A few questions were sent in by a reader regarding a recent post about rabies in a Texas animal shelter. They’re good ones so I thought I’d cover them here.
I’m a little confused by this. Weren’t these shelter dogs vaccinated?
- Probably not. Many shelters don’t vaccinate against rabies. There are a few reasons for this:
- One reason is cost. From a shelter standpoint, rabies vaccination may even be considered of less importance compared to vaccination against diseases that are more common causes of illness in shelters (such as parvo).
- A big reason is that in most regions, rabies vaccines must be given by a veterinarian, and many shelters don’t have much veterinary involvement.
- Another consideration is that even if animals are vaccinated in the shelter, they are not considered protected until 28 days after vaccination.
- Yet another thing to consider is whether vaccination would have changed anything. Vaccinated dogs would still require a 45 day observation period. That’s much easier than a 6 month quarantine but still problematic and could lead to euthanasia for logistical reasons.
How exactly were these dogs exposed?
- Good question. It depends how the shelter was run and whether dogs were mixed together or socialized in groups. Sometimes, all dogs end up being considered exposed unless shelter personnel can definitively state that they know a particular dog didn’t have contact with the rabid dog. It’s often hard to say that with confidence, so by default they consider all dogs exposed.
What about vaccinated pets (dog and cat) that live in homes but go outside in suburban or rural environments? How do we know, for instance, that an indoor/outdoor cat hasn’t come into contact with a rabid wild animal or feral cat? Do owners of indoor/outdoor cats really know where their cats go and what they do or who they associate with when they’re out all day long? And, what about dogs that go out for their last potty break, unattended, in the fenced backyard at night when the wild critters come out? How do we know, really, that our pets haven’t been exposed to rabies?
- We don’t. That’s an inherent risk in life, and a reason that we push for vaccination of all pets. Vaccination isn’t 100% but it will greatly reduce the risk of an animal developing rabies.
- This is also one of many reasons to make sure animals aren’t allowed to wander outside unsupervised.