This is a tale of two veterinarians practicing thousands of miles from each other in the United States. These two veterinarians have something in common with many others – a lack of understanding regarding immunology and vaccinations. While Rabies vaccination is mandatory in the United States, pets can have exemptions from vaccination in many states if they have health problems that would not make them good candidates for vaccination.

As seen in my previous blog, vaccinations are labeled for use in healthy pets.

One of my clients has a senior Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with mitral valve disease and a heart base tumor. This client happens to live a few hundred miles from my practice, so her pets are seen by her local veterinarian between visits for holistic consultations. The tumor has been steadily growing, despite our best efforts with diet and herbal supplementation. The dog is happy and active, which is good news. The exact nature of the tumor is unknown, as it would be too dangerous to obtain a biopsy sample.

Unfortunately, the dog’s three-year rabies vaccination is expiring. The owner lives in a state that does allow exemptions, but her veterinarian will not write the exemption. She is stuck in a no-win situation. She decided to have a rabies titer (blood test to determine protective immunity) performed on her dog. The test was run at Kansas State University, the leading authority on this test. The test showed the dog has protective immunity and therefore is not vulnerable to contracting rabies. She asked the cardiologist about this, as he is the specialist consulting about the cancer. This was his response:

  1. “There is no evidence that the rabies vaccine causes cancer or exacerbates cancer that is already occurring.” (I would refer him to this link for further information regarding studies that DO show vaccines are associated with cancer and immune system disease.)
  2. “I was one of the doctors who helped write the guidelines for a medical waiver for rabies for the State of Virginia. I am telling you now that you would not receive a medical waver for [your dog]. [He] is not immuno-compromised.” (My standpoint – Since we don’t even know what type of cancer this is, how can we say he is not immuno-compromised? Vaccinations have complex interactions with the immune system and these are not predictable; they can be harmful in dogs with cancer. Vaccinations require a well-functioning immune system to mount a response to the vaccination. This dog’s immune system is fighting very hard to keep the cancer in check and does not need further stress.)
  3. “I understand the titer shows that he is protected. That means that if he were to be attacked by a rabid wild animal he would be OK. I also understand that [this breed] generally is not at risk of biting humans. If you choose not to give [him] the rabies shot, I will still treat him. But it is for your protection and for the good of the public health in case he should bite someone.” WHAT? The dog is protected from developing rabies, as shown by the protective titer. Therefore, the dog cannot give rabies to someone if he bit them. He would not have a chance of spreading rabies unless he was bitten by a rabid animal first, then developed rabies, for which he is protected. In addition, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians has an established protocol for pets that are exposed to a potentially rabid animal that could be instituted if this dog were attacked. Telling the owner they are not protected is a scare tactic, nothing less.

Cancer can and does cause immune compromise and stress on the immune system. Vaccination causes the immune system to respond. There is no need to add additional stress to the immune system of a pet fighting cancer. Of course, oncologists also believe it is safe to use harmful chemicals for flea, tick, and heartworm prevention when pets are receiving chemotherapy. I disagree with that, as well.