Do I need to Vaccinate My Dog For Rabies?
By: Geoff Gardner, DVM
Rabies is a serious viral disease seen in mammals that primarily affects the central nervous system, leading to death. It is a zoonotic disease (a disease that can be spread from animals to people) transmitted mainly through bites or saliva. The disease is present in wildlife, especially raccoons, bats, and skunks, but it is readily transferred to unvaccinated dogs or cats. Death usually occurs less than a week after the onset of symptoms. Most human rabies cases, according to the World Health Organization, are in Africa and Asia, accounting for 95% of the total. Many other countries try to control rabies through post-exposure vaccination of humans, whereas the United States has emphasized preventative vaccination of the domestic animal population. There is no cure for rabies; therefore prevention through vaccination is the safest course of action.
Your dog should receive their first vaccine at approximately four months of age, with a follow-up vaccine the next year. The rabies booster at that time is given every three years for the life of the pet.
Next to vaccination, minimizing exposure is the best way to prevent rabies. Do not allow your dog to roam out of your sight, especially in wooded areas or nature preserves where wild animal encounters are more common. Keep your dog on a leash and avoid contact with unknown animals. If your dog does get an animal bite, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Preventing rabies in humans is just as important. Learn about dog bite prevention and teach children to be cautious. Bites to humans should be addressed by a physician. If a bite occurs, try to obtain as much information about the offending animal as possible. If the biter was someone’s pet, get their contact information and find out their vaccine history and possible past exposure to rabies.
Despite how deadly and dangerous the rabies virus is, it is easily preventable. Remember it is important to vaccinate your pets and minimize their exposure and yours.