Why does my pet need a rabies vaccine?

The most obvious reason your pet needs a rabies vaccine is that it is required by law; not vaccinating your dog, cat, or ferret can result in a fine. In addition, if your pet is unvaccinated and bites a person, it is possible that they will need to be quarantined for a lengthy period of time or worse. You may be wondering why THIS vaccine is so important as to be legally required, especially considering all of the other diseases we recommend vaccinating against.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain and results in death, 99.9% of the time. The time between exposure and starting to see symptoms (which can include fever, tingling, violent movements, confusion, and loss of consciousness) is usually between 1 and 3 months, but could be as soon as 1 week or as long as 1 year. Once symptoms start, rabies is almost invariably fatal. Rabies is found in mammalian species, including pets such as dogs, cats, and ferrets, and wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.

Do people really get rabies anymore?

YES! The World Heath Organization (WHO) estimates that tens of thousands of people die of rabies every year- one every NINE MINUTES. Most of these cases occur in Asia and Africa, and in almost 99% of these cases, dogs were the source of transmission. About 40% of those bitten are children under the age of 15. For those of you that are interested in helping to end this tragedy, we recommend going to End Rabies Now, which is a campaign to make human rabies transmission a thing of the past.

You may have noticed that in the United States, we do not have as many cases of human rabies. Currently there are about 1 to 3 cases reported annually. While you may think this is because rabies does not exist in the United States, nothing could be further from the truth! Rabies is very active and has been found locally in raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes as well as dogs and cats. So what keeps us safe here?

If you guessed LEGALLY REQUIRED RABIES VACCINATIONS, you are right! In addition to post-exposure prophylaxis (those shots you have to get if you get bit by a suspected rabid animal), vaccinating our pet population has led to a drastic decrease in the number of deaths attributable to rabies, both in the United States and in countries around the world. By vaccinating the animals we interact with the most, we put up a “fence” between us and the wildlife that carry rabies- keeping our pets from getting rabies keeps us safe!

So today, when you don’t get rabies, thank your dog or cat for getting the vaccine that helps save their life, but also yours.

If you are looking for more information on how to prevent rabies, we recommend visiting the CDC website here. If you would like to celebrate World Rabies Day with us by getting your pet vaccinated, please call us at 256-881-2482.

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