[This article below is written by Gayle Wyche, a longtime client of ours from Spokane, WA. Gayle recently lost her beloved Golden Retriever, Odie. We asked her to share her experience. This article discusses the risks associated with the Rabies K9 Vaccine and what we can do to keep our dogs safe.]
When I was asked to share information about the risks of over vaccination in canines, I was hesitant. This is a painful subject for me and others like me. I had a wonderful dog that was an integral part of our community as well as my daily life. His death was due to ignorance on my part.
Odie was only 2 years old but he accomplished quite a lot. He had completed his puppy, basic, intermediate and advanced obedience classes [at Valor K9 Academy] and earned his THD, CGCA, CGCU, THA and Achiever AKC Titles.
However, Odie was happiest working as a Certified Therapy Dog with Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Horizon Hospice of Spokane. He had over 100 therapy visits. His weekly visits to his Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care patients were a highlight in his life. He truly enjoyed sharing his famous smile and showing off his vast inventory of tricks.
Odie was healthy and on a raw diet with daily exercise and training. I have had Goldens all my life – since the 70s and been involved in Golden Retriever rescue groups for a long time.
Like most of you – I would go to the vet, get annual shots, then the second round required by law (the 3 year “booster”). I have subsequently discovered vaccination reactions can occur anywhere from immediately to up to 90+days; depending on the type of shot, health of animal, shot placement, etc.
Within 30 Days…
Within 30 days we saw changes in Odie’s behavior which we didn’t connect or recognize until after his Grand Mal seizures started– (little things like staring into space for extended periods, hypersexual activity, excessive licking, difficulty cooling down, excessive panting, pacing, needy/clingy). Then the Grand Mal seizures began (60 days from vaccination) and he continued to have more episodes until they wouldn’t stop. I hope none of you ever have to witness a Grand Mal seizure.
It was one of worse things I have ever seen and there is nothing you can do but watch.
Odie’s brother is part of our family as well and he appears to be fine, although we have noticed some changes in him. My vet assured me that the booster vaccine was safe. In fact, I asked a second vet I saw after Odie’s first seizure if the rabies vaccine could be a potential cause and she said (in front of two vet school interns with her), “there is no evidence of that with vaccines.”
I know I lost him due to the side effects of over vaccination (also known as vaccinosis) of the rabies vaccine.
As I said, like most people, I followed my veterinarian’s advice for vaccinations and did the yearly rabies “booster” shots*. (Just an FYI here, “booster shots” are not actually boosters, they are no different than the first FULL dose your dog was given.)
After all, the veterinarians have an oath to do no harm to animals they treat and they have the knowledge and the science to support their decisions.
I was ignorant of the ugly truth that exists in the veterinary community. Most veterinarians have little or no training in immunology and this situation has not remedied itself.
Long Term Effects
However, there are vets that have learned from their clinical experience AFTER vet school what devastating long term effects over vaccination has had and continues to have on our dog breeds and the owners who love them. Many of these vets have left the conventional (a.k.a corporate) practice they started and have expanded to homeopathic, holistic, naturopathy or a mixed practice. They recognized the harm they were causing to the animals and have returned to their medical oaths of doing no harm.
I know I sound like I am blaming the veterinarians for the serious health crisis in our canine communities. It isn’t blame as much as it is responsibility. It took the loss of my dog to jump start me into researching and talking with other veterinarians and pet owners to recognize the bigger problem.
Most pet owners will never take the time to do that BEFORE something happens to their beloved dog. The veterinarians have that responsibility because they are the first line of opportunity for this knowledge to be shared and followed by pet owners.
What I’ve Learned
Here’s what I have learned and what I think is important for dog owners to be aware of to make an informed decision as the health care advocate for their dog:
Review the insert which comes with the rabies shot your vet gives.
It specifically states the drug trial parameters and long term immunity statistics. You will see that even the pharmaceutical companies show 3 year immunity for ONE dose as just a baseline (because they haven’t done studies for any longer than that).
Yet, our vets keep giving the rabies shot every year and advising their clients that is safe. This is not aligned with science or even the experts in veterinary immunology.
To know what the experts in the veterinarian immunology community have researched, please review the Rabies Challenge Fund website (www.rabieschallengefund.org), and the final results of their long term study on rabies vaccination immunity.
They have published their final results in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research April 2020 issue, and it is available for review if you go to their Facebook website.
In a nutshell, it details and confirms what the drug manufacturers alluded to – one shot and immunity is above the FDA accepted protective level for public health safety for at least 5 years and possibly longer.
Recognize the adverse reactions; don’t accept them as “normal” for your dog or the breed.
When I was growing up, we owned dogs; my friends had dogs, etc. You didn’t see the prevalence of cancer in young dogs; you didn’t see the skin diseases, digestive problems, seizures, behavioral changes, and other health issues, like you do now. If you talk to long term breeders, you will see what they see.
Overall, most dog breeds’ health has changed and not for the better. Science Diet and special needs dog foods are fairly recent product lines that seem to have been created as a direct result of what over vaccination has brought to the breeds.
To prove this further, talk to the breeders that do minimal vaccination and feed a raw diet. They are out there, and they care about the breed they love.
Support them and what they are trying to do.
Some of the adverse reactions from over vaccination can cause the body to mimic the disease it was intended to prevent and include (a BIG thank you to Patricia Jordan, DVM):
- Fibrocarcinomas at the injection site. A lot of people know about this problem in cats (that’s why vets often vaccinate cats in the tail, so it can easily be amputated) but it’s just as common in dogs. Fibrocarcinomas can appear in places other than the injection site because the aluminum in the vaccine is carried away by macrophages (immune system cells that detect, eat and destroy damaged cells and other foreign substances).
Other cancers, such as spindle cell cancers, mast cell cancers, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, lymphoma. Even benign tumors like lipomas, warts and other growths can grow larger or become malignant after rabies vaccination, especially if your dog is taking steroid drugs.
- Chronic digestive issues such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, colitis or chronic diarrhea.
- Seizures and epilepsy.
- Food, environmental and inhalant allergies. These are extremely common chronic problems in dogs. Allergies are improper immune responses and vaccination can damage your dog’s immune system. The aluminum in vaccines also causes an up-regulation of IgE, which is the allergy immunoglobulin.
- Skin issues. There are many different types of skin issues, including dermatitis, yeast, alopecia (hair loss), hives, rashes, itchy wrists and ankles (where a lot of dogs chew themselves), abscesses, ear and eye infections and anal gland problems.
Skin conditions are never “just skin issues” but are a manifestation of deeper underlying disease. Vaccination can cause allergic reactions because cells in the body called Langerhan cells are constantly scouting for antigen (which the rabies virus is full of). When Langerhan cells detect these foreign invaders (like bacteria or viruses), the body then sends out inflammatory cells to fight off the attacker by creating an allergic reaction.
- Muscle weakness or atrophy, including wasting diseases like degenerative myelopathy and Guillain Barré. The rabies vaccine causes a neuro-inflammatory reaction, resulting in degeneration of the tissues.
- Demyelination (common in German Shepherds) – an autoimmune disease.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, autoimmune thyroiditis.
- Metabolic diseases like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease or pancreatitis.
Many of the problems listed below are behavioral because the rabies virus travels to the amygdala of the brain, and so does the virus in the vaccines, causing neurological damage.
- Hypersensitivity of all senses – sensitivity to sound, movement, touch
- Rage, agitation, violence, ferocity, sudden attacks, unprovoked attacks, desire to kill- behaviors you might expect to see in a dog infected with rabies
- Irrational fears, timidity, separation anxiety, suspicious behavior
- Obsessive/compulsive behaviors – tail chasing, fly biting, chasing balls, chasing light reflected off a window or mirror
- Excessive focal licking or licking of genitalia
- Excessive sexual drive. Some people interpret chronic humping as being a dominance behavior, but it’s more likely a rabies vaccination response
- Constant or unwarranted erections, even in neutered males
- Frequent or spasmodic sneezing, spasms in the jaws, choking, gagging, or coughing when swallowing liquids, reverse sneezing and laryngeal spasms
- Involuntary urination
- Sensation of flea bites, violent itching with no obvious causation
- Convulsions, especially from the sight of running water or shiny objects
- Aimless wandering and vocalization
- Restlessness, uneasiness, apprehensiveness and developing aggressive behavior, especially toward strangers
Report these and other reactions to your vet and to the USDA website
Reactions can occur instantly and/or within 90 days typically.
Do a titer test instead of just vaccinating every year.
Don’t lose sight of the WHY of vaccinating. The purpose is to make sure your dog has immunity or a good immunological response to a specific virus.
How many of us just get into the ritual of “yearly shots”? I suggest you do your own research and see how much of a corporate vet’s practice is based on “yearly shots.”
If you are going to vaccinate every year, make sure your dog is healthy.
How many of us agree to the “yearly shot” when our dog is going in to be spayed or neutered? That is the worst thing we can do for our dogs. Their immune system and stress levels are taxed and then we hit their systems with a neurological attacking virus, i.e. rabies.
Yes, it is inconvenient to have to make another appointment, but the potential for long term illness and reaction is lessened.
If you are going to vaccinate every year, do the rabies vaccination at least three weeks from any other vaccination.
Staggering vaccinations gives your dog’s immune system a chance to reset and be strong enough to handle the virus (as well as the other not so pleasant chemicals that are included- you can research them online).
So what are our long term responsibilities for the dogs we love?
- Change the vaccination law, which will allow for vets to do no harm to our dogs
- Ask veterinary schools to stay current with immunology studies and require continuing education classes with vets with the current science
- Change the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control practices to align with the most current study data EVERY YEAR
- Seek out vets who recognize vaccinosis and its effects and use thimerosol- free vaccines
- Support breeders who limit vaccinations and follow a staggered vaccination schedule for puppies
- Write to the Veterinary Board of Governors, Department of Health and the Legislature
- Tell your friends what you have seen or noticed and spread the word.
I tried to do most of those things after Odie died. I petitioned and proposed this to the WA State Board of Health in 2019:
Odie’s Law – “WAC 246-100-197 (2)(P)(iv)- “Exemption Status” mean dogs for which rabies immunization is contraindicated for health reasons, as determined by a licensed veterinarian subsequent to an examination. The reasons for the exemption and a specific description of the dog, including name, age, sex, breed, and color, shall be recorded by the examining veterinarian on a Rabies Vaccination Certificate, which shall bear the owner’s name and address. The veterinarian shall also record whether the exemption is permanent, and if it is not, the date the exemption ends;
The Board denied my petition; here’s their response:
“The Board denied the petition with several considerations in mind. The WAC 246-100-197, Rabies – Measures to Prevent Human Disease was last updated in 2017 and aligned with best practices in the national stands of the 2016 Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control (Compendium). The Board received a recommendation from the Washington State Department of Health and agree that such an exemption to the existing rule would not be practical and could potentially pose a risk to public health. The Board decided that continued consistency with the national stands in the Compendium was important.”
So, as you can see, they didn’t want to update since they “just” did an update in 2017. Science changes every day with new discoveries. It wasn’t worth it to them to save even one dog for a paper change to match the current science TWO YEARS later.
Also, it should be noted, the Board met in my local area and didn’t inform me or publish the date of that meeting on their website until AFTER it occurred. Public comment was invited, but that cannot occur if no one knows about the meeting.
Some final thoughts:
I believe in vaccinations for their intended purpose – To prevent the spread of a disease or virus. If that purpose is met, and there is no risk to public health, why over vaccinate and continue to cause harm and long term suffering?
Did you know your 80lb golden retriever gets the same rabies shot as a 1200lb quarter horse as well as that 3lb Pekinese? What’s the science behind that? There is none, because no one has invested the dollars it takes to do a long term study to determine the proper dosage. There is no incentive for the pharmaceutical companies to do this; there is no incentive for the veterinary community, which leaves us dog owners to initiate and promote this subject.
Please check out Dr. Jean Dodds’ pilot study of small dogs and their immunity after smaller vaccine doses were administered.
Thank you, Gayle, for sharing Odie’s story with us and helping educate us on how to best care for our pets!