Current law in most localities in the United States requires that a dog who comes in contact with a rabid animal and has an expired rabies vaccination should be euthanized. In some instances the dog may be allowed to undergo a strict isolation for 6 months under veterinary supervision and given a rabies shot one month before being released. The cost for this solitary confinement is both high in dollars and the dog’s mental well-being.
In the U.S., only 1% of domestic animals tested show positive results for rabies. Of the 120,000 wild animals tested yearly, only 6% were found to be rabid.
Sadly, a dog whose rabies vaccination is only days overdue can be euthanized the same as a dog who has never been vaccinated. Plus research has shown that rabies vaccine immunity lasts at least 5 years.
However we are in no way advising you to skip the rabies vaccine. You must follow the law in your community as it could mean the life of your pet.
Recently published in the 2016 Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, Part 1, B, Section 5, Postexposure Management, are new rabies guidelines. The recommendations are from the National Association of State Public Health procedures for zoonotic diseases. However local laws still rule.
Recommendations are as follows:
Dogs and cats who have previously been vaccinated for rabies and are overdue for re-vaccination can have a booster followed by an observation period instead of being quarantined or euthanized. Observation period is for 45 days and can take place in the owner’s home.
If your pet has never been vaccinated, it must still either be euthanized or undergo a 4 month (change from 6 month)isolation period under a vet’s observation.
An alternative to this is for the vet to ask authorities for serologic monitoring. Serologic monitoring requires a blood test called a titer which measures the levels of protective antibodies. If titers show protective levels, your pet will be considered overdue for vaccination and observed for 45 days. If titers are inadequate for protection against rabies, your pet must undergo the 4 month quarantine.
Discuss these new guidelines with your vet. Keep proof of rabies vaccinations in a safe place in case you are ever required to show proof of vaccination.
In local communities where the law still requires euthanization or quarantine or yearly vaccinations, you might want to discuss (politely) with the authorities, the new recommendations.