadn't heard... We mean, we'd heard of VAS but didn't knwo the stats on it. *GULP*

  9. I no longer vaccinate our gang either, for various reasons. Sadie had her initial round of kitten vaccines, but she's done now too.


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