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What is rabies in dogs and when should your canine companion have the vaccine? In this post, our Murfreesboro vets discuss how often dogs need these shots, potential side effects and more.

What is rabies and how can it impact my pet's health?

The deadly rabies virus can severely impact the brain and is transmitted through contact with an infected animal's saliva. Pets, livestock, wildlife and humans can all be affected. 

The CDC sees about 5,000 cases of rabies in animals annually, most of which are cases occurring in wild animals. Bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks are the animals most likely to carry this virus. 

This virus is almost always fatal. Once signs of the deadly virus appear, the animal can typically be expected to die within a few days. 

How Rabies Incubates & Spreads 

A dog would need to come into contact with an infected animal's saliva or be bitten by one in order to become rabid. Typically, it takes your dog between 10 and 14 days to begin exhibiting symptoms.

However, symptoms can take months or years to appear depending on how your pet was exposed to the virus. 

Symptoms of Rabies

Dogs with rabies may exhibit numerous signs and symptoms, including:

  • Barking differently
  • Excessive drooling
  • Uncharacteristic aggression, fearfulness or even affection 
  • Overreaction to touch, sound or light 
  • Biting at the site where they were exposed to the virus 
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Loss of balance when walking 
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Falling 
  • Seizures

No Test for Rabies

If your pet comes into contact with an infected animal and isn't vaccinated against rabies, you will end up having to make some very difficult choices. 

Animal owners who find themselves in this situation must choose between euthanizing a beloved family member or quarantining their pet and watching for symptoms to appear because animals cannot be tested for rabies. Even if they don't exhibit symptoms right away, quarantined animals are not likely to survive.

No Treatment for Rabies

A veterinarian is helpless to treat your dog's rabies infection once it has occurred. You've got two choices: quarantine or euthanasia. Prevention is essential because of this.

What is the rabies vaccine?

Rabies vaccines are highly effective and immunogenic. It's rare for the vaccine to fail.

Requirements regarding pet vaccinations vary from city to city and state to state, but keeping your pet's rabies vaccines up to date protects both your dog and the people in your household against this deadly neurological disease. 

How often do dogs need rabies shots?

While some jurisdictions do not require it, the rabies vaccine is an important one on the list of many puppy and dog vaccinations your pooch needs to protect their health and prevent a variety of deadly diseases.

Our Murfreesboro veterinarians recommend the rabies vaccine as a core vaccine for puppies between the ages of 14 and 16 weeks. It is also included in our standard kitten and cat vaccinations.

Because vaccine antibodies wane over time, the rabies vaccine will begin to lose efficacy. This is why follow-up booster doses must be administered. 

Boosters, which are designed to immunize any animals that failed to respond to the initial dose, should be administered once your dog reaches 12 to 16 months old and every 1 to 3 years depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian uses. 

Are there rabies vaccine side effects?

Side effects of rabies vaccinations in dogs will usually be due to the fact that the vaccine stimulates the immune system. These can include:

  • Mild loss of appetite 
  • Mild to moderate energy loss for 24 to 36 hours following vaccination 
  • Mild fever
  • Potential swelling or soreness at the injection site

Some dogs develop a small, painless swelling at the injection site that may last for a couple of weeks. In rare cases, a small, circular area of hair loss may develop at the injection site. 

Keep in mind that some dogs will have no adverse reactions to the rabies vaccine. If side effects do occur, they usually appear within an hour of vaccination and disappear within one or two days.

A dog may have a severe reaction to the rabies vaccine in rare cases, usually due to an overreaction of the immune system. Serious side effects usually appear immediately or within one or two hours of vaccination.

Rare reactions to the rabies vaccine include:

  • Cough
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling in the face, eyes or muzzle
  • Severe swelling or pain at the injection site
  • Hives, which appear as firm lumps on the dog's body and may or may not be itchy
  • Fainting or collapse 

Take your dog to a veterinarian for emergency care immediately if you notice any of the symptoms above.

Can my dog get rabies if they are vaccinated?

Even if your dog is vaccinated, the chances of him contracting rabies are extremely low. In fact, the rabies vaccine is so effective that vaccinated dogs almost never become infected.

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 puppy or dog due for their rabies vaccinations? Our Murfreesboro vets can administer your pooch's vaccines.

New Patients Always Welcome

Animal Medical Center is happy to welcome new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Murfreesboro companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

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