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    Senior dog - question about rabies vaccination
    LisaH68 posted:
    Hi. My dog is 15.5 years old and has a couple of health issues(thyroid & laryngeal paralysis). Her rabies is due this month and I do NOT want to vacinate her although it is a law in my state (Texas). I've never had this situation before because I was ignorant regarding vaccinations with my last 2 dogs. Has anyone had experience with this? Will my vet not be able to treat my dog if I do not have her vaccinated? Any information or advis will be appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Violets_are_Blue responded:
    This is something to discuss with your veterinarian. Veterinarians do understand the complications of an older dog being vaccinated and, for some, it is not in their best interest. Has she, in the past year or two, received 2 vaccinations within 12 months of each other? As another native Texan, state law has it if they receive 2 vaccinations within 12 months (to the day, which means if she was 1 day overdue, forget it) they may be moved to a 3 year vaccination program granted that the vaccination your vet uses can be a 3-year vaccine. But, as always, discuss this with your veterinarian so that you can get all of the information in.
    srstephanie responded:
    Hi Lisa,

    You need to talk to your vet about this. Some states give vets waver authority on Rabies vaccinations. All vaccinations are labeled to only be given to "healthy" pets. I believe that most vets will try to avoid vaccinating an older dog/cat with health issues, if possible. Your vet can let you know if Texas gives vets the authority to waver the vaccination. I've heard this discussed at vet conferences among vets who have this dilemma in states that do not give waver authority. One suggestion is for the vet to recommend or offer the vaccination, and then have the owner "decline" the vaccination and write that in the record. The laws generally do not require the vet to "give" the vaccination, but rather require the owner to "get" the dog/cat vaccinated ... i.e. it is your responsibility, not the vet's. Which means that you can decline the vaccination if you feel confident that your dog will not bite anyone and is low risk for Rabies (e.g. stays inside and is only outside under supervision).

    From the perspective of immunology (i.e. whether or not your dog is actually protected from Rabies, in contrast to the legal requirements) ... if your dog has been vaccinated as an adult, within about 7 years, she is most likely protected. One of the top veterinary Immunologists, Dr Ron Schultz, at the Univ of Wisconsin, is currently doing two concurrent official "Rabies Challenge" tests ... one at 5 years and the other at 7 years ... to demonstrate immunity according to government standards. They fully expect that the dogs will be protected for at least 7 years. I think they are currently in the 4th year of the study. The outcome doesn't guarantee that the states will change their Rabies laws ... but it will, at least, show that dogs are indeed protected. But , of course, until the studies are done, it is not currently proven.

    Dr Richard Ford (NC State ... and along with Dr Schultz, is a co-author of both the AAHA Canine and AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines for vets) tells the story of an older cat that was given a Rabies vaccination. The cat was, I think, around 18 with end stage kidney disease ... and the vet gave it a Rabies vaccination. The cat died three days later ... and the state veterinary board was angry and wanted to discipline the vet for doing something so stupid. Dr Ford was consulted and he had to tell the veterinary board that they couldn't do anything to discipline the vet because, at that time, NC did not give vets waver authority. My point is, even the veterinary board understood that it is bad practice to vaccinate a geriatric pet with serious health issues. So, my guess is that your vet will not refuse to treat your dog if she isn't vaccinated.

    But you need to discuss it with your vet ... and if Texas will allow vets to sign a vaccination waver based on age and health status, that should take care of your problem. And, if she was vaccinated with a 3-yr Rabies vaccine within 3 years ago, then you don't have any problem.

    I live in Quebec which doesn't have any Rabies requirements (though they probably should). With my last cat, once she began developing geriatric issues, her vet agreed that she didn't need any more vaccinations. Dr Ford, on his personal vaccination website states that in his opinion, after about 10-12 yrs old, if previously vaccinated, dogs/cats probably don't need further vaccinations (though he is careful to say that Rabies laws should be followed).

    Hope that helps.

    Stephanie in Montreal
    Grandmaof03 responded:
    Hi Lisa,

    I went through the same thing a few years ago with my dog who was very ill...I live in Pennsylvania where is is also the law to get the rabies shot....

    Although I did not get him vaccinated for anything else and my vet agreed that he was to sick to deal with vaccinations he did give him a 3 year rabies so that he would never have to get him a rabies shot again...

    The only thing about them not having their rabies shot (accept for it being the law) is that groomers and kennels and such will not take the dog without proof of shots...

    My cocker spainel has hypothyroid and she gets her shots without any problems...

    Good Luck I hope you get the answers you need

    LisaH68 replied to Violets_are_Blue's response:
    Thank you for your response.
    LisaH68 replied to srstephanie's response:
    Thank you for your information and input. I plan on discussing it with my vet the next time I have to take her in.
    LisaH68 replied to Grandmaof03's response:
    Thank you for your input. No worries about groomers & kennels here... I have a pet sitter and never take her to the groomers. She's a low maintenance girl. :-)

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