Vaccination Information


Information presented at this site is based on vaccinations that wildlife rehabilitators are currently using in captive animals. We do not have information on efficacy against disease or challenge. However, we want to ensure that we do not cause disease with the vaccines, a very real problem facing those who must use modified live vaccines in wild animals.

Why Vaccinate?

Wildlife rehabilitators house wild animals on a temporary basis in artificial settings where contagious disease transmission may be enhanced. Not only do we risk a late arrival causing death in animals we have put many weeks of effort into, we risk releasing animals back into the wild who may have been exposed and then causing an epizootic that otherwise might not have occurred. Our goal is to at least do no harm.

Modified Live versus Killed Vaccines

When necessary and possible, wild animals should be give only killed vaccines because the animal cannot develop the disease from such administrations. In the case of feline panleukopenia, both types of vaccines are readily available. In the case of rabies vaccines, only killed (or recombinant) vaccines should ever be used in wildlife. Such animals are never considered to be vaccinated from a legal point of view and if they bite or otherwise expose a human, they are considered to be unvaccinated and are treated as such.

When to Vaccinate?

When a vaccine is warranted and there is one on the market that is safe to use, animals are given a series of vaccinations every few weeks, generally between the age of 6-12 weeks. In the case of neonates presented near or soon after birth, if there is reason to suspect exposure, partial vaccinations may be started at a younger age than six weeks. Killed rabies vaccines are not usually given until the age of 12 weeks (if given earlier, they are repeated at 12 weeks). If an animal has bitten someone and is in quarantine for rabies, it is never vaccinated during the quarantine period.

When is Vaccination Warranted?

The rehabilitator should familiarize themselves with local disease incidence. In the case of rabies, the local health department can advise as to incidence. Otherwise, check with other wildlife rehabilitators, local veterinarians, animal control, or humane societies regarding incidence of parvovirus, distemper or panleukopenia. (Note: Raccoon parvovirus is not the same parvovirus as canine parvovirus.)

Vaccination Info for Specific Species

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