How Often Do Dogs Need Rabies Shots?

Rabies isn’t only highly contagious but is incurable once diagnosed in a pet. Thus, one of your biggest responsibilities as a dog owner is facilitating timely rabies shots for your companion.

This article discusses how often your dog requires a rabies vaccine and other important facts about the disease and rabies vaccinations.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that can be transferred by the bites of rabid animals, i,e., animals that have rabies virus inside their bodies. It is prevalent mainly in wild animals and can affect every mammal, including dogs, cats, and even humans.

Rabies is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms worsen over time. It can’t be cured and can cause death within a month, so it’s crucial to look out for it.

The only way to prevent rabies is with a rabies vaccine.

How Often Do I Need to Administer Rabies Vaccines for My Dog?

Your dog should get its first rabies vaccine when it’s approximately three months of age.

After the first vaccine, the canine will require a booster dose within a year. This is to boost the immunity against the disease further.

After the first one, your dog will require rabies boosters every year or three years, depending on the vaccine used.

When Can My Dog Be Considered Safe After Receiving Its First Rabies Vaccine?

This really depends on the dog’s immune system. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animals can be considered safe from the disease after 28 days after their first rabies vaccination.

But keep in mind that the vaccination schedule should be regular for your dog to remain protected from the virus. This means that the booster doses should be administered on time.

Is Rabies Vaccination Mandatory?

Vaccines against rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper, and canine hepatitis are medically considered core vaccines for dogs, which just shows how important they are.

And good to know, non-core vaccines include shots for kennel cough, canine influenza, and Lyme disease.

Legal Requirements

Many countries have laws requiring people to vaccinate their pets against rabies.

In the United States, dog owners in 48 states are required by law to give rabies vaccine to adult dogs. Among them, only 14 have medical exemptions.

Furthermore, some states specifically require dogs to get vaccines with three years of immunity.

Rules in the Other Two States

Kansas and New York don’t have rabies vaccination rules in the state law. However, they are made compulsory by Municipalities (in Kansas) and the Health Department Fact Sheet (in New York).

How to Know If My Dog Has Rabies?

From the first exposure to the virus, it may take between two to four months for the symptoms to appear. They can be classified in three stages, including:

The First Prodromal Stage

The prodromal stage can last anywhere between two to ten days. During this time, your dog will show symptoms similar to other general diseases like flu or diarrhea. These can include:

  • Fever, Chills, and Irritability
  • Muscle Pain
  • Restlessness
  • Photophobia; also known as fear of light, the dog will suddenly love staying in dark places
  • Cough
  • Intestinal Bleeding and Bloody Diarrhea
  • Hives and Swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia and Loss of Appetite
  • Pain and Unwilliness While Swallowing
  • Paralysis in the Throat and Jaws

If you notice any of the above, check for any signs of bites or scratches on your dog’s body. If you find one, take it to the vet immediately.

The Second Excitative Stage

In the second stage, the symptoms from the prodromal stage become more apparent. This stage is also known as furious rabies, as the dog will get overly aggressive and irritated.

In addition to the symptoms of the first stage, your dog will become more afraid of the light and bark more than before. It may also start biting anything close to it.

Other symptoms of the excitation stage include:

  • Continuous salivation from the mouth
  • Hydrophobia or fear of water
  • Viciousness, even if the dog or the puppy was friendly before
  • Abnormal behaviors, for example, chewing on rocks, or their own legs

The Final Paralytic Stage

The final one is also known as the dumb stage, as this stage includes paralysis and the dropping of the jaw. The dog can also show other symptoms, as given below.

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Becoming bored and unwilling to go outside
  • Strange barking, or barking without sound
  • Excessive salivation and foaming from the mouth
  • Respiratory arrest that eventually leads to death

Note: Some dogs can pass away in the excitative stage. Furthermore, some may enter the dumb state without going through the excitative stage.

What to Do When Your Dog is Diagnosed

Unfortunately, once diagnosed, there is no cure for rabies in a dog.

As soon as you suspect the disease, the first thing to do would be to take your dog to the local vet.

If diagnosed, based on your state, you may need to send your friend to one of the registered animal shelters.

If the animal has been proved not to be rabid, you may be able to say the final goodbye in your home. However, there are risks to it, and you’ll need to isolate your pet in a veterinary cage or a fenced area.

Some state laws specify that no more than one person can care for a potentially rabid animal.

Other Ways to Prevent Your Dog from Getting Rabies

In addition to regular vaccinations, here are other things to do to protect your dog from rabies:

  • Make sure that your home is protected from rabid wild animals like raccoons, skunks, etc. Always close the main gate, and only allow your pets outside your home when you can look after them.
  • Don’t pet more animals than you can handle. Remember, dogs need a lot of love and care, and it may not a good idea to get them anyway if you aren’t sure you’re prepared to look after them.
  • Only allow your dog to play with other’s pets when you’re sure that they have been vaccinated.
  • Call animal control if you see any stray animals in your area.

FAQs Related to How Often Do Dogs Need Rabies Shots

Can a Dog Get Rabies Even After It is Vaccinated?

As long as you have used a good quality vaccine from a credible source and given the booster doses in time, your dog won’t get rabies after vaccination.

However, again, no vaccine is 100% effective, so it’s always good to take precautions to protect your dog from bites from rabid animals.

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