Courtesy of Kerri-Fivecoat Campbell
Three of them had been adopted since August 2010 and we’ve also had a foster. With so many dogs coming in at different times, it’s easy for one to slip between the cracks.
My dogs were all up to date, but then news from Roxanne Hawn, a friend and colleague of mine about her dog, Lilly, suffering an adverse reaction to a rabies vaccine had me all over again weighing the benefits of vaccines vs. the potential risks.
Lilly's Story: The Risks of Pet Vaccines
Lilly is the Border Collie canine heroine of the blog, “Champion of my Heart,” a 2010 winner for the Petties Best Dog Blog and a 2011 finalist.
On January 23, Lilly received a 3-year rabies vaccine. Within 12 hours, she was showing signs of lethargy. Having had mild reactions to vaccines in the past, Roxanne kept a close eye on Lilly, giving her antihistamines.
Several days later, her life was in danger, as she suffered from multiple symptoms such as disorientation, a difficult time walking, trouble with her vision, vomiting and ultimately, seizures.
Roxanne and her husband took Lilly to an emergency veterinarian hospital and a neurologist determined after many tests, including extensive blood work, an MRI and spinal tap, that Lilly was suffering from meningoencephalomyelitis. In laymen's terms, Lilly was suffering from swelling of the brain and surrounding lining, a condition that her neurology team felt was most likely caused by an adverse reaction to the rabies vaccine she received days prior.
After a week in the hospital, Lilly was finally able to come home. Despite that bit of good news, the ramifications of Lilly's hospital stay, both physically for Lilly and financially for her owners, will be with them all for a very long time.
Lilly is gaining strength each day, but still has trouble with her balance. The medical bills have added up to nearly $8,000 so far, with $3,000 being covered by insurance and a bit more being covered by generous donors. Still, Lilly's owners are liable for the remaining half.
Should We Rethink Pet Vaccines?
I had heard of mild reactions to canine vaccines, but nothing this extreme. Roxanne, a seasoned pet health writer, didn’t even know reactions could be this devastating.
It’s something I do not think veterinarians want to discuss. The type of reaction Lilly had is rare and I’m sure veterinarians feel disclosing all of the potential side effects may dissuade pet owners from the vaccine, which is mandatory due to public health in most jurisdictions.
Roxanne wants to make it clear that is she is not an anti-vaccine advocate.
“Just because my dog can never have another vaccine, that does not mean I’m saying that other people should never vaccinate their pets,” Roxanne says. “I do think the entire pet community, including the veterinary profession, needs to take a good look at current vaccination protocols and develop ways to prevent pets from being over vaccinated.”
Roxanne also has this advice for pet owners, “If your pet has ever had even a mild vaccine reaction, please collaborate with your veterinarian on the best and safest way to administer vaccines, or not, depending on your pet’s specific situation.”
Since we live in the country and our dogs are exposed to wild animals when they roam our property, there is no question we will continue to vaccinate our dogs, but thanks to Roxanne and Lilly, I’m even more educated now on the possible risks.
I feel that we as pet owners have the right to be fully informed so we can at least recognize symptoms and get early treatment should a reaction occur.
How do you feel about pet vaccines? Roxanne has asked the company that made Lilly’s vaccine to assist with her medical costs. Check out her poll here. Do you think the company should be held responsible? Do you think they will pay anything?