Open Letter to Petsmart: Veterinarian Disapproves of Vaccine Policy

November 18, 2013

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter today to give my professional opinion regarding the rabies vaccination requirements for grooming at Petsmart locations in Canada. I have two small dogs, a 5 year old male cairn terrier and a 13 year old female cocker spaniel.

I am a veterinarian practicing in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. I am an advocate for vaccinations for young healthy dogs and make vaccine recommendations for most of the animals I see. However, many dogs are not good candidates for blanket vaccination recommendations. My 13 year old cocker spaniel, Maggie, had a serious immune mediated disease 2 years ago, called immune mediated thrombocytopenia. She required a blood transfusion and 6 months of immunosuppressive medications. Eventually, the disease caused a blood clot in her spleen and I removed her spleen. Maggie has been healthy for 1.5 years, but I am reluctant to administer her vaccinations, as I do not want to stimulate her immune system.

Rabies vaccines are notoriously more reactive than other distemper and parvovirus modified live vaccinations. We do not know what causes the immune system reactions in diseases such as IMT, IMHA, and immune mediated polyarthritis. I think animals that have had these immune mediated diseases should have their vaccine requirements seriously evaluated by their veterinarian.

I do not think it is wise for corporate policy to dictate which vaccines should be required for dogs to receive grooming services.

I believe that a letter from a veterinarian, or possibly vaccine antibody titers showing levels of resistance to viruses, should be sufficient for grooming appointments.

Recently when I tried to book a grooming appointment for Maggie and Laughlin, Petsmart employees refused to groom Maggie, due to her lack of a rabies vaccine certificate. Many states in the USA and provinces in Canada do have requirements for Rabies vaccines. Obviously, in the those areas, a vaccine for Rabies would be required. But provinces such as British Columbia, where I live and practice, do not have these requirements.

If your corporate policy is one of protection for your employees as I was told, then why don't you make Rabies vaccinations and periodic titer evaluation required for your staff? This is a requirement by many provincial and state veterinary medical associations. If your policy is intended to protect your customers' animals, then why not make recommendations for distemper or parvovirus vaccinations or bordetella vaccinations.

I have practiced as a veterinarian for 13 years, and I have to say that I have never seen a case of Rabies. But, I have seen many cases of parvovirus that can be severe and life threatening and I see a case of kennel cough on a weekly basis. I am writing this letter hoping you will take a hard look at your policy. I think it is misguided and not well thought out. Also, I believe it may be affecting your business, as well as the profit and growth of Petsmart.

Regards, Dr. Jason Rowan, DVM

Owner Pandosy Veterinary Hospital Kelowna, BC

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