As a dog owner, I'm sure that you've heard all about rabies and how you should make sure that your pup is fully vaccinated again this serious disease. Here, our Oceanside vets talk about rabies in dogs and whether or not a vaccinated dog can still get rabies.
What is the effect of rabies on dogs?
Rabies is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the saliva of infected animals. This can be either with a direct bite or if an open wound comes into contact with the saliva on another surface.
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.
The rabies virus is generally fatal for animals and your pet will likely die within a few days once the initial symptoms appear.
How is the rabies virus transmitted?
If your dog comes into contact with the saliva of an infected animal or gets into a fight that results in being bitten, they may contract the disease. Typically, it will take between 10 and 14 days for your pooch to start showing symptoms.
Exposure to the virus determines the length of time until symptoms appear.
What are the typical symptoms of rabies?
Some of the symptoms that are frequently noted with rabies in dogs include:
- 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
How is rabies in dogs diagnosed?
If your dog isn't vaccinated and has been bitten by an infected animal then you will likely be asked to euthanize your pet. This is to help protect yourself, your family and other pets and animals that your dog might come into contact with.
Since animals cannot be tested for rabies, pet parents who find themselves in this position are forced to decide whether to quarantine their pet and wait for symptoms to appear or to euthanize a beloved family member. Quarantined pets are unlikely to survive even if they do not initially show symptoms.
Are there any treatment options for rabies in dogs?
Once your dog has become infected with rabies, there is nothing a veterinarian can offer to treat the disease. Depending on the vaccination status of your pet your dog will either need to be quarantined or euthanized.
What are the preventive care options?
It is rare for the rabies vaccine to fail which makes them an effective option in the fight against the rabies virus in dogs.
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 should I bring my dog in for their rabies vaccine?
The rabies vaccine is typically included in the list of core vaccinations. This is for two reasons. First, because it is legally required in many areas, and second because it is the only form of protection again this serious disease.
Our Oceanside vets recommend the rabies vaccine as a core vaccine to be given to puppies starting between ages 14 to 16 weeks. It is also part of our core 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.
What are the potential side effects of the rabies vaccine?
All vaccinations instigate a response from the animal's immune system which means that some form of side effect is common although they are typically mild.
- 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 won't experience any side effects at all from the rabies vaccine. If side effects do occur, they'll typically begin within an hour of vaccination and vanish within one or two days.
Rarely, a dog may have a severe reaction to the rabies vaccine, typically due to an overreaction of the immune system. Serious side effects usually come on immediately or within one or two hours after vaccination.
Rare reactions to the rabies vaccine include:
- 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.
Will my dogs still be able to contract rabies if vaccinated?
While there is still a risk of your dog contracting rabies even while vaccinated, the odds are very low. In fact, the rabies vaccine is so effective that dogs who have been vaccinated rarely 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.