In the past few years, veterinarians have seen a lot of changes in the business. One of the biggest factors affecting our business is called fragmentation of services. It used to be that people came to their veterinarian for all of their pet’s medical needs: spay or neuter, vaccines, medicines, etc. These days, a pet owner may get their pet spayed at the humane society, vaccinations at the city clinic, and prescriptions through an online pharmacy. We’re not crazy about this trend, but in general we recognize that such changes are inevitable and that we have to adapt.
However, there is one unexpected result of this fragmentation that is a definite problem, and that has to do with continuity of care, especially regarding rabies vaccines. With so many different agencies involved, it can be difficult to determine exactly what vaccinations have been given, and when. To make matters worse, some of the organizations providing rabies vaccinations are not very good at record-keeping – so we often have nothing to go on but the owner’s memory.
This is becoming an increasing problem for us. Recently, one of our staff was bitten by a dog – no big deal, it happens, but there is always a concern when it does. Happily, this particular pet was current on rabies vaccination, so there were no problems. However, today we face a more unnerving situation: a large dog, two years overdue for rabies vaccine, that was bitten by a raccoon. We will be taking special precautions but it is a situation that I, for one, do not like to put my employees in!
For these reasons, we have decided to become more strict in our vaccination requirements. Effective immediately, we require all dogs and cats that we see to be current on rabies immunization. If your pet was vaccinated elsewhere, you will need to bring proof of that vaccination to your appointment. If you cannot prove that your pet was vaccinated, we will need to vaccinate at that time; otherwise, we will not see your pet again until you can provide proof of vaccination.
When I reread that paragraph, it seems harsh… but in reality it’s not. Rabies is a fatal disease that is difficult to diagnose and treat, in humans as well as pets – and for pets it is pretty much a death sentence. Veterinarians have a duty to protect the public from zoonotic diseases such as rabies, and vaccination is our only tool for this.
Cat owners may be wondering why we are insistent on vaccinating their pets. Rabies in cats is often overlooked, because the vaccine is not legally required as it is in dogs; however (and perhaps for that very reason), the incidence of rabies is actually significantly higher in cats that it is in dogs. Even indoor cats can be exposed to rabies vectors such as bats… bats, after all, often live indoors. We understand that many cat owners are reluctant to vaccinate due to the risk of sarcomas, which is why we use only Merial non-adjuvanted vaccines in cats.
So, bottom line: For the safety of your family, your pet, and our staff, you need to be sure your pet is protected against rabies. We are here to help.