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Dog Rabies Vaccine: All You Should Know

Rabies is a devastating, potentially fatal viral disease. Having your dog vaccinated against rabies is the best way to protect your pet and your family. Find out more about this important vaccine and its booster shots from our Oakland veterinarians.

What is Rabies?

Both humans and animals can become infected with this viral disease, which is transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal's brain tissue or saliva. In people, rabies is typically transmitted if they are bitten by a rabid animal. 

Rabies is a serious disease that's almost always fatal once symptoms appear. No tests can be done on a living human or animal to confirm whether they are infected. 

Most state laws legislate the vaccination of dogs. If your dog's rabies vaccine is not up to date and they are bitten by an animal, state law may legislate that your pet be quarantined for an extended period of time or even euthanized to protect other pets and people. 

This is why keeping your dog's vaccinations up to date is imperative. 

How Often Does a Dog Need a Rabies Shot?

Dogs should have all vaccinations on a certain schedule; the rabies vaccine schedule for dogs will vary by state. In most states, your puppy can receive your first vaccination between the ages of 14 and 16 weeks, followed by a booster one year later. 

Depending on state law and the type of vaccine used, your dog should then receive an annual rabies booster every 1 to 3 years.

Keep in mind that this is a general rule of thumb; ask your veterinarian about your pup's specific circumstances and how often they should receive booster vaccinations. 

Why are Rabies Boosters Required?

Vaccinations give clues to the body as to how to recognize disease and create and immune response that will battle and destroy the virus should it enter your dog's body. 

Over time, this immune response wanes and isn't as effective. Booster vaccines re-build your dog's immunity to ensure they stay protected.

If you're worried about how much a rabies shot for dogs will cost, contact your vet to get an estimate and find out about payment options.

Can a Vaccinated Dog Get Rabies?

Rabies vaccinations are very effective, but no vaccine can guarantee 100% protection. So while the risk of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies is extremely low, it is still a possibility. 

The best prevention is to keep up to date on your dog’s rabies vaccines over the course of their life.

Are There Any Side Effects of the Vaccine?

Following vaccination, many dogs will experience mild discomfort or swelling at the vaccination site, as well as a slight fever and tiredness. This is completely normal and usually resolves itself within a day or two. If the side effects last longer than two days or worsen, consult your veterinarian.

Occasionally, the injection site can remain firm and swollen for a few weeks. If the swelling persists past three weeks or gets larger, it is time to take your pup to the vet.

Rarely, your dog may develop more serious side effects. These will typically occur within minutes to hours after receiving the vaccine and require immediate medical attention. If your dog experiences any of the following, you should bring them to the closest emergency vet right away:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the muzzle and around the face, neck, or eyes
  • Severe coughing or difficulty breathing, and even collapse.

Overall, the rabies vaccine is extremely safe and an important factor in maintaining your pet's overall health. If you feel your dog is acting weird after a rabies shot, contact your vet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog overdue for a rabies shot or booster? Contact our Oakland vets today to schedule an appointment. 

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