Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rabies Vaccines for Dogs and Cats

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral illness that can be spread from one infected animal to another through saliva (spit). It affects the nerve system in the body.  Rabid wildlife loses its fear of humans, comes out during the day, and becomes disoriented, has trouble walking.  If a human gets bitten, a series of rabies vaccines can be given, but they must be started immediately to be effective.  They are not given in the belly anymore, and they are not nearly as painful as they used to be, but I don't think anyone would call them fun.  Prevention is a much better idea.

Rabies vaccines

Rabies vaccines are required for all dogs and cats over the age of four months in the State of NC. We can give them at 13 weeks of age.  They can be given at the same time as other vaccines like distemper parvo, but if your pet had a history of vaccine reactions or is very small your vet may recommend spacing them a week apart.  Rabies vaccines must be given by a licensed vet, but can be given without an exam at a rabies clinic.

How often and why vaccinate
The first rabies vaccine is good for one year, after that they are valid for three years.  If they lapse for even one day and your pet is exposed to an animal that tests positive for rabies, your pet will probably have to be euthanized.  Bats can get inside houses, wildlife can get inside fenced yards, so this means that every pet must be vaccinated for rabies.

Vaccine Reactions
The rabies vaccine is a live virus, so there is a possibility of vaccine reaction.  The signs to watch for include swelling of the face, panting,fever and vomiting.  If any of these symptoms occur after a vaccination bring your pet back to the vet immediately.  If your pet has reacted in the past, let your vet know so they can pre-medicate before giving the vaccine.  As with any medical treatment, there are risks.  These risks can be managed to make vaccinating your pet as safe as possible.  The risks of not vaccinating are much greater.