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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I don't post often, but people have seen the pics and videos of my Newfie pup Ozzy, and gave a lot of positive responses. Ozzy was the best dog I've ever had the pleasure to know. He was, until I took him in for a rabies vaccine. At 11 months old, Ozzy was the picture of Newfie puppy health - huge, happy, playful, all the things a pup should be. Three and a half weeks later he was dead. Ozzy was one week shy of turning a year old.

One day before Ozzy would turn 11 months old, I took him in to get this vaccine so we could pursue therapy dog certification. People that met us in public had already invited Ozzy and I to come to a children's hospital and special education school for kids, because Ozzy was just that much of a lover. A few days after the vaccine, Ozzy was acting a little lethargic, and started showing reluctance to going on trips to Petsmart, something he's always loved. He looked a little thin. This wasn't immediately alarming, because similar conditions happened when he went through growth spurts. Newfies tend to plump up and then look thin as they grow and then fill out. But when I took his weight at Petsmart and it read 133 pounds, I knew something serious was going on. Only six days before, at the time of his vaccine, he weighed 146 pounds.

I took him to emergency because it was Sunday and I couldn't get any vet appointments. Ozzy stayed there for three days. While I felt certain his condition was caused by the vaccine, I had to allow for the possibility of coincidence. He could have developed an infection, or some other condition, and the methods of treatment are mutually exclusive. If it was the vaccine, then he was having an immune response, so strong steroids would be used to suppress his immune system so he could recover. The rabies vaccine artificially stimulates a dog's immune system, which can get stuck in high gear and start attacking the dog's own body. The problem was that if I was wrong, and the condition was caused by an infection, this treatment would almost certainly kill him. X-rays, ultrasounds, blood work, and urine tests came up negative for any problems, except that his platelet count was very low. It was definitely the vaccine, as this is a direct effect of an IMHA response. We took him home after three days with loads of medications and a lot of hope.

Ozzy seemed to recover after a few days. The first few weren't so good; Ozzy didn't move very much and was having some difficulty urinating. But then his fever broke, and he started eating voluntarily. We'd had to blend rice and chicken and squeeze it into his mouth for feeding until then. He started walking around happily wagging his body (he was such a cheerful dog that just the tail wouldn't do). But his fever came back after two days. I took a lot of time off work to care for him, giving him meds and trying to keep his fever down. After three days of this, I brought him into our vet. Ozzy spent the next 6 days hooked up to an IV by day, coming home at night. He'd become so weak that I had to carry him occasionally when he just couldn't walk. He only weighed 111 pounds at this point. Sometimes I had to hold his butt so he could poop, or he'd crumple to the ground. But I was still hopeful, because after 2 days of the IV fluids and meds (stronger steroids and antibiotics), he'd stopped losing weight and his fever had gone. Occasionally his energy seemed better, and he was cheerful. Then he stopped being able to urinate at all, and had to stay overnight with a catheter in to drain his bladder. We took him in for another ultrasound, and found that his kidneys had sustained quite a lot of mineralization. His calcium levels had been way up (we never determined the exact cause of that), and his kidney function was much higher than it should have been.

The vet called us Wednesday night not long after we'd left from a visit. His blood scores had come back in. She said that his kidney function wasn't lowering to where it should have been, and after such a long time of treatment, it would have lowered if it was going to. From his test scores, they estimated over 75% of his kidneys had shut down. The damage was irreversible. We couldn't save him. So we brought Ozzy home, and sat with him for hours. My wife pulled a futon out so I could sleep in the main room he likes best. In the morning my vet drove to our place and administered the shot to put him to sleep. I held his head and paw and told him how much I loved him, and 10 seconds later he was gone.

I know what laws require, but after much reading even I, who have no medical training, understand that we vaccinate our dogs far in excess of what they require. This is especially true with the rabies vaccine. A horse is given only twice the dose a dog receives, and even as big as Ozzy was, a horse is generally ten times bigger. No change is made relative to the size of a dog, either. A tiny dog receives the same dose Ozzy did. I've also read that a rabies vaccine is often good for several years or longer, and that a titer test can be performed to prove the dog is still protected. But this isn't accepted as an alternate to the vaccine where I live. I also learned that the chemical added to the rabies vaccine to stimulate the immune system into activity is highly carcinogenic. Given that the rabies vaccine is required every 1-3 years in most places by law, and that cancer is the #1 killer of dogs, doesn't this seem ludicrous? Also, I've read the CDC declared rabies in domestic dogs to be extinct. The only way they can contract it now is from wild, infected creatures. I'm not sure if this last bit is true or not, but I do know that in my whole life I've never even heard of a person who had a dog with rabies.

If a dog is to spend a lot of time in areas that have wild creatures, especially if they're to be used as herding or livestock guardian dogs, I could still see getting this vaccine. In that circumstance the risk is great enough to gamble on the risk of the vaccine itself. In the city I'd compare the risk of getting rabies to the risk of getting struck by lightning - 3-4 times. Note that's just an off-hand remark and not a true metric, but that's my opinion. Everyone has to do what they're comfortable with, but I will never give another rabies vaccine to any of my dogs again, so long as I live.
 

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I'm sorry for your loss :(. How terrible.

It's so hard when it comes to the rabies vaccine, because rabies is such a horrible disease. I HAVE known people whose dogs got rabies. . .bound to happen in a rural area, I guess. And dogs are a major vector of rabies in countries where vaccination isn't common, and I'd kind of like to keep the U.S. out of that category. I agree the vaccine is given far too often, but I wouldn't be comfortable not giving it at least once. And most animals won't have a bad reaction. . .it's just really sad for those who do.
 

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I am so very sorry for your loss.

I am not a Veterinarian ... but I have changed my dogs vaccinations to almost nil ... and the rabies once every 3 years ... only because it is required by law. If it were not a law ... I would only have it done once. My childhood dog lived 17 years with only one rabies vaccination .... long before the laws I can remember.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks everyone for the kind words. It was a terrible time for the whole family. Ozzy didn't even whine or cry throughout the ordeal, which broke my heart even more. He tried to be as cheerful as possible. Ozzy was the best of dogs.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the last recorded human death from rabies was 31 years ago. In the last 10 years, there's been 1 recorded instance of a dog with rabies in Arizona. 1 dog in a decade. I'm sure vaccination advocates will say this is because of the rabies vaccine, but if the only way to contract rabies is by swapping saliva with an animal that already has it. Mostly that means being bitten. How often does a rabid animal run around in the city? Domestic dogs simply don't have the rabies virus - it's extinct. With that info, if this whole vaccination impetus is to prevent humans from contracting rabies from infected animals, wouldn't it make more sense to give humans the vaccination instead of dogs? We can only get it through wild, rabid animals. I'd bet, however, that the human vaccine would have specific doses that match their body mass, rather than half of what is given to a living creature 10 times their size. I'd also bet that after just a few really bad reactions, drug companies would have to remove the highly carcinogenic adjuvants that have a distinct possibility of causing your immune system to go haywire and kill you.

Sorry for this bit of a rant. I'm extremely angry over the carelessness with which the law has been applied to vaccinations.
 

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NewfoundlandOwner said:
How often does a rabid animal run around in the city?
You'd be surprised. There was a rabid fox in my grandma's yard a few years ago. And rabid bats really get around. Also, just because the dog-specific strain of rabies is extinct/rare, this doesn't mean dogs can't get rabies or people can't get rabies from dogs. Dogs can and do contract and transmit other strains of rabies. Dogs are MAJOR vectors of rabies in Mexico, so if Arizona has such a low incidence I am going to say it's because of vaccination. There's really no other explanation considering the proximity to a country with such a high incidence of rabies in dogs.

They now have an adjuvant-free rabies vaccine available for cats. Maybe if there's enough demand they'll come out with the same for dogs :D.
 

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NewfoundlandOwner said:
I'd bet, however, that the human vaccine would have specific doses that match their body mass, rather than half of what is given to a living creature 10 times their size.
You'd lose that bet :). One dose is 1 ml, no matter how much you weigh: Pre-exposure immunization: Consists of the three doses of HDCV, 1.0 mL, intramuscularly (deltoid area), one each on Days 0,7 and 21 or 28. (from the vaccine information for Imovax)

Look, I understand that when something goes wrong with our pets, we want to fight, to do something! about it. I totally sympathize. I just don't think that discouraging vaccination against a fatal and potentially epidemic zoonosis is a great idea. I've known people from the Philippines and Africa who freak out whenever a dog gets near them because they're so afraid of rabies. I'd rather not have to wonder about the rabies status of every dog I come into contact with.
 

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I'm very sorry for your loss.

Domestic dogs simply don't have the rabies virus - it's extinct.
This isn't true. It's extremely rare in dogs, but it's far from extinct, and where you live has a lot to do with how much of a risk it is. As long as there is a reservoir in wildlife, it never will be extinct on our continent. Rabies vaccination of domestic pets is meant as much or more a public health issue than an individual animal health issue - vaccinated pets, in addition to being protected themselves, provide a barrier between rabies in wild animals and people. There are good reasons why pets rather than people are vaccinated - our pets are more likely to tangle with wildlife than we are, they can't tell us they were exposed if they receive a bite when they're out of our sight, and like it or not most people would like your dog rather than their child to assume the risk of vaccination.

And a note about the dose - vaccines do not really have a "dose" in the same way drugs have a dose. They are not and should not be given based on body size. This is because there is a concept of "immunologic body size" which has nothing to do with actual body weight - the antigen dose in a vaccine is the minimum amount of antigen needed to stimulate the immune system. It's the same reason adults of all sizes all receive the same flu shot.

The volume of some (not all, there are some that are exactly the same) brands of rabies vaccines for horses is larger than the volume typically given to dogs, but that does not mean that the amount of antigen (e.g. the "dose") is different.

It's normal to be angry after suffering a loss like yours. Even if your dog's death could definitively be proven to be caused by the vaccine, there are larger issues at play when it comes to rabies. I know it sucks when you are the one in a million, I've been there myself with different details. I wish that governments would change their laws to require rabies less frequently given how much more we know now about how long rabies vaccines last, but in our litigious society it's going to take a lot more research than what is out there to get them to change. And the bottom line is that there really are valid reasons for rabies vaccines to be required legally.
 

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I am sorry for your loss. I can certainly understand your passion and frustration.

I do agree with Willowy on this. I'm not an advocate of unnecessary vaccinations, however, I do believe some are prudent.

I live on the outskirts of a large city. I know 2 people who have encountered rabid fox, one was actually going after the dog. The owner had to swim with her dog to get away because the fox cornered the dog and subsequently the dog's owner into the water. She informed the ranger, who set traps; rabies was confirmed.

I think sometimes its important to remember the benefits we have in our society as a whole.
 

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Thanks everyone for the kind words. It was a terrible time for the whole family. Ozzy didn't even whine or cry throughout the ordeal, which broke my heart even more. He tried to be as cheerful as possible. Ozzy was the best of dogs.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the last recorded human death from rabies was 31 years ago. In the last 10 years, there's been 1 recorded instance of a dog with rabies in Arizona. 1 dog in a decade. I'm sure vaccination advocates will say this is because of the rabies vaccine, but if the only way to contract rabies is by swapping saliva with an animal that already has it. Mostly that means being bitten. How often does a rabid animal run around in the city? Domestic dogs simply don't have the rabies virus - it's extinct. .
I'm very sorry for your loss. That must have been devastating. However, domestic dogs can get rabies from feral cats, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, etc. And those animals can come into urban areas - especially in places like Arizona, where human population is displacing wildlife habitat. I don't believe in over-vaccinating, but I do want my pets to have basic protection.
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I am so sorry that happened, I totally understand. I have never lost a dog to the Rabies vaccine(though my moms bosses dog was also killed from the vaccine) but I too am extremly leary of it..my dog didnt have a deadly reaction thank goodness(though she did have a nearly deadly reaction to the puppy boosters)..she had a behaviour one. a known side effect of the rabies vaccine is a personality flip..my dog went from the most friendly well socialized dog before her vaccine, to extremly fear aggressive after it, it took 9 YEARS of hard work to turn her back into the dog she was before the Rabies vaccine. after her last shots at 4 months she was never vaccinated again, and never will be. I now only vaccinate for Rabies if I am worried about the dog biting, and thats for legal reasons. that means Electra-not a huge bite risk, but if I am not with her and someone tries to touch her she will bite..she has never broken skin, but I would rather not risk it..the government is kill first ask questions later when it comes to non vaccinated dogs biting. Gypsy is also kept on legal requirments, she is a major bite risk and is muzzled in public.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I'm not trying to lay a blanket statement that no one should ever get a rabies vaccine for their dogs. My opinion that that the laws governing the dose and frequency the vaccine is applied should be reviewed, and a bit of common sense applied. I belong to a number of FB groups for people with giant dog breeds. One member lives in an area that has rabid squirrels. In his case, I would highly recommend getting the vaccine. If someone was employing their dog(s) for livestock guardian or herding duty, this is also an occasion the vaccine would be the far less of two evils. There are also city areas that have exposure to large amounts of wildlife (usually but not always at the fringes of the city), and in these cases sound judgement must be used. There are calculated risks in everything we do, every day. For me, a Newfie in their first year must have regular exercise, but not too much, or damage to the joints can occur. So I have to balance walks and play with an understanding of where it must stop. The same must be said of vaccines. In my area, there is a very real possibility that a bird could drop infected poop into our yard and infect a puppy with parvo. I'll get my pups their 5 in 1 boosters on schedule. But rabies vaccines will not be given to any of my dogs unless circumstances change, like spending time in places where rabid animal might plausibly be encountered. I'm aware this means boarding them or taking them to groomers won't be possible, but this doesn't confront me any. I've never boarded any of my dogs, nor have I ever used a groomer. If I'm gone longer than 9 hours, particularly if I'm staying somewhere overnight, I have my cousin stay at my house and watch them, and I do my own grooming. I'm not an expert of show-quality cut and brush, but washing, brushing, and basic trimming I can handle.

Generally speaking I never say that a dog doesn't bite. It's just not true. Anything with teeth bites. But when out with my Newfies, I can confidently tell someone they won't bite. For all their size and power, they are the most tolerant, friendly breed I've ever encountered. You'd have to do something truly terrible to get one to bite. Since I have them under personal control whenever in public, any hostile or plain stupid actions from people would result in my fist long before my Newfie's bite.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you for the support. Ozzy was just the best dog I've ever had the pleasure of living with (or knowing at all). Huge, brown, and cuddly, Ozzy was a favorite of dog trainers in the places I walked him, and kids everywhere. I still have Murphy, a Newfie (Landseer) pup that will turn 11 months old in a few days. He took Ozzy's death pretty hard, having grown up with him. Murphy came to live with us when Ozzy was nearly 5 months old, and they were inseparable. They ate, slept, and played together. Four days after Ozzy passed away, Murphy got the first hot spots he's ever had. He also stopped gaining weight for nearly 5 weeks. We treated the hot spots, gave him extra attention, and paid close attention to his eating habits, and he's bouncing back. I'm not terribly concerned about the lack of weight gain - Murphy was already 130 pounds at the time, and 29 inches tall at the withers. The hot spots are clearing up and he's cheered up a bit. He spends most of his time, when not playing or directly with us, laying in Ozzy's "spot". We've arranged for a Newfie pup to come to us in about a month, and I'm hoping the little brother will help him get back to his normal self, which is cheerful to the point of being a huge dork.

I can't recall if I've posted about this before, but in case anyone else encounters hot spots on their dogs, the magic cure I've found is coconut oil. If the hot spots are still open sores, then treatment spray and possibly antibacterial ointment are needed, but once they scab over, rub in the coconut oil. It soothes dry skin, breaks up the scabs, and speeds up hair growth (very handy, since you generally have to shave the area of hair that hasn't fallen out yet). I rub it in 3-4 times per day, and if hair is growing back sufficiently there, brush it a few times. Be gentle if the area is still sensitive. It's even OK if they lick it - which they generally will.

In any case, wanted to pass on that little gem and thanks again for the well-wishes. I'm just very glad we had professional photos of Ozzy and Murphy done before all this happened.
 
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