Rabies Vaccine Waivers for Dogs: What to Know

Updated on February 20, 2018
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Old age isn't enough to justify a rabies vaccine waiver for dogs.
Old age isn't enough to justify a rabies vaccine waiver for dogs.

My Experience Obtaining Rabies Vaccine Waivers for My Dogs

I always thought it would be easy to obtain a rabies vaccine waiver once my dogs were due for their next vaccination at ten years old. Ten is quite a remarkable age for a breed like the Rottweiler, which isn't blessed with a very long lifespan compared to many small or medium-sized dogs. On top of that, this breed is prone to multiple health maladies such as several forms of cancer (particularly bone cancer).

I have been making an extra effort to keep my dogs in great shape since they reached their golden years because they have offered me so much on a personal level. I owe it to them to keep them as happy and healthy for as long as possible. I feed them a high-quality diet and offer them several supplements to tackle age-related ailments such as arthritis, spinal issues (for my neutered male with pinched nerve issues), cognitive dysfunction, and urinary incontinence (in my spayed female). I also brush my dog's teeth daily and keep their coats in top shape.

When it came time for their rabies vaccination, it almost seemed unnecessary since there is such a small chance for exposure. I acknowledge the dangers of rabies for dogs and humans alike and respect the efforts made to contain this virus, but my dogs are considered low-risk due to their lifestyle. (My dogs live at home and only go out to potty in our safely fenced yard or on brief leash walks.) It is not my intention, however, to evade the law (rabies is required by law), nor to undermine the magnitude of such a serious and deadly virus.

I wanted to get a rabies titer test (a test that measures the existence and level of antibodies to this virus in the blood) to determine whether my dogs were still covered. If they were, I was hoping to receive a waiver because of my dogs' old age, but it looks like this is not going to happen. If you are hoping to receive a dog rabies vaccine waiver like me, read this article as there are several things you should be aware of.

Disclaimer

This article is the fruit of my research and isn't meant to be used as a replacement for veterinary or legal advice.

What You Should Know About the Rabies Vaccine Waiver

If you are requesting a waiver for the rabies vaccination, you must be ready to:

  • Do everything possible to minimize the risk of your dog encountering wild animals (limit your dog to leash walks and keep your dog confined on your property);
  • Submit a new waiver request every year with no guarantee it will be granted;
  • Notify public health authorities immediately if your dog is potentially exposed to rabies;
  • Notify public authorities immediately if your dog happens to bite a person;
  • Understand that if your dog is potentially exposed to rabies or happens to bite a person, your dog will be quarantined; and,
  • Understand if your dog tests positive for rabies, he/she will be euthanized immediately.

Skunks Are a Rabies Vector Species in the U.S.

Skunks are known to carry and transmit rabies within the United States.
Skunks are known to carry and transmit rabies within the United States.

Rabies Is Still Prevalent in the United States

Rabies is a serious virus that can be passed from animals to humans (termed zoonosis), and is a serious public health concern. The virus causes progressive encephalomyelitis or inflammation of the brain, a devastating neurological condition.

Animals predisposed to rabies are known as "rabies vector species" and include raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats. The virus is transmitted from animal to animal via bites, scratches, and airborne inoculation and has a varying incubation time (time between exposure and onset of symptoms) of 3 to 12 weeks. In some cases, it may take months for symptoms to appear (rarely more than 6 months).

We often assume that rabies is rare, but my vet declined my request for titer testing and obtaining a waiver because of my county. I was surprised to learn that rabies is still prevalent throughout many locations in the United States.

If rabies is prevalent in your state, it will be very difficult to obtain a rabies vaccine waiver for your dog.

According to one report in 2017, there was a widespread rabies outbreak in my county and a total of 42 cases (a majority of them involving skunks). My county was basically ranking second-highest in the state!

You can access information about rabies cases in your county by simply searching for the name of your county followed by cases of rabies for the year. Your local animal control officer may also be able to pull up this information for you.

Rabies Vaccine Waivers Are Not Easy to Obtain

The United States has strict rabies protocols.
The United States has strict rabies protocols.

Few States Allow Rabies Vaccine Exemptions in the U.S.

You may have heard dog owners advising other dog owners against vaccinating their old or sick dogs. This advice is often tossed around on forums and in groups on social media. In the United States, only 18 states allow exemptions, and my state is not one of them. Had I known that, I would not have wasted my time calling veterinary clinics asking whether it was possible to obtain a waiver.

According to the Rabies Challenge Fund, states that allow rabies exemptions include:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Old Age Does Not Guarantee a Waiver

A dog must have had an adverse reaction to the vaccine or have irreconcilable health issues to be a candidate for the waiver.
A dog must have had an adverse reaction to the vaccine or have irreconcilable health issues to be a candidate for the waiver.

What Dogs Are Eligible?

If the state you reside in happens to be one that allows rabies vaccine exemption, don't get too excited. If your dog is just old or immunocompromised, that is not always enough to obtain a waiver. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the use of killed rabies virus vaccines, inactivated, or recombinant rabies vaccines are not contraindicated in most immunocompromised animals, and advanced age alone does not justify a rabies vaccine waiver.

Because rabies continues to be a significant public health issue, waivers should not be issued arbitrarily upon client request and should be based upon clinical evidence that the animal would be at considerable risk of being harmed by the vaccine because of a diagnosed medical condition.

— American Veterinary Medical Association

Eligibility is only determined if the vaccination puts a dog's health in serious danger. Nowadays, the rabies vaccine is considered relatively "safe" to give, so it appears that eligible dogs may be those who are very frail or those who have had a life-threatening reaction to the vaccination.

Once your vet has filled out the form for an exemption, the process is not over. A public health authority agent must make the final decision as to whether the exception will be granted or denied.

Vaccine Waivers Come With Risks

There are liabilities associated with allowing a rabies vaccine exemption.
There are liabilities associated with allowing a rabies vaccine exemption.

Consider the Liabilities of Waiving the Vaccine

If you happen to live in a state where your vet is allowed to provide an exemption and a public health authority agent approves it, you may need to have a rabies serum antibody titer test performed. Before going this far, you may want to consider the repercussions of the waiver.

"Beware of vaccination exemptions—they can come back to bite you. Old age and a sheltered environment are not adequate reasons to exempt an animal from a state-mandated rabies vaccination. "

— Marc Rosenberg, VMD

First of all, forget about getting a waiver for three years. Rabies waivers are only good for one year, and you will need to get the document renewed and go through the same exact process every year. Also, not many vets are willing to fill out a rabies waiver form and for a good reason: it's risky. One must put himself/herself in veterinarian's position, which involves a lot of liability.

Here is the story of a vet who released a rabies vaccine waiver for an 11-year-old dog who had a history of being "tired and not herself" after the vaccination. The dog was then accidentally exposed to a potentially rabid animal and her owner was scratched. Due to the risk of inoculation, the owner and the dog had to undergo post-exposure rabies protocols.

Alternative Options Are Available

My dogs were able to get IMRAB TF, which is a mercury-free rabies vaccine.
My dogs were able to get IMRAB TF, which is a mercury-free rabies vaccine.

Discuss Alternative Options With Your Veterinarian

Many owners of old dogs or dogs with medical conditions who are unable to obtain a waiver are often wondering what they can do to minimize the chances of adverse vaccine reactions or vaccinosis. Dog owners are concerned about the additives in shots such as aluminum and thimerosal. Here are some tips and options you can discuss with your veterinarian or holistic vet:

  • Always report adverse vaccine reactions to your vet. Your vet will keep a note of it in your dog's chart and will take precautionary steps next time.
  • If your dog has an adverse reaction, ask your vet whether pre-treatment with Benadryl might be helpful.
  • Ask your vet to use a rabies vaccine without thimerosal. An example of this is Merial's IMRAB 3TF. RABVAC 3 TF is no longer available in the U.S..
  • Consult with a holistic vet on how to prevent/treat vaccinosis. Dr. Jean Dodds suggests the use of Thuja and Lyssin for rabies vaccines.

You can pre-treat dogs with the oral homeopathics, Thuja and Lyssin, to help blunt any adverse effects of the rabies vaccine. For other vaccines, just Thuja is needed. These homeopathics can be given the day before, the day of, and the day after the vaccine.

— Dr. Jean Dodds

References

  • DVM360: Rabies vaccination: Should veterinarians exempt or not?
  • AVMA: Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver Form
  • AVMA: Annual Rabies Vaccination Waiver
  • Dr. Jean Dodd: Vaccination Protocol
  • National Association of Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV): Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

        4 weeks ago from USA

        Jolie, have you discussed with your vet the possibility for a waiver? You live in a State where a waiver is possible, albeit I guess things get challenging with the AVMA stating that the use of killed rabies virus vaccines, inactivated, or recombinant rabies vaccines are not contraindicated in most immunocompromised animals.

      • profile image

        jolie 

        5 weeks ago

        Bummer, terrified to give the pup the next booster (northern californma) as she has a compromised immune system. Please help if you get any more advice other than the IMRAB TF or holistic vets on the same page. Why can't they give the minimim dosage instead of the same vial for all weights and sizes :(

      • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

        5 months ago from USA

        Thanks, The Rabies Challenge Fund is trying to increase the required interval for rabies boosters from 3 to 5 and then possibly to 7 years.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        5 months ago from Houston, Texas

        I see that my state of Texas is not on the list. This was interesting to read. I did not realize that it was even possible to get a rabies vaccine waiver.

      • Suhail and my dog profile image

        Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

        5 months ago from Mississauga, ON

        Very informative article!

        Btw, with the lifestyle of K2 and myself (we are always ready to go hiking team), I shall never be asking for a exemption, period.

        Regards,

        Suhail

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 

        5 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        That is a shame. I hope people like Dr.Dodds are able to get those laws changed, since we know now that those vaccines are not even helpful. I hope your dogs do well in their senior years.

      • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

        5 months ago from USA

        Dr Mark, according to AVMA a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship is needed for waivers in the US. On top of that, even if I went to Nevada and established a VCPR with a vet and possibly asked for the waiver afterward, my dogs would be deemed healthy, despite being old. Apparently, rabies waivers are released only if the dog is very ill or has a history of serious, adverse reactions.

      • DrMark1961 profile image

        Dr Mark 

        6 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Interesting article. Since one of your neighboring states (Nevada) will issue rabies vacc exemptions, can you get a vet in Las Vegas to give an exemption for your Rotts? Will vets in the US issue these without a person being a regular client? It is crazy to vaccinate a dog when it is not even needed.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)