If your dog's Rabies vaccine expires you may run afoul of the law. The first vaccine your dog receives as a puppy is estimated to be effective at least a year. Subsequent vaccines, depending on the manufacturer and state of issue may last longer. Drs. Dodds and Schultz, veterinarians who study immunology believe vaccines offer protection for 7-10 years and in some cases for the lifetime of your dog but since the state requires vaccination to protect humans from exposure to Rabies, you must vaccinate often to be in compliance with the law. Some examples of problems you can encounter with an expired vaccine.
- if your dog is involved in an injury to a person or other pet you'll need proof of Rabies vaccination.
- if your dog crosses state lines, attends a dog competition, or travels by air he will need a health certificate which includes proof of Rabies vaccination.
- if your dog tangles with a wild animal who runs off you'll need proof of vaccination unless the wild animal is caught and killed so he can be tested for the virus.
When you do not have proof of Rabies in these instances you may be subject to a fine and may have an additional fine for not having a dog license (which also requires proof of Rabies vaccination). In the instance of contact with wild animals the penalty can be quite serious as unvaccinated dogs who are exposed to Rabies vector species (fox, bat, skunk, raccoon, sometimes ground hog) are required to be isolated in a cage for six months to ensure they show no signs of the disease.
Dogs who have had reactions to vaccines in the past are at greater risk for future problems with the vaccine so some state veterinary boards allow a blood test called a titer to replace the requirement for future vaccines. However, many states do not accept this substitute. Vaccine reaction reports are rare in part because many reactions are nothing more than a low grade fever the day of treatment but also because reactions reported that may be due to other causes, such as a low grade fever, may not meet the level of proof needed to tabulate them.
It's more convenient to have a veterinarian give your dog many vaccines on the same day but this increases the risk of reaction. If you have a dog who has had problems in the past with vaccines, be sure to discuss in advance with your veterinarian the best way to keep him safe from Rabies and you safe form the law.
Frederick County Health Department is having a low cost clinic on may 15 at Ballenger Creek Park from 6-8PM.