Vaccines and Protocols
Requirement for travel:
Preparation for travel with your pet to other
countries often takes months or longer.
This is because vaccination protocols are often extensive and must be
carefully followed. In addition, prior
to any vaccination, pets must be identifiable using an approved
method set by each country (microchipping for example)(12).
Following vaccination, pets must also be
checked for adequate titer levels. If
procedures are not carefully followed the pet may be refused entry or
to be quarantined. For diseases such as
rabies, which have a significantly prolonged incubation period,
may be quite extensive. The result is
prolonged separation from pets. In
addition, any costs involved with quarantining the animal are the
responsibility of the owner. For this
reason, it is strongly recommended that owners adequately prepare for
export with pets. Each country has
different requirements. Visit the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/anima/heasan/export/exporte.shtml
for further details on specific countries.
Note that these steps must be followed in a specific order and usually
require cooperation with your veterinarian.
Commonly Encountered Export Requirements (16):
Countries often require that pets be
identified with a country-approved microchip prior to any applicable
vaccination. This is an attempt to
ensure that the animal listed in the vaccination certification papers
same animal that is being brought into the country.
Some countries may accept a clearly readable
tattoo as animal identification. After
the animal has been properly identified, documented vaccination can be
done. A veterinarian must perform the
vaccination(s). Countries often require
that a certain type of vaccine be used (often inactivated vaccines –
see the Type
of Vaccine section below for further information).
Health certificates must be carefully filled
out. Improperly completed certificates
may result in refusal of admission of an animal into the country. Specific forms may have to be collected from
the country you are traveling to and filled out prior to departure. Be sure to check the length of time that the
health certificate will be considered valid after it is issued. Countries often require that blood
performed to check titer levels within a specified time frame after
and prior to arrival. This is to ensure
that the animals are adequately protected and therefore unlikely to be
disease. It is important to ensure that
the titer levels match what is considered to be adequate in the country
will be traveling to. This level may
vary with the country.
order to get an idea of how well protected the body is against rabies,
is analyzed. This measures levels of
molecules in the blood, called antibodies.
Antibodies are produced by the body in response to either
exposure (ex. from infection) to a virus or other pathogen. Cells in the body bind to and analyze
specific molecules (called antigens) present on the pathogen (in the
rabies the pathogen is a virus) and responds by stimulating the
specific proteins (antibodies). These
antibodies are specially designed to inactivate the pathogen (called
neutralization). Measurement of the
amount of antibody in the blood is referred to as a titer.
The level of antibody present in the blood is
determined by using a blood sample to find out how much is required to
a given amount of virus. The red blood
cells are removed from the sample to leave serum. Small
serum samples are then diluted varying
amounts and added to a specific amount of known virus (rabies in this
case). The most diluted serum sample that
is still able to neutralize the virus is referred to as the titer (18).
Type of Vaccines: A variety of
types of vaccines are
available for rabies, as well as a variety of associated vaccination
protocols. Vaccines may be licensed
use every one, two, or three years by the CFIA.
Although vaccination of small animals against rabies is not
required in Canada,
it is strongly recommended. Many
veterinarians recommend and use annual vaccination protocols, while
revaccinate every three years (using a different vaccine).
Regardless of the type of vaccine used, a
booster injection should be given one year after the initial
vaccination of an
animal (19). Recommendations for
vaccination of large animals tend to more variable, and depend somewhat
prevalence of rabies in each province. Below
is a table listing some rabies vaccines. Although the table
represents vaccines licensed in the United States, many are licensed in
Canada as well.
Human Vaccines: There
are an estimated 40,000 to 100,000 human deaths from rabies every year
(11). Almost all of these cases occur in
the world where uncontrolled domestic dog rabies is still a major issue
or the USA).
There are numerous occupancies that put people at higher than
risk. For example, wildlife workers,
zoo staff, lab workers, some public health workers, animal control
some high risk individuals such as hunters, trappers, and spelunkers in
areas (20). For these individuals, a
preventative vaccine is available. A
series of three shots are given initially.
Approximately four weeks after the last shot, a blood sample is
measure antibody titer levels. Titers
levels are regularly analyzed to ensure adequate protection remains. A booster is given when indicated by a low
titer level. At the time of a rabies
exposure, if titer levels are inadequate and/or if the exposure is of a
enough nature, post exposure rabies vaccines will still be given. The number of doses required is less than
normal, however (only two) (21).
Not being in a job category listed above does not necessarily
exposure to rabies. Although the risk
may be low, accidental exposure can still occur through contact with
animals (ex. While camping or enjoying other outdoor activities – see
the DISTRIBUTION OF RABIES VIRUS
IN WESTERN CANADA section for high risk species and endemic areas),
contact with an exposed pet, or from wild intruders into
home. For these cases, Post Exposure
Vaccination may be administered. If
treatment is started early enough (should be started immediately after
and done to completion, rabies can be treated successfully. Post exposure treatment involves a
five injections into the muscle (21).
There is only one human rabies vaccine licensed for use in Canada. This is the Imovax Rabies vaccine (20). It is an inactivated rabies vaccine, which
means that the virus has been manipulated so that it will still
formation of antibodies but will not cause disease.
This vaccine is used for both pre-exposure
and post-exposure human vaccinations.
Rabies is a scary disease, but should not completely stop
people from doing
the things that they love. Outdoor
activities and an adoring pet can still be safely enjoyed with a good
of what to be aware of. Arm yourself
with knowledge of how to be cautious and what to if something goes
use that knowledge to help you safely have a good time.
Above all, remember that wildlife is
WILD. That means that there is no
knowledge of what the animal may have been exposed to.
Avoid direct contact whenever possible. Wildlife
is to be appreciated from a safe
distance and left undisturbed. If the
animal is injured, contact your local animal control or wildlife