Rabies DB?
April 12, 2011 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find rabies info if the original owner can't remember or the vet they had the dog vaccinated at it is out of business?

Long story short, a friend of mine got a dog which proceeded to bite him. Now the original owners can't find the papers for vaccination and think the place they went 5 years ago went out of business.

Is there a database or an organization which has this info? My friend is in Las Vegas, NV as is the dog.

posted by lattiboy to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Uh, don't rabies vaccines have to have a booster every three years?

If the place went out of business five years ago then that vaccine might not be effective anymore anyway.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:21 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're concerned about a bite from a dog that may possibly have rabies, you really don't have time to hunt around for a database.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:23 PM on April 12, 2011

If they had the dog registered there would absolutely be a record, my town does this at the local shelter, not sure where yours does. If the animal was not registered, and you cannot track down the clinic records you will probably be out of luck.
posted by boobjob at 12:23 PM on April 12, 2011

Proper rabies vaccinations are done annually in some states. Your friend should go talk to the vet or local health department. I would start with the vet. See my adventures with rabies here....

your friend probably doesn't have to worry about anything. There is a 10 day quarantine to check for rabies in animals (apart from be-heading them and testing immediately). If they've had them more than 10 days with no rabies symptoms (hydrophobia, etc), the dog is probably fine.
posted by Kronur at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2011

elsietheeel is correct. Rabies vaccinations/boosters are only good for 1 or 3 years, depending on which vaccine is used. If it's been >5 years, I would assume that the dog has no protection against rabies.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:27 PM on April 12, 2011

Rabies shots don't last five years. At least in NC, they're either good for one or three years (used to be two years but now they don't do that shot anymore.) If the dog has not been vaccinated for five years then s/he is not immune to rabies. Is it possible that the dog has even been exposed, though? Animals don't just spontaneously develop rabies and a dog who has been kept inside and exercised on a leash is not going to have it unless it's been bitten by another infected animal. Rabies is much rarer than people think. Yes, it's fatal, so don't ever take it lightly, but it's not common by any means.

In other bad news, to the best of my knowledge, unless you have the dog's state rabies number - each animal vaccinated gets a tag with a number on it and the number is then reported to the state database by the name of the vet, not the owner - no, it's unlikely that there is any way to look up the information.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:28 PM on April 12, 2011

Have you called animal control for the county the original owners are in? In many, many states, rabies vaccinations are (and must be) automatically reported by the vet to animal control, and the county tracks the records. And you get a big honkin' nasty-gram from the state if you're late. (Both states I have lived in could search by pet name; the nasty-grams came with the pet's name on the little postcard.)

But no, rabies vaccinations don't last five years. And if the original owners didn't get a nasty-gram, I wonder whether they ever bothered vaccinating or registering the dog at all.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:32 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your friend should start rabies prophylaxis, which can be done at the ER.

(I went through this last summer for bat-related reasons.)

If the dog hasn't been vaccinated, your options may be pretty poor--many states require either euthanasia or a very, very tight quarantine for up to a year. Around here, the 10-day quarantine is just an initial one to determine whether the animal needs to be euthanized and tested right away. We thought we would have to keep our cat quarantined in the basement for a year with only one vaccinated person coming into contact with her...it would have been pretty intense, although we would absolutely have done it.
posted by Frowner at 12:39 PM on April 12, 2011

Call the Clark County or City of Las Vegas animal control authority and they will advise.

(my understanding is that rabies is rare in southern NV)
posted by zepheria at 12:51 PM on April 12, 2011

Is there a reason to suspect the dog might be rabid? The county you live in likely keeps track of the # of rabies incidents and location (for racoons, foxes, woodchucks, etc). In order to contract rabies, the dog would have had to come in contact with another rabid animal -- and the risk of that happening depends, I think, on two things -- the access to the dog to a potentially rabid population of animals that carry rabies AND local rabies incidents within this population.

Before I turned this into a "might have rabies" crisis -- check out the instance rabies locally and reasonably consider the dog's proximity/exposure. If the dog lives in the city and there has been no spike or report of rabid racoons recently and the dog has been accounted for in it's backyard with no unexplained bites/scratched on the dog -- you really should be OK. On the otherhand, if the dog is a country beast who roams and has come home in the past weeks (months) looking as though he'd been in a tangle with bite/scratch marks -- then you have a reasonable point of concern.

Rabies shots in humans are a fairly intense treatment but if you believe reasonably there is a possibly, haul into the ER and get treatment. Depending on the location of the bit (further away from the heart is better), you've got days at best to start a treatment regiment or else the risk of the disease becoming fatal in humans increases.

I also would be hesitant in the instance to act on "should be OK" if you really believe there is a slight chance of rabies exposure. Rabies isn't something you can mess with. But there will be serious consequences for the dog/owners. If the crisis passes, you friend/the dog's owner needs to buck up an take responsibility for the animal. Annual rabies vaccines are a requirement as is regular veterinary care for pet owners. Negligence in vaccination is really unforgivable, in my humble country dwelling opinion.

Good luck.
posted by countrymod at 1:01 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rabies isn't something you can mess with.

Rabies is universally terminal, with maybe two cases' worth of freakish exceptions! Rabies prophylaxis is now a series of three visits to the hospital and a total of four shots, none of which are given in the stomach and none of which are super-painful. Really, seriously, if you are bitten by an animal whose rabies status is unknown, and you don't want to kill the animal and test its brain, get the shots! If you'd been bitten by a bat that (for example) flew away before it could be captured and tested, they'd give you the same advice, even though there aren't actually that many rabid bats around.
posted by Frowner at 1:30 PM on April 12, 2011

What everyone else said. Get your friend to a doctor ASAP.

Even though the risk is probably low, it isn't worth messing around with.
posted by schmod at 2:06 PM on April 12, 2011

(Also, I'm a bit worried that you've marked all of the "Don't worry about it" answers as 'Best Answers.' Talk to a doctor, and let them make the call. They are the experts.)
posted by schmod at 2:08 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

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