From the AlpacaSite April
21, 2010: With additional
notes in red
Here are some comments from our seminars
where we talk about rabies
vaccine and vaccinations.
1) The rabies vaccine MUST be given by a veterinarian
for you to have
In many states (not all), you can buy rabies
the counter" at
many farm stores with no prior veterinary
prescription. But in the event of rabies exposure,
your county health
people will NOT recognize your non vet, self
administered rabies vaccine
administration (yes, even with receipts, etc).
2) The older rabies vaccines were known to
cause reactions. Even with
recent improvements, the rabies vaccine still
remains a "hot" vaccine.
This means that it has more potential to cause
post shot reactions
compared to a "cold" vaccines (West
Nile for example is considered a
cold vaccine for alpacas/llamas). However,
giving a hot vaccine and a
cold one within hours can cause more reactions
than either given alone.
For this reason, never allow your vet to administer
the rabies vaccine
and a CD&T (or Leptospirosis or West Nile
or whatever vaccine) at the
same time (unless they want to hang around
for an hour afterwards). The majority
of acute vaccinosis reactions are often apparent,
within minutes, of giving the rabies vaccine
with another different vaccine. You can always
give the other non-rabies vaccine several days
Normally you don't give
rabies shot and any other shot at a minimum
2-4 weeks apart.
Always, always watch your animal after giving
any vaccine, but always
observe after a “hot” vaccine as sometimes
it takes thirty minutes
or so for the acute symptoms to flare up.
3) There is no "one recommendation" for
the rabies vaccine. Across the
country, the rabies exposure risk due from
wild animals simply varies
too much. You must look at your county/state
data and make up your mind
with your vet's input. For example, rabies
is highly endemic in some
areas of the southeast USA, and it is virtually
absent in others. One
recommendation for all geographical areas is
foolish as the rabies
vaccine does cause reactions. But in rabies
endemic areas, you MUST
vaccinate! Your vet will know your area's risk.
4) If your alpaca/llama sees a rabid skunk/raccoon/bat/whatever,
natural curiosity leads them right up to that
animal. They often "nose" the
animal and resultantly get bit on the nose,
lip or legs. Rabid
animals can act "furious" (like dogs)
or "dumb" (like cows). Not all
drool. One symptom of rabies is seeing a clearly
nocturnal wild animal
wandering about in the bright daylight oblivious
animals/people. Some do not show symptoms.
For example, Skunks carry
rabies and not show symptoms until very late
in the disease. In the
meantime, they can pass this disease to offspring
5) When people call me about a wandering and "dazed
looking" raccoon/skunk in the daylight,
I immediately advise calling animal
control. They will shoot the rabid looking
animal. They will not trap
it. In most areas, animal control simply does
not have the resources to
confirm rabies on every suspected wild animal.
If a suspected animal
bites a person, then a confirmation test is
always done. If animal
control cannot get there immediately, then
you need to deal with this.
Do NOT let this very likely rabid animal wander
away to later return and
potentially bite one of your livestock, dogs
or cats, your neighbor’s
animals (or you!). I dislike guns, but I have
one for this very purpose
5) Alpacas/llamas get rabies. This is clearly
documented. Camelids can
show either "dumb" or "furious" rabies
symptoms. Rabies is spread by
saliva and our camelid friends have a way of
projecting this. Consider
your liability for farm visitors . . .
6) The only way to confirm rabies is to cut
off the suspected
animal’s head, get a small section of brain
tissue, use specific
stains and look for cellular Negri inclusions
under the microscope.
There is NO other test. If your county suspects
rabies in your animal,
they have the right to quarantine your animal
(at your cost) and sadly
(if symptoms persist) to kill your animal.
This latter issue is rare -
but it does happen. Most often, you are told
to quarantine your animal
on your property (14 to 30 days depending).
7) There are one year rabies vaccines and
three year rabies vaccines
(both under the IMRAB and RABAC labels). But
each comes from the same
exact same batch! The three year lots are just
tested for efficacy at
three years and thus cost more due to the longer
testing, time, etc.
Thus, the three year tests show that the vaccine
works at three years so
it can be labeled as such (RABAC-3 or IMRAB-3).
8) Some states/counties with endemic wildlife
rabies insist on rabies
vaccination every single year. I, and many
other animal health experts,
feel that this is too often for alpacas/llamas.
We prefer every three
years. The reason for the yearly vaccination
protocol is to insure that
a large percentage of the animal population
gets rabies immunizations.
9) There are blood antibodies that can be
tested to show that the rabies
vaccine protection remains. Several dog/cat
studies show that rabies
vaccine protection exists for at least five
years after injection. Some
states/counties will accept blood antibody
results and others will not.
10) The use of the rabies vaccine (and every
other veterinary drug) for
alpacas/llamas is considered a legal "off
label" use. Off label means
that there is no legal documentation of efficacy.
This does NOT mean
that the vaccine/drug/treatment does not work,
rather, it simply means
that in the case of an adverse reaction or
lack of protection, there is
no legal recourse against the vaccine manufacturer
and/or vet. This off
label descriptor is typically a legal issue,
not necessarily a
11) Rabies vaccination is not just for protection
of your pet. Rather,
it is a public health issue as people get rabies
from rabid animals
(zoonotic disease). This sounds strange, but
your vet is actually
licensed to protect the public by immunizing/treating
animals. This is a
legal issue and gets back to the reason why
only licensed vets can
verify that a rabies vaccine has been properly
I suggest that newcomers print this off, and
discuss this with your
local vet. He/she has the best perspective
for protection of your
animals (as well as you!) and, together you
must make the decision that
is best for your
animals in YOUR area.
Hope this helps.
Dr. Steve Hull
Stephen Hull, MS, PhD, Tom Cameron, DVM & families
"a full service alpaca farm including
seminars and consulting" http://timberlakefarms.net
TimberLake Farms, Inc.
12001 East Waterloo Road
Arcadia, OK 73007
405 341 8444 (home/farm)
405 550-3023 (cell)
from Brenda Gallagher, 04-29-12010 via email.
“All species of livestock are susceptible to
rabies; cattle and horses are the most frequently
reported infected species. Livestock exposed
to a rabid animal and currently vaccinated
with a vaccine approved by USDA for that
species should be revaccinated immediately
and observed for 45 days. Unvaccinated livestock
should be euthanized immediately. If the
animal is not euthanized it should be kept
under close observation for 6 months. Any
illness in an animal under observation should
be reported immediately to the local health
department. If signs suggestive of rabies
develop, the animal should be euthanized
and the head shipped for testing as described
in Part I.A.8.” Compendium of Animal Rabies
Prevention and Control, 2008
excerpt (as a .PDF) from the Colorado Revised
Statutes §25-4-6 Rabies Control and the Compendium
of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control, 2008,
National Association of State Public Health
Comments from Nick Striegel, DVM of the CO
State Veterinarian’s Office, Lakewood, Colorado:
1. All FDA-approved vaccines are off-label
use in camelids.
2. Owners can vaccinate their own livestock;
however, vaccination by an owner as opposed
to a veterinarian may be treated differently
by the Colorado Department of Agriculture,
the Colorado Department of Public Health and
Environment, and/or local health officers.
3. No restrictions against purchase of rabies
vaccines for livestock in Colorado.
4. No cure for rabies virus.
5. Risk of rabies exposure in Colorado has
been, until recently, historically low. Assess
risk of exposure to rabies on your ranch; don’t
interact with wildlife.
6. Speak with your veterinarian.
Comments from Rob Callan, DVM, Service Head,
Livestock Medicine and Surgery, Department
of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University:
“Skunk rabies has been increasing in Colorado
over the last several years and since the Summer
of 2009, there have been cases in domestic
livestock (cattle and horses)…The area of greatest
concern right now is in the counties that are
seeing the cases, particularly Elbert county.
I think that all llama and alpaca owners should
consider vaccinating their animals for rabies,
particularly if they have observed or smelled
skunks in the area. There are no rabies vaccines
currently labeled for llamas and alpacas. So,
even if you vaccinate, the animals will likely
be quarantined if there is documented exposure
to a rabid animal. However, the available rabies
vaccines are likely to provide some degree
of protection even if they have not been tested
in llamas and alpacas. The vaccines that we
are recommending for use in llamas or alpacas
are IMRAB 3 or IMRAB Large Animal (Merial,
Inc. but currently not available), Defensor
3 (Pfizer), Rabdomun or Prorab-1 (Intervet,
Schering-Plough). All of these vaccines are
labeled for cattle or sheep. The recommended
dosing and administration is the same as for
cattle or sheep and starts with an initial
2 ml vaccination any time after 3 months of
age followed with annual boosters. The route
is IM for all of the vaccines; however, IMRAB
is also labeled for SQ administration.
As far as rabies vaccine safety goes, there
is no specific information. Llama and alpaca
owners on the east coast and other areas of
the U.S. have been vaccinating their animals
for many years and no problems specific to
the rabies vaccine have been reported to the
best of my knowledge.”
My 'not-a-vet' comments:
- Historical data indicate that killed virus
rabies vaccines are safe for camelids; modified
live virus (MLV) rabies vaccines should not
be used for camelids (Fowler, Murray, 1998,
Medicine and Surgery of South American Camelids,
- Per Stacey Byers, DVM, (Asst Professor,
Livestock Medicine and Surgery, Dept of Clinical
Sciences, CSU), there can be some post-vaccine
lumps and/or your camelids can feel a little
lethargic or sore just like with other vaccines.
- Minimum age at primary vaccination is
3 months; rabies vaccine provides immunity
at 28 days after initial vaccine. So, a cria
vaccinated at 3 months of age will not have
immunity until 4 months of age if the dam
is not currently vaccinated.
- Call your Colorado Department of Wildlife
officer if you suspect rabid wildlife or
want to know if rabid wildlife have been
confirmed or suspected in your area.
breeding season for skunks and they do come
out during the day looking for mates. A local
vet recommends that with rabies now being
endemic in the area, that even if your dogs
and cats have received a 3 year vaccine,
that it be repeated annually.
Skunks are nocturnal animals. If you see
any walking around during the day, look at
them closely. If they are stumbling around,
seem disoriented, or just walking down the
road, more than likely you have rabid skunks.