Vaccination Series #4: Rabies Vaccine for Cats – one-year or three-year?


Dr. Laurel Davis, Asheville integrative vet, offers “Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian”, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Vaccination Series #4: Rabies Vaccine for Cats – One-year or Three-year?

Asheville integrative vet

Q: Is there a difference between the three-year rabies shot and the one-year one for cats? Why do most vets recommend the yearly one? –Tanja via Facebook

As you know by now, I am not in favor of over-vaccinating your friendly feline. However, rabies vaccines are required by law, so it only makes sense that you would want the safest option for your little companion. To expand on your question, while duration (i.e. one-year vs three-year) is worth considering, it is more important to find out what type of vaccine will be entering your animal’s body. Some vets offer only one-year or three-year adjuvanted rabies vaccines. Since I’m not a fan of adjuvanted rabies vaccines (especially for cats), for me, the question of safety brings me to a discussion of the type of vaccine your vet is offering for your cat.

This brings me to the second part of your question,

“Why do vets recommend the one-year vaccine for their feline patients?” The answer to this is based on a curious and horrible reaction cats were having to rabies vaccines years ago when there were only adjuvanted, killed rabies vaccines available. (See more about this in my previous post.) Veterinarians were seeing an alarming number of fibrosarcoma cancers forming at the site of rabies vaccine injections in cats and dogs.

Because of these adverse reactions, a new recombinant technology was created in 2001 by Merial, a prominent veterinary vaccine company. If you are interested, you can read more specifics about Merial’s recombinant vaccine technology here. I find this type of vaccine to cause the fewest adverse reactions.

A little history:

The very first recombinant vaccine Merial created and tested was the one-year Purevax Feline Rabies vaccine. Many veterinarians began to utilize this vaccine instead of the adjuvanted vaccines.  For a long time, this was the only recombinant option for kitties, so when a vet said, “I recommend the one-year vaccine for your cat,” it was as opposed to the only other available option: a three-year adjuvanted rabies vaccine. As of 2014, there is an approved three-year Purevax (recombinant) Feline Rabies vaccine. However, many of the veterinarians continue to use the one-year Purevax vaccine, as the cost of the three-year Purevax vaccine is three times the cost of the one-year vaccine. Many people do not want to or are unable to pay the added cost.

If you have the option to give your cat a three-year Purevax (recombinant) Feline Rabies vaccine, that is an excellent and safe choice. However, it is important not to assume that your cat will automatically receive the recombinant vaccine.

The point is,

from my perspective, a recombinant option is the best, be it a one-year or a three-year vaccine. In closing, ask your veterinarian if she/he is using the Purevax Feline Rabies vaccine manufactured by Merial. This is the vaccine that I find to be least likely to cause your kitty to have vaccine reactions, and it is the only one I use to vaccinate the lovely kitties who are part of our Sunvet family.

Always, always weigh the risks vs the benefits when you are making vaccine decisions.  Be Fluffy’s advocate!

Shine On,

Dr. Laurel 

If you are interested in learning more about holistic vaccine protocols, click here to read about an upcoming seminar I am  hosting with Kristi King of Green Earth Pet Food. Hope to see you there! 

< Check out the first blog post in Dr. Laurel’s 2016 vaccination series and learn about vaccine types here.

< Check out Dr. Laurel’s recommendations for titers and learn more about them here.

< Check out the most recent post in this series about vaccinating your indoor cat here.

Asheville integrative vet

Dr. Laurel Davis is WNC holistic vet, offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinicRead more patient stories.

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One Response to “Vaccination Series #4: Rabies Vaccine for Cats – one-year or three-year?”

  1. Mala Michael

    My question still isn’t answered, can I give a 3 year vaccine as safely as a one year rabies vaccine?


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