I need your advice regarding rabies shots. We recently lost a pet cat to cancer from rabies shots to the back of her neck. Now I ask that the vaccines be administered to a back leg, but it seems cancer can happen at this site, too. Is there any way cats can get rabies protection other than by a needle shot? A pill? Anything?
P.L., Matawan, NJ Oct 17, 2011
Fortunately, the incidence of cancer (a fibrosarcoma at the site of injection) is rare. Most veterinarians no longer inject in the neck or shoulders, where surgical removal of the cancer, if it were to develop, is more difficult than in a leg that is most often amputated. I find this vaccination risk unwarranted for cats who never go outdoors, and the mandatory rabies vaccination is draconian when no exceptions are given. But it is also true that far too many owners allow their cats to roam free, exposing them to possible infection from a rabid cat or wild animal. It is hoped that nasal spray vaccinations as an alternative to injections will soon be available, though research and development of these safer alternatives is slow. Oral anti-rabies vaccines are used in bait to help control this disease in wild animals such as foxes. I would think manufacturers might profitably focus on developing a safe and effective oral anti-rabies vaccine for cats and dogs. For a detailed review of vaccination risks -- a controversial issue in both human and veterinary medicine, especially when it comes to mandatory vaccinations -- check my new book "Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health," available on Amazon.com.
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