Rabies is a contagious viral disease that can affect many mammals including dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and people. It can also infect wildlife such as the skunk, raccoon, fox, coyote, bat, and others. Rabies is almost always fatal for an infected animal or person.
Because rabies can infect people, the disease is a public health concern. As a result, most communities have regulations pertaining to the vaccination of pets against rabies. Your community may require that your dog be vaccinated. However, even if your community does not require the vaccine, protecting your dog against rabies is still a good idea.
Which dogs need to be vaccinated against rabies?
According to the American Animal Hospital Association’s canine vaccination guidelines, the rabies vaccine is considered a core vaccine, meaning that rabies vaccination is recommended for all dogs. This recommendation is due to the fact that rabies is a fatal disease for dogs that develop the disease along with the fact that the disease is also contagious to people.
When should a dog first be vaccinated against rabies?
Puppies can be vaccinated for rabies as early as 12 weeks of age. The vaccine should not be administered to dogs younger than 12 weeks. Dogs over the age of 12 weeks that are not yet vaccinated against rabies can be vaccinated at any time.
How often should a dog receive a rabies vaccine after the initial vaccination?
The rabies vaccine should be boostered within one year following the initial rabies vaccination. Once this second rabies vaccine has been administered, dogs should receive rabies vaccines every three years unless regulations in the community demand otherwise.
Is there a good reason to vaccinate more often than every three years once a dog has received the initial two rabies vaccines?
There is no evidence that vaccinating a dog yearly or every two years provides better immunity than a three year vaccine. As with all laws though, if local regulations require a different vaccination interval the law should be followed.
There may be individual situations however where a rabies vaccine may be recommended or required prior to the three year expiration. Dogs, even vaccinated dogs, that have been exposed to known rabid animal or a suspected rabid animal may be required to receive a vaccine booster because of the exposure.
Are there any alternatives to rabies vaccination?
Measurement of rabies titers, a blood test that checks for protection against the disease, may be an option in some cases. Not all communities recognize this test as an option to revaccination however.
In cases where a dog has a health condition that precludes rabies vaccination, the veterinarian may have the authority to provide a waiver for vaccination. However, not all communities allow waivers either. In the event that a waiver is issued and the dog is not vaccinated, the dog will be considered unvaccinated if the animal bites someone or is involved in a potential rabies exposure.