Message Number: FHL5542 | New FHL Archives Search
From: "Sukie Crandall"
Date: 2008-07-18 22:13:42 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] Re: Vaccines?

--- In, "A.M. S." <domino145@...> wrote:
> I'm a new ferret own and i do not vaccinate, I'm read many places on the internet that
say do not. My ferrets are the same indoors only never see any other animals.

Remember that a lot of noise doesn't automatically equate
to a lot of facts.

There are ways to avoid vaccination much more safely
but even then there is some degree of risk. See earlier
post today which tells a bit about some of the precautions
to take when avoiding vaccines. There are details and
more information in past posts in the archives.

Now, that isn't to say that it wouldn't be great to be able
to safely vaccinate less. On that score there is a study
on-going to try to learn what the titer levels for CDV
(Canine Distemper Virus) vaccines actually mean IN FERRETS.
The first step of the study is on-going right now. Then
later challenge work will be needed. You can read about
the larger of the two studies and find out how to participate HERE:

and there are more details in the FHL Archives, especially from
the address containing

For rabies it will much harder and more costly to get to the point
where any vaccine can be used less often than annually for two
1. It is a zoonotic disease (can infect humans)
2. titer results do not appear to be reliable for rabies vaccines
so if or when that is studied it will mean challenge studies in
at least one of the very few laboratories which are allowed to
work with rabies virus.

A perfect example of when noise does not equate to fact is Proheart.
For a while there was a huge amount of noise because some (very few)
dogs given that died. It was an incredibly rare occurrence. When it was
studied well enough the rate of problems was found to be very low.
Since the convenience was high it is thought that the dogs who got
worms in their hearts due to that product not being available was
possibly substantially higher than any who were at risk of a problem
with the medication.

Meanwhile, by a wide margin, Proheart was the best mediciation to
save ferrets who already had heartworm, so having it banned for a few
years killed ferrets (having tried to help some vets legally import it from
other countries then with the hurtles being too great I know this for a

Why was there the ban in the first place? Because many people made
a lot of noise about a very few dogs (proportionally) who had problems
with the med. So, the result appears to be that more animals died due
to all that noise and the resulting temporary ban during investigation
rather than were saved...

It often boils down to RATES, even when we are talking about indoor

For Canine Distemper that also means knowing what the current rate of
Canine Distemper infections in your local pet and wild animal populations
are. Obviously, in the really bad years you don't want to take as much of
a chance. your treating vet will know what it is like at this time around you.

Okay, for rabies it also means knowing rates, but they don't tend to go as
high as for CDV.

Now, what about the risk rates of reactions for the vaccines? Well, it's
actually low, something like 2% to 4% if I recall right, depending on the
vaccine. The chances of reaction increase with more exposures which is
why the titer study is so very important.

The thing is that an anaphylactic reaction is very scary to see. I find them
scarier to see than to go through, but my husband finds both bad. People
also make a lot of assumptions about such reactions. For instance, people
sometimes assume that bloody flux means that the intestines are being
damaged, but actually instead it's just that the fluid loss is so rapid that
red blood cells are carried across the membranes -- just flooded across.
Depending on the individual there may be a feeling of imminent doom, but
even that is sometimes with a kind of floatiness, so it may be scary or it
may not be. Also, the most important med (Several are essential.),
epinephrin, can make some individuals very nervous but just makes others
silly. We've had I guess 4 or maybe 5 ferrets react to vaccines over a space
of 27 years with ferrets; each of them did the passing out form of
anaphylactic reaction rather than the awake but smothering form which
humans sometimes do instead. All survived with treatment, but that is
not always the case. Usually staying at the vet and getting rapid epi,
fluids, antihistamines, etc. when a reaction occurs saves a ferret, but even
doing everything right there are the rare exceptions.

So, I guess what i am saying is that a reaction is certainly not a cakewalk,
but there is a lot of exaggeration and there are a lot of false scare
statements about vaccine reactions out there.

On the other hand, many of those same sites tell you nothing about
Canine Distemper or rabies themselves. I have seen both each once: Canine
Distemper in a dog whose behavior changed overnight from the brain damage,
and rabies in a brown bat who did not behave at all like little brown bats
normally behave. Neither is a disease i want to ever encounter again-- they
were that bad. From experience I consider the reactions less upsetting.

So, weigh the risks and know that since disease rates differ in different years or
different seasons one year's best choice might not be the best choice for a
different year. Stay informed. Learn. Weigh risks. Take special precautions
like leaving shoes outside if you not vaccinate, and when you do vaccinate take
the special precaution those days of staying an extra 45 minutes or so in the
animal hospital afterward.


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