a "Letter to the Editor" appeared in The
Modesto Bee concerning vaccination. Specifically, the
writer was questioning how a pet caretaker is to truly
know their companion is protected against a particular
disease by vaccination. Rabies vaccination was the main
off the writer has a valid concern. How do we know our
companions are protected from rabies virus because they
are vaccinated? Letís delve into this a bit
specifically concerning rabies vaccination.
vaccine is a substance, usually injected into a patient,
to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to
a specific pathogenic organism. In the case of a rabies
vaccination, the substance used is a nonviable form of
the actual virus itself. When it is introduced into a
dog or catís body via injection, the immune system
then goes to work creating molecules called antibodies
which recognize the viral particles as foreign invaders.
the patientís immune system has produced the specific
antibodies to the rabies virus, it is then ready for a
potential challenge from an active rabies virus
exposure. This comes when a rabid animal contacts the
vaccinated patient. Because that patient already has
antibodies in their system against the rabies virus from
previous vaccination, the immune system goes to work and
the invading virus is destroyed. But, as the writer
questioned, how do we know the patient is truly
virus and associated vaccines against it have been
widely studied in veterinary medicine I think primarily
because of the potential for human exposure. Rabies is a
fatal disease in domestic animals and also in humans.
There is treatment available with human exposure however
this is not the case in our companions.
protection from rabies virus as mentioned above is
obtained by the stimulation of antibody production by
the immune system against the rabies virus. This can be
measured using a blood test to check the level of
circulating antibodies in the bloodstream against the
rabies virus. This level is called a titer. Adequate
levels of antibodies, a high enough titer, means
protection from the rabies virus. Do we need to do this
on every patient vaccinated against rabies? The answer
of the tremendous amount of research done with rabies
vaccination and resultant antibody levels achieved, and
I am referencing dogs and cats here, there is little
need to check vaccination response by measuring antibody
titers against the virus. The vaccination has been
proven over and over to produce adequate immunity.
are cases where rabies titers are required by certain
government entities before a dog or cat is allowed into
these places. This is because there is no rabies virus
in these locations and they want to keep it that way.
This is, however, not the case on a routine basis.
said, there are cases of vaccination failure. In the
case of rabies vaccination, the failure rate is so
infinitesimally small that we can feel very confident
that proper vaccination against rabies will provide
adequate protection against the virus if the patient is