Discount Rabies Clinics

Discount rabies clinics aren’t for everyone

It’s time for the annual Jab Fest at reduced-cost rabies vaccination clinics to be held this Saturday in Quinte West and surrounding areas. For those planning to attend, there are a few issues to consider.

Do your pets need the vaccines? Some local vets, including Hillcrest, give their private patients a rabies vaccine that lasts for three years. If your dogs or cats have been examined and vaccinated individually in the last two years, they may not need to get poked again October 5th. Don’t depend on rabies tag dates. If you aren’t sure, call your vet office. You don’t want to over- or under-vaccinate.

Because of the human health risk, it is a legal requirement here that all dogs and cats aged 12 weeks and older be properly immunized for rabies. Technically, this law applies equally to high risk farm dogs and always-indoor kitties. “Properly immunized” means that a vet has personally administered an accepted vaccine and signed a certificate listing the date the next booster is due. Both one-year and three-year vaccines are legal, but the first booster must be given within 12 months regardless of the product used.

If your pets do need the vaccines, are they healthy enough to go to a busy public clinic? Normally, to protect the pet’s health, vets must do a physical exam before vaccinating any animal. For discount clinics, the College of Veterinarians of Ontario (the CVO) issues a permit waiving the exam requirement.

These public events are solely designed to protect humans by reducing the risks that pets can transmit rabies. This is not the time or place to ask why your old Siamese is coughing or worry that your puppy may have worms. Sick pets should be properly examined and treated. There’s more to keeping your pets healthy than having them vaccinated for rabies once a year.

For that matter, what the heck is your puppy doing at a reduced-cost rabies clinic? A few weeks ago, we euthanized another inadequately vaccinated dog that was dying of parvo virus. And just last week we euthanized a 10-week old puppy that was also dying of parvo virus infection. Maybe the law only requires rabies vaccines, but for the sake of the puppies, please include shots for distemper and parvo in there too. No matter how well-organized the event may be, a gathering of hundreds of pets who have not seen a vet in years is no place for a vulnerable puppy or kitten and no place for a sick or frail old friend.

For those who must take their pets to the clinics, please be sure to keep them safe while waiting in line. Dogs should be leashed and cats confined in some way, preferably in solid carriers. A list of participating vets can be found in local newspapers or by searching online for Hastings county rabies clinics. The cost is $25 per pet and most clinics will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. unless otherwise specified. The vaccination certificates given at annual discount clinics are usually valid for one year, not three.

Although it costs the practice thousands of dollars in lost revenue, Hillcrest Animal Hospital does not participate in these clinics for a variety of reasons and I applaud the decision. Like many veterinarians, Hillcrest’s owner, Dr. Mike Steen, feels the clinics are not in the best interests of pets and are no longer required to ensure the protection of public health with the considerable decline in rabies cases over the years since they began. Public rabies clinics have been discontinued in many areas of Ontario.

Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital – Trenton/Quinte West, Ontario
October 2013