Study Offers Better Options For Cats Exposed To Rabies

A
study published in the January 2015 Journal of the American Veterinary
Medical Association provides new options for cats and dogs with outdated
rabies vaccinations who are exposed to rabid animals.

Until now, the protocol was to quarantine the animals for up to 65 days or euthanize them.

Agreeing that people were faced with two very bad choices for their animal companions, veterinarian Mike Moore said “it was really, really sad for me not to be able to help these people.”

The project manager for the rabies lab at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,  Moore was the report’s lead author.

The study shows that animals who had an initial rabies vaccination but
were out of date had the same response to a booster shot as animals
whose rabies vaccinations were current.

“Our results show that
the two groups of animals – those that are out-of-date and those that
are up-to-date – respond the same, and we feel they should be treated
the same,” Moore says. “If animals considered out-of-date have been
primed with an initial vaccine, then when they’re boostered after
exposure, their titer goes up really high, really fast, and that’s what
we want in the case of exposure to rabies.”

His recommendation
is for an exposed cat or dog to immediately receive a rabies booster and
be observed for 45 days, most often under the family’s supervision with
no contact restrictions.

But that’s not to say you can forgo
your cats’ rabies vaccinations if they go outside. Cats can’t tell you
when they’ve been bitten by a rabid animal, and the wound isn’t always
obvious. So the best plan is to ask for a titer test (a simple blood
test that shows whether the cat still has immunity to rabies) during
your cat’s annual wellness exam. Or follow your state’s protocol for
rabies vaccinations.

If it was me, I wouldn’t vaccinate an
indoor cat. And I titer my indoor/outdoor cats rather than exposing them
unnecessarily to the sometimes dangerous vaccine.

Moore discusses the history of rabies vaccinations and the study in this podcast. It’s interesting and worth listening to.

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