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Can a Vaccinated Dog Get Rabies?

Rabies in dogs is a very serious and deadly disease, so how effective is the vaccine? In this post, our Fountain Valley vets discuss rabies in dogs and how protected they will be after they are vaccinated.

Rabies & Your Dog's Health

The rabies virus is a highly dangerous infection that severely impacts the brain of an infected animal or human. It spreads through contact with the saliva of an infected animal, posing a risk to pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans.

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) records approximately 5,000 cases of rabies in animals. Most of these cases involve wild animals, with bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks being the primary carriers of the virus. However, our beloved canine companions can also become infected if in close enough contact with an infected animal.

Unfortunately, rabies is almost always fatal. Once symptoms of this deadly virus manifest, it is likely too late to save your pet. This makes vaccinating your dog against the virus all the more important.

How Dogs Contract Rabies

If a dog contracts rabies, they will have had to come into contact with an infected animal's saliva or be bitten by them. It will take between 10 and 14 days on average for your pooch to start showing symptoms after they have been infected.

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

Signs of Canine Rabies

Dogs with rabies may display 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

Testing for Rabies

In the unfortunate event that your pet encounters an infected animal and is not vaccinated, you may have some challenging decisions ahead of you.

Due to the inability to test animals for rabies, pet owners in this situation are compelled to make the difficult choice between quarantining their pet and monitoring for symptoms or making the heartbreaking decision to euthanize. Even if pets are quarantined without immediate symptoms, the chances of their survival are low.

Treating Rabies

Once your dog has become infected with rabies, there is nothing a veterinarian can offer to treat the disease. Quarantine or euthanasia are the only two options, making preventive measures so critical. 

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies vaccines are highly effective and immunogenic. It's rare for the rabies vaccine to fail as long as boosters are kept up-to-date.

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. 

Frequency of Rabies Boosters

While it is not mandated in some jurisdictions, 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 Fountain Valley 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 dwindle over time, the rabies vaccine will eventually lose efficacy. This is why follow-up booster doses must be administered as directed by the vet. 

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 that is used. 

Possible Vaccination Side Effects

Side effects of rabies vaccinations in dogs are usually due to the stimulation that the vaccine has on the immune system. These side effects may 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 minor swelling at the injection site that may last for a couple of weeks. In rare cases, a small, circular area of hair loss may occur at the injection site. 

Keep in mind that some dogs won't experience any side effects at all from the rabies vaccine. However, if side effects do occur, they'll typically begin within an hour of vaccination and clear up within a day or two. 

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 keep an eye out for 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 

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

Can my dog get rabies if they are vaccinated?

Even after having their dog vaccinated, some owners still wonder 'Can dogs get rabies after a vaccination?', so out Fountain Valley veterinary team is here to set the record straight.

If your dog is vaccinated against rabies, there is still the possibility of them contracting the virus, however, the chances of a vaccinated dog getting rabies is low. Dogs who have been vaccinated rarely become infected due to the effectiveness of the vaccine.

If you're wondering 'can you get rabies from a dog that has been vaccinated?', the answer once again, is possibly. Just like the odds of a vaccinated dog contracting rabies, if they have come into contact with the virus and were to bite a human, chances are you won't likely get the disease. However, it would be advised to see your doctor just to be on the safe side. 

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 dog due for their rabies vaccination or booster? Contact our Fountain Valley vets to have your pup vaccinated against this deadly disease.

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Looking for a vet in Fountain Valley? Brookfield Pet Hospital Plus is now accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about caring for the health of your pets. Contact us today to schedule your animal companion's first appointment.

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