Editorial August 2000 Issue

Itching and Wondering

Did a rabies booster trigger Rupe’s allergy attack?

Last summer, when my sister Sue was visiting from Colorado, she took Rupert for a walk around the block. I was in the shower and, not wanting to pound on the door to ask me where Rupe’s collar and leash were, Sue simply grabbed a couple of “poop” bags, whistled for Rupe, and they walked out the door.

As my longtime jogging companion, Rupert is perfect off-leash. He stays close without being nagged, has never developed a “pee on everything” habit, ignores other dogs and pedestrians, and waits at every curb in that classic herding dog crouch until he is given the command to cross the street. But if I had known Sue was taking him out, I would have told her to grab the leash anyway, since it was after 8 a.m. and the Animal Control officers were likely to be prowling for loose dogs. I live just around a corner from a park where noncompliance with the pooper-scooper laws is a real problem, and while I really do appreciate their efforts, I don’t walk Rupert off-leash during their work hours for one reason: Rupe wasn’t licensed, because his rabies shot was overdue, and I didn’t want to revaccinate him.

Long story short? Rupe got a ticket for walking off leash and for being unlicensed.

Had this been, say, a $40 fine, I would have simply paid it. But the fine was a whopping $271, and I had to get Rupert licensed or the fine would rise. And, of course, to get him licensed, he’d need a current rabies vaccination. We’ve explained in past articles on vaccination that, if you have a titer test done, and the results indicate that the dog has enough antibodies to suggest he has sufficient protection from the disease (and a letter from a veterinarian explaining this), sometimes an enlightened animal control officer will waive the rabies vaccination requirement for licensing. (Of course, this is not true in areas where rabies is endemic.) I had long planned to have Rupe’s rabies titers tested, so when he got busted, I kicked myself.

If I had been proactive, and had gotten the titer test done, and had gone to the city with a letter and the test results – I feel certain that I probably could have gotten him licensed without the rabies booster. But given the new situation, I thought the easiest thing to do would be to get the shot, get the license, and hope the judge would reduce my fine after these corrections were made. Happily for me, he did.

Unhappily for Rupert, just a couple of months later, he broke out with severe itching.

As I explained last month, when Rupert started scratching, I thought a change in the formulation of his kibble was responsible. The more I think about it, the more I wonder about that last vaccination. Could it be that the booster triggered this wave of allergic self-destruction?

In his youth, Rupert was always itchy. Today I feel certain that all those booster shots (I always took him in to the vet promptly when I received the “boosters due” notices) and all that supermarket dog food was to blame. But for the last three years, Rupe’s allergies have been quiescent, and I came to feel that this was surely due to the change to a high quality kibble. Now that he’s itching again, I’ve changed his diet five times in the last seven months – including a seven-week raw food trial – but none of these foods have made much of a dent in his relentless scratching and chewing.

I’ve been giving him some herbs prescribed by a holistic vet, as well as some antioxidant supplements, with negligible results. I’m going to try consulting with a homeopathic veterinarian next. I’ve heard that homeopathy can sometimes “clear” the ill effects of vaccination on the immune system. But I’ll tell you one thing: Rupert is never going to receive another vaccination again.

-Nancy Kerns

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