Q: I've stepped outside the law because Washington State recently passed a rabies vaccine law that doesn't allow for exceptions. My dog had a life-threatening reaction to his first rabies vaccine and is definitely not going to get another one. Do I have any recourse?
-- C.S., Cyberspace
A: One of the world's experts on vaccinations for pets is Dr. Ron Schultz, professor and chairman of the department of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, Madison. He says you're in a no-win situation. He can't advocate that you break the law but is hopeful for changes in this inflexible law.
Schultz concedes that if you vaccinate your dog again, he could die. While giving a steroid to your dog 24 hours before the vaccine, or an antihistamine an hour or so prior to the vaccine may prevent the adverse reaction, it might not help.
"There's absolutely no dependable way to prevent these reactions in some dogs," Schultz says.
Clearly, if you vaccinate your dog, you are taking a chance. If you don't vaccinate, you're also taking a chance. If the dog does bite someone, he would likely be impounded at a veterinary clinic or a shelter. Sometimes local veterinarians are encouraged to "report" dogs that are unvaccinated. If your dog were found wandering and landed at a shelter, you would likely be fined, and the dog would be vaccinated.
So, what should you do? Schultz concedes that if it was his dog, he would not vaccinate, even though he knows as much as anyone on the planet about potentially preventing a bad reaction and what to do if one occurs.
To be clear, Schultz, who participated in the 2011 American Animal Hospital Association Canine Vaccine Guidelines, absolutely understands and agrees with laws to vaccinate pets for rabies. However, he also believes allowing for exceptions makes common sense.
I hope you present this column to the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association, which can advocate for still another change in the current state law -- this time based on science.