***Ad nauseam: a Latin term used to describe something that has been continuing nonstop to the point of nausea. An example, once again, would be that loyal readers of this column have heard so much of Doc’s erudition (perpetual babbling) about rabies that it’s making them sick!
The two most important concepts to keep in mind about the disease rabies for you and your pets are: First, if you are exposed to the disease either through a bite wound or an intimate exposure to a rabid animal, and you do not seek immediate medical attention for yourself, there is nearly a 100% chance that if you catch the disease, you will die. Always remember, that with regards to bite wounds, your physician is your best friend. Secondly, rabies is nearly 100% preventable in your pet (as well as yourself) with proper vaccination. And always remember, that with regards to your pets health, his or her veterinarian is their best friend!
I can almost hear it out there as I write this humble article: “Wow, Doc, what a depressing topic this rabies stuff is!” And my first response would be: “Yup, it sure is!” But because I’m the sensitive, new-millennial, kind of guy that I am, I’m gonna give you most-treasured readers of this humble column a break. Instead of beating you over the head with more blah, blah, blah about the importance of vaccinating your pets against rabies, I’m gonna tell a travel story instead.
A couple of years back, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago (Walk of Saint James). From the land of the Basque people high in the Pyrenees Mountains, across the vineyards and wheat fields of Navarra, and ending in the Galician city of Santiago, the Camino is a thousand-year-old plus trail across northern Spain that has been used by Christian pilgrims to travel and gain Grace to the tomb of the Apostle James (the Greater). It’s an amazing experience full of good foods, delicious wines (not quite as good as my beloved Finger Lake’s wine region), history, legends, and miraculous events.
Part one: One of the more interesting legends on the Camino involves a rather plain and unimposing ancient Gothic stone bridge that we crossed over at the end of our second day of walking. As a veterinarian, I found this story especially interesting. The bridge, with its center pier and twin arches, crossed the Arga river into the little valley town of Zubiri. (Zubiri in the Basque language means “village of the bridge.”) What caught my attention the most about the bridge was its name: El Puente de la rabia, the “bridge of rabies.”
I know! I know! that I said I was going to skip the rabies stuff, but I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself! But as long as I have your attention, I might as well continue.
Part two: There is a much-venerated 5th Century Christian martyr in this border region between France and Spain (as well as Portugal) by the name of Saint Quiteria. Not too much is officially known about her except that she was the virgin daughter of a Galician prince, who was beheaded by her father because she refused to renounce her Christianity. Because it was said that she held at bay two mad rabid dogs with her saintly voice, Saint Quiteria’s intercession is prayed for to help in the prevention of rabies. The good saint is depicted in paintings and sculpture always leading a dog.
I can hear it out there now: “That’s interesting stuff, Doc. But what does a 5th virgin martyr and a simple stone bridge have to do with anything?” Ah, dear readers, this is where it gets interesting. It turns out that some—or maybe all—of Saint Quiteria’s relics are embedded in the central pier of the bridge of rabies. And, for over a thousand years—and still to this very day—local farmers believe that if they march their animals three times over the central pier, the beast will be immune from rabies. Also, they believe that if they walk a rabies infected animal three times around the central pier (the river in the summer is not all that deep) that it will be cured of the disease! I’m not too sure of the science of all this hard work, but it must be more exciting that just getting a shot at the vets!
Dear Ms. Chandler,
Believing or not believing in doing–or not doing–something doesn’t automatically make it right. And whether other people, as well, believe in whatever misconceptions you may have, still doesn’t make it right. I belive your position on vaccinations is elitist, without compassion, and dangerous, not only for the pets of this world, but for humankind as well. But this is still America; do what you want.
You’re right! I am a doctor. That doesn’t make me the smartest person on the planet, but it makes me infinitely more qualified than the majority of the people of the world to make medical judgements regarding what is in the best interests of my client’s pets.
Ms. Chandler, let me ask you a simple question: After being involved with veterinary medicine for almost a quarter of a century, do you think that if my client’s pets were dropping dead because of vaccinations that I would still be in business? Do you think I would still be doing volunteer rabies clinics for the rural poor of our county, where I vaccinate over 400 animals on a good Saturday morning (and I don’t make a dime from the “pharmaceuticals”), if these animals were all dropping dead on me? Dear Lord, give me a brake!
I don’t need to “do research.” I live in the world of life and death everyday. I’ve seen dogs, cats, skunks, horses, cows, goats, woodchucks, foxes, and raccoons actually die from rabies infection. I’ve seen more times than I can count innocent children and entire families having to get painful anti-rabies shots because of being attacked by dogs whose lazy, moronic owner failed to vaccinate the pet. But I’ve not seen a single dog or cat die from a rabies vaccination . . . NOT A SINGLE ONE IN 20 YEARS!
I have seen entire litters of puppies puking and crapping themselves to death because their owner failed to vaccinate the mother against parvo virus. Almost monthly I’ll see a dog in terminal renal failure because its owner read or heard somewhere that you shouldn’t vaccinate your dog against leptosplorosis. Likewise, I now am seeing dogs crippled and in excruciating pain because their owners failed to vaccinate them against Lyme disease. I see from your profile that you have rescue dogs and cats: surely you must have seen at sometime the terrible results of parvo, kennel cough, feline distemper and leukemia? All of which are preventable (as much as humanly possible) had their owners vaccinated either the mother or the pet.
Either you haven’t seen it, or if you have, you are indifferent to the horror. Or, . . . nope, I’m keeping that one to myself!
Ms. Chandler, in closing let me just say this. Like all veterinarians, I went through the misery, the separation from family, and the huge expense of eight years of college–eight years we’ll never see again–to learn how to save the lives of animals. My clients all love me and trust me to make the best decisions possible to make the lives of their beloved pets better. Likewise the readers of my various blogs from all over the world. My wife and I each work 70 – 90 hours a week on the behalf of my clients and their pets. I make less money than the guy who fixes my furnace! For you to arbitrarily say that my sole motivation for vaccinating pets is to help the “pharmaceuticals” is mean-spirited, elitist, presumptious, and just down-right wrong.
But as I said above, this is still America: say what you want.