Here's Why The Rabies Vaccine Is Super Important For Your Dog

It's even required by law!

rabies vaccine for dogs

You know the rabies vaccine is important, but why?

Getting your pet vaccinated against rabies is a really effective way to prevent a super serious, and fatal, disease — not to mention it’s required by law.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Cristina Bustamante, an associate veterinarian with Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Florida and founder of Dr. B. Vet, to find out everything you need to know about the rabies vaccine for dogs.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly virus that can infect not just dogs but also cats, horses, ferrets, raccoons and even people.

“Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease caused by the rabies virus,” Dr. Bustamante told The Dodo. “It is transmitted between mammals by bites of infected animals.”

Rabies symptoms in dogs

Rabies affects your pup’s central nervous system, which can cause some pretty serious behavioral and physical symptoms.

“When dogs get rabies, the virus affects their neurological system, causing them to have changes in behavior,” Dr. Bustamante said.

Symptoms of rabies in dogs include:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Death

Rabies is so tragic because it’s fatal in nearly every infected animal.

“There is no treatment for dogs with rabies, and almost all of the infected animals die from the disease,” Dr. Bustamante said.

What’s the rabies vaccine for dogs?

The rabies vaccine is an injection designed to keep your dog safe against the rabies virus.

“The rabies vaccine will protect the pet by allowing the body to create antibodies against the virus,” Dr. Bustamante said. “The antibodies will prevent an infection and the disease.”

It’s legally required in the U.S. because rabies is incredibly fatal.

“Each state has their own regulations as to what happens if your pet gets bitten or if your pet bites a person or another pet,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Most places require proof of vaccination, others require long quarantine, and some states will euthanize unvaccinated pets that bite people.”

While that sounds pretty heavy, it’s worth noting that rabies is super preventable with the vaccine, which is why that shot’s so important.

“Rabies vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the virus,” Dr. Bustamante said. “The vaccine can save your pet’s life.”

How much are rabies shots for dogs?

The cost of your dog’s rabies vaccine will vary based on where you get it done.

“Costs for rabies vaccines vary by hospital; usually the cost ranges around $30,” Dr. Bustamante said. “There are many free rabies vaccine clinics usually provided by your local animal shelter.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you go to a vet to vaccinate your dog, you’ll probably have to pay for an office visit as well as the vaccine itself.

How often do dogs need rabies shots?

Your dog will be able to get his rabies vaccine when he’s just a few months old.

“Dogs need to be at least 12 weeks old to receive their first rabies vaccine,” Dr. Bustamante said. “Dogs get their first rabies vaccine at approximately 16 weeks old.”

But one shot won’t be enough to fully vaccinate your dog against rabies — he’ll need boosters periodically for the rest of his life.

“Dogs do need rabies boosters every one to three years depending on veterinarian discretion and state regulations,” Dr. Bustamante said.

For more information on your state’s rabies regulations, visit the CDC’s directory of rabies consultation contacts.

Staying on top of your dog’s rabies boosters isn’t just important for protecting him (and you, too) — proof of up-to-date vaccination could be required for him to travel, go to doggy day care or work with a trainer.

So don’t just get your dog vaccinated for rabies because it’s the law. Do it for his safety and yours.

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