Originally Posted by CharlieDog
Ahh. Okay. That makes more sense than just "if you get bit by something with rabies you ARE going to get it"
I mean, I know my dogs have been exposed to a LOT of things, and while they're vaccinated or inoculated against the majority, I haven't vaccinated for a lot of different things. Kennel cough swept the daycare I was at, and none of my dogs had the vaccine/inoculation for it, and none of the three got it at all. They've had it before, so it's possible it was the same strain, but unlikely.
I just wasn't sure if it was possible to carry rabies without showing symptoms/dying from it, or if it was possible for your immune system to fight it off without the vaccinations that you (humans anyway) can get for it after having been bitten.
My dogs don't get kennel cough, even when other dogs around them do, and I don't use the vaccine for it except when I'm boarding a dog and it's required. A dog with a strong immune system can fight it off. But rabies is a little more serious, and I do think it has a higher infection rate. The transmission (saliva to blood) is quite a bit more direct than the transmission of KC.
I do think that, as others have said, people are able to be complacent about these diseases and resistant to vaccines because we've done such a good job with immunizations that herd immunity provides a lot of protection. And most people haven't seen the horrors of these diseases firsthand. I recall when I was working for vets, the one vet talking about when parvo first came through and they had parvo cases lined up in the wards. We actually saw a fair number of parvo cases, though they were puppies, and rather than an outbreak, it was one or 2 cases at a time. Most of them did live, after several expensive days on fluids, etc.
Distemper is incredibly brutal. Most people are lucky enough not to have to see it. I only saw the one case. Dog was about 10, I think, and there was a new pup in the house, who fortunately was vaccinated and didn't get distemper.
Our vets didn't realize it was distemper, that disease is rare enough these days to not be a first guess. The dog showed neurological symptoms before he died, so after his death, they had to cut his head off and send it in to be tested for rabies. Which I remember vividly, because the vet who did this did it in the bathtub for easy cleanup. I came in to do baths, and nobody thought to warn me of the gory mess I'd find when I went to the tub. That kind of thing sticks with you.
It made me very reluctant to abandon annual vaccines for a long time, because that dog was only a few months late on his. In all likelihood, though, he never developed immunity to distemper. My guess would be that he was exposed via a racoon, skunk, or other such wildlife. While the disease isn't seen in dogs that much these days, it's still very present in wildlife populations.