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The Vaccination Question for Dogs, Cats and other Furballs

Well, well, well, here I go again, stirring up controversy but I'm going to blog about the importance of vaccinating your pets in Beijing. Yes, I realize I just wrote about questioning the safety and necessity of vaccinating your children and now I'm trying to encourage immunizing your beloved pets. Contradiction? Possibly and I must admit that there is a grassroots movement in the US and Canada that questions and discourages pet vaccinations for the same reasons I mentioned in the child vax blog/article-heavy metals, neuro-toxins, increasing rates of disease in pets, etc, but I'm not going to go into that here. While I adore and revere my four-legged mammal friends and I wonder whether their vaccinations are actually causing them harm in some way, I acknowledge that they are not my children, they do not have the same expected life span, and I don't worry about autism or other brain-related damage for them. They don't have to learn to read, write and function in a society the same way my son does. I haven't chosen to vaccinate my son, but I do vaccinate my pets.Rabies is 100% fatal if it is contracted by a human. Measles is not. That's my justification and I'm sticking to it. Besides, vaccinating your pets is the law. Especially in China. Please accept this contradiction now and let's not argue back and forth about it. I see the double standard, I acknowledge the double standard and I hope you will see past it to read my blog and not bombard me with comments about my "hypocrisy". 'Nuff said. I have been shot up with the rabies vaccine and it's the only vaccine I'm actually considering for Henry when he's a bit older. I have been bitten by a dog myself, when I was 9 months pregnant with Henry and I have heard countless stories of dogs biting kids in the compounds. If a person is bitten by an animal, they pretty much have to have the rabies series. Apparently it's painful and awful and drawn out, but if said person has had the vaccine, the series is reduced and less traumatic. I don't know, it's a confusing topic for me, and I have very conflicted feelings about it but in the case of rabies, I lean toward erring on the side of caution since it's so deadly if it's contracted and there is a very high chance of being exposed in China. Maybe someone else has a different take on it and I welcome any discussion on this important topic. When I wrote my last blog concerning having pets and kids in Beijing, I was curious to know from an expert some of the issues that face vets and responsible dog and cat owners in China. I wrote to Mary Peng, the manager at the International Center for Veterinary Services and asked her about some of the problems they see on a daily basis in their clinic. Here is what she said, "One of the most pressing problems is the low incidence of proper and legal vaccinations among pets in China. This translates into increased risk of infectious diseases among the animals (e.g., parvovirus, distemper, etc.) and increased exposure to humans of fatal transmissible diseases such as rabies. Rabies is the number one killer infectious disease in China. According to the Ministry of Health, nearly 3,500 people in China die every year of confirmed rabies exposure. According to the USA Centers for Disease Control, only 39 persons in the USA have been diagnosed with confirmed rabies since 1990. In the USA, rabies is transmitted to humans via the wildlife. In China, rabies is predominantly transmitted to humans through dog bites. Most of these dogs are "owned" dogs and are not "wild dogs" or even stray dogs. The low incidence of animal vaccinations (less than 10% of dogs nationwide are vaccinated) combined with the high incidence of illegal vaccines floating around in the market has contributed to the rise in rabies cases we have seen over the past several years. One of the greatest challenges is helping families protect themselves. We can do so by ensuring that all of us are rabies vaccinated, especially our kids. This is a simple series of 3 injections that you receive over the course of 28-days. It does not hurt and is done like any other vaccination. It will save your life if you are exposed to (meaning licked or bitten by) a potentially infected animal. The rabies virus is transmitted by saliva so having wounds or mucous membranes licked by a potentially infected animal counts as being "exposed." The second and more important thing that all families must do is vaccinate their pets every year at a legally registered and officially designated animal vaccination hospital. With the increasing popularity of pets that started several years ago, many pet shops, groomers, breeders, kenneling facilities, small clinics and even some animal hospitals began offering animal vaccines. The majority of these pet care businesses were vaccinating animals illegally as they were not properly licensed and officially designated by the Agricultural Bureau to legally purchase and administer animal vaccines. Investigations found that most of these pet care businesses were buying vaccines from the black market. The black market vaccines are not registered with the State Food & Drug Administration and are often smuggled in by traders selling expired, unrefrigerated and even counterfeit vaccines. Only officially designated animal vaccination hospitals such as the International Center for Veterinary services can provide the quality assurance that the vaccines are real, legally registered, and SAFE. Unlike vaccinations for our children, vaccinations for our pets are required by law in China. China is a rabies endemic country so all dogs must be registered and all dogs must also be vaccinated annually for rabies. Cats should also be rabies vaccinated annually. It is mainly due to a lack of awareness about the legally designated animal vaccination hospitals that so many cases of dogs and cats being improperly vaccinated or vaccinated with fake vaccines occur. ICVS refers numerous families to the human hospitals to get the post-exposure rabies vaccinations, including the very expensive and not readily available human rabies immuneglobulin injection. We receive many phone calls from parents telling us that their child was at a neighbor's house playing with a new puppy or kitten or newly acquired dog or cat. The cat or dog nipped the child and no one is sure of the animal's vaccination status or whether it was properly vaccinated at an official animal vaccination hospital. As the parent of this child, how can you know that this dog/cat was rabies vaccinated and that the vaccine was legally procured and safe? In most instances, you will not know, so it is imperative that your child receive the full series of post-exposure rabies vaccinations. The pre-exposure rabies vaccinations become even more important once we factor in that kids are known for not admitting that they were nipped by a dog or cat. Rabies is uniformly fatal once symptoms develop. You just can't fool around with this deadly virus." Any thoughts? Opinions? Comments? I'm very interested in hearing them!

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Comments

Comments

alithompson

The Chinese Government actually offers free rabies vaccinations to all dog owners via ICVS. The biggest problem is people not getting their animals vaccinated. I was told by BJU that getting vaccinated doesn't actually prevent you getting rabies if you are bitten, it gives you a little more time to go get the fourth shot - which isn't available in China. Perhaps that info is out of date now but it won't affect my decision. My son has been vaccinated against all the usual recommendations I just don't see rabies as a huge threat as we don't live in the subs and there are few animals around us where we live.
laurafitch's picture

laurafitch

I thought part of the reason vaccinations are necessary is to keep rates of disease low. By vaccinating your pets and children, you're making it more difficult for the disease to spread to others, and hopefully are helping it die out completely. On a micro level, it might not matter much whether one child or dog is vaccinated, but on a macro level it can be incredibly important. That's why there are mandatory vaccinations for elementary school kids in many countries. Just my two cents.

alithompson

I am certainly not taking risks with my child's health. I have spoken to the professionals, done my own research and I feel I have made the right choice for my family. There are far big risks to worry about in Beijing than rabies!
lioralourie's picture

lioralourie

Yes, and there's a risk of Guillain Barre syndrome, paralysis, various debilitating blood and nervous system disorders, and even death from the Rabies shot. This is every person's right to know. And every person's INDIVIDUAL decision to weigh the potential risks, and potential benefits of every medicine or procedure, based on their lifestyle and other factors as they see fit. The shot is not really that protective anyway. Even with a rabies pre exposure vaccine series (of 3) you still would need post exposure vaccine.
siennapc's picture

siennapc

This from ICVS: "Rabies is still the leading fatal infectious disease in China with more than 95% of transmissions originating from dogs." This is a very serious issue in China, and pretending that your animals or children will not be affected sounds really dangerous to me! The chief medical officer at International SOS also advises that children are vaccinated against rabies in China -- you never know what's going to happen!

alithompson

I talked with my child's doctor at BJU and he advised me against getting my 3 year old son vaccinated. he explained the risks in Beijing are just not that high so I have decided against it. I am a dog owner, and I am not overly worried as my son doesn't spend time playing alone, is always supervised when out and isn't near other dogs.
lioralourie's picture

lioralourie

Rabies, Leptospira & Lyme, are some examples of killed, adjuvanted vaccines. Adjuvants are vaccine components (such as aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate) used to enhance the immunological response. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 1999 classified veterinary vaccine adjuvants as Class III/IV carcinogens with Class IV being the highest risk," IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans: Volume 74, World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Feb. 23-Mar. 2, 1999, p. 24, 305, 310.) According to the 2003 American Animal Hospital Association' s Canine Vaccine Guidelines _http://www.leerburg .com/special_ report.htm_ (http://www.leerburg .com/special_ report.htm) (Page 16), "...killed vaccines [as opposed to live virus vaccines] are much more likely to cause hypersensitivity reactions (e.g., immune-mediated disease)." Could this be due to the combination of mercury (thimersol) and aluminum additives in the same vaccine? Mercury (Thimersol) is commonly found as a preservative in killed, adjuvanted veterinary vaccines. The combination of the mercury (thimersol) and adjuvant components (aluminum hydroxide, aluminum phosphate) in the same vaccine are of considerable concern because of the reactive properties of aluminum, especially when in contact with mercury (thimsersol) . there is a petition underway to remove ALUMINUM in human vaccines in the U.S.
lioralourie's picture

lioralourie

http://www.medalerts.org/vaersdb/index.html is the U.S. Govt's database called VAERS. Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. It is estimated that 1/10 to 1/100th of actual adverse events are actually linked to the vaccine properly and reported here (RAB and RABA are rabies vaccines). There are just shy of 2500 adverse reactions to Rabies vaccine listed (just U.S. figures, not worldwide) and include death, wheezing and breathing problems, neuroparalytic syndrome and paresthesia, amnesia, blindness, anaphylaxis, severe muscle cramping, vomiting blood, seizures, convulsions and... rabies.
lioralourie's picture

lioralourie

p.s. the post exposure rabies series is reduced by ONE shot if you get the pre exposure series. So you get 3 in advance to save one shot later on (this is, possibly later on-- IF you need a post exposure series)...doesn't add up to me.
lioralourie's picture

lioralourie

I think vaccinating pets is just as harmful as vaccinating people. They are also undergoing epidemic rates of allergies, imbalances, autoimmune problems like systemic, chronic yeast infections and such. However, because they may roam, bite and generally live differently than, say, our 6 month old infants, I am not AS strongly against the rabies vaccine (depending on your animal's lifestyle of course. A house cat is just not very at risk for rabies). Getting bitten or nipped by a happily playing house pet happens. Getting bitten by a rabies infected animal is just not very likely.
kmitchell's picture

kmitchell

I almost wish I had a dog here in Beijing...just so I could get one of those cool doggie passports!
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