My dog was given expired rabies vaccine, what now?
April 27, 2017 12:25 PM   Subscribe

So I noticed on my dog's paperwork (after the fact) that the rabies vaccine my dog not at his last apt was expired 3 months before the date of injection! The vet tried to deny this when I confronted her with it saying it was just entered incorrectly by the tech however I said I will follow up with the manufacturer since I have the vial serial number on the paperwork and get answer directly from them. She then called to admit the expiration date written was correct and that it was expired so efficacy not guaranteed and asked for me to bring my dog back in so he can get another shot. My question is, is there any safety concerns or risk to my dog if he gets vaccinated with another rabies shot (which is supposed to last 3 years) only a month apart? Has this happened to anyone else? I'm very upset by this. Also the paperwork did not list exp date or serial number for the other vaccinations he got so I have no idea if they were also expired but just have to let that go I guess since I'm sure they would only lie to me if I asked about those without proof or serial number.
posted by CheeseAndRice to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's quite likely that the vaccine was still effective. I absolutely would not get another vaccine as overvaccination of pets can lead to major health problems. I'd request a refund for the expired vaccine and free titer testing (it's a blood test that measures antibodies) for the 3-year term to see how effective the expired vaccine is.

Also, I'd get a new vet as they lied to you to cover up their error.
posted by quince at 12:46 PM on April 27, 2017 [41 favorites]

My cats had two rabies vaccines within a couple of months or so and they were fine. Nothing other than the typical cranky reaction afterwards. (They had had a vaccine, then we had a bat in our house, maybe 1.5 months later, and it was recommended we get a second shot just to be safe, they need to have had one within 30 days if they are possibly exposed.)

I would not be particularly worried about the safety of my dog. I would, however, be concerned with the quality of that vet and would strongly recommend switching to a new one. And report the old one. That seems extremely careless to me. (Yes, I know meds are generally fine after expiration, but they aren't legally supposed to be used, and the lying is terrible!)
posted by john_snow at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2017

Seeing Quince's post, I'll add that we were in potential exposure territory, which is obviously a different category than your standard preventive care, and if you can get titers tested (I didn't know that!) that seems like it would be better.
posted by john_snow at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2017

Your dog is probably fine, health-wise, but do be aware that the vet is probably now required to change the information in your dog's chart and his rabies vaccination won't be legal. So if he bites someone, you probably won't have legal proof of vaccination.
posted by cooker girl at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Can you request that the vet do a titer, free-of-charge? That seems like a reasonable amount of compensation to ask, and then you have an idea of your dog's level of protection as well as a safeguard in case there were ever a worry that he exposed someone else (as cooker girl mentioned).
posted by R a c h e l at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Titers are not considered legally acceptable for rabies anywhere that I know of (I manage a veterinary hospital), even when they are used to prove status for export they are still not accepted INSTEAD of an appropriate and current rabies vaccination, they are just used to show that the dog mounted an adequate immune response. Despite the fact that your dog is in all likelihood protected (in fact, there is currently a study underway intended to prove that rabies vaccination lasts significantly longer than 3 years in dogs), I would just go ahead and get him revaccinated. Yes, there are risks to overvaccination, but this generally refers to things like vets who insist on vaccinating against distemper/parvo every year instead of every three years, and that sort of thing. A one-time early rabies jab is unlikely to be a concern and rabies is legally mandated because it is a public health issue. Rabies is fatal and people can get it, just revaccinate your dog, accept your vet's apology, and move on.
posted by biscotti at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2017 [14 favorites]

I don't see much reason to accept an apology from a professional who stone lied to OP, and only admitted that when confronted with a means that would expose the lie by a third party. OP is a customer, not Jesus Christ, and is not obligated to forgive the unethical vet.
posted by thelonius at 1:55 PM on April 27, 2017 [12 favorites]

I would absolutely defer to the more vet-knowledgable Mefites regarding whether or not to re-vaccinate your pup at this point, but as a fellow dog owner the fact that she outright lied to you is something I would want to know about if I were in the market for a new vet. I hope you'll leave (level-headed, stating the facts - you don't even have to call it lying, just note what happened) reviews for this vet in whatever online resources are appropriate in your area ... and obviously I'm on Team Get a New Vet.
posted by DingoMutt at 2:04 PM on April 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I'm a toxicologist who works on veterinary vaccines.

In short, your dog is fine and you don't need to rush for a revaccination. Even handled poorly, stored improperly, and administered after the label-stated expiration date, vaccines can be sufficiently effective. A titer test isn't an approved way to check for immunity, so it wouldn't be adding much here (I know that sounds weird, but a titer test straight up isn't approved at the moment as a correlate of protection). Nevertheless, some vets offer it. If it'll give you peace of mind, go for it, but don't assume low titer = low protection (i.e. there are immune mechanisms beyond circulating antibodies that contribute to immunity).

The point for you to remember is that you have paperwork proving vaccination. That should be plenty peace of mind for you (and the authorities) unless you live in an area where endemic wildlife have established rabies issues and your dog comes in contact with wildlife. This is a conversation to have with your vet (or maybe your new vet).

A couple notes about the rabies vaccine in general. Rabies is the only vaccine that has to have a stated duration of immunity on the label. We suspect that DOI lasts longer than what's on the label, but it's hard to change the requirement (there are some very unpleasant dog experiments going on right now that are trying to show 5 or 7 year DOI). Also, expiration dates have to be supported by stability data. So stability through Expiration Date X doesn't mean "this vaccine is a dud after Date X," it loosely means "we've tested this up to Date X and at that point the vaccine still meets federal requirements." For what it's worth, I'd be more concerned about a vial that had been stored improperly (like, next to a hot piece of equipment for a long period) than one that had been a bit past expiration.

It sucks that your vet lied, and that is a problem. I would consider finding a new vet, but I wouldn't revaccinate until required to do so in another 3 years.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:23 PM on April 27, 2017 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay I feel confidant based on the most recent response and other research that despite the vial being expired 3 months before injection that my dog is still protected and the vaccine is effective. I am fine not revaccinating him from a clinical prospective (especially since vaccinating him again might do more harm than good if it's not truly needed). My main concern is the liability. Even though I do have paperwork the paperwork has the injection date, date immunization ends (3 years after injection date) AND the vial expiration date. My dog is territorial aggressive so in the chance that he ever gets loose and bites someone would that paperwork (with the expired date) be sufficient to protect me and him? Or do I need to revaccinate him just from a legal prospective?
posted by CheeseAndRice at 6:38 AM on April 28, 2017

Are you issued the little metal rabies vaccination tag where you live? In my state, that's standard--it goes on your critter's collar along with their nametag (and the state requires it). That's likely as far as any investigation would go: you've got proof of vaccination and it's visible on your dog's ID tag. I don't have any paperwork beyond that for my dog, although the ID number on the rabies tag may be traceable back to your vet and, through their records, the dose administered. The only conceivable way they would dig that deeply is if there's actual evidence of rabies virus transmission. Looking at the incredibly minuscule odds of that happening should give you some solace.

But, again, remember that receiving a vaccine--even a fully potent, unexpired one--is not a guarantee of protection. The idea behind enforced vaccination is to minimize the odds of disease transmission, not to prove at all costs that every dog is immunologically competent to resist rabies. You've done your due diligence and in all likelihood your dog is adequately protected against rabies.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:25 AM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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