Can a Vaccinated Dog Get Rabies?

If your dog is vaccinated against rabies, you might be wondering how effective this form of protection is. Today, our Laguna Beach vets discuss how your dog will be protected against rabies if they are vaccinated.

Rabies & Your Dog's Health

The rabies virus is a highly dangerous infection that has a severe impact on the brain. 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. The majority of these cases involve wild animals, with bats, raccoons, foxes, and skunks being the primary carriers of the virus. Tragically, rabies is almost always fatal. Once symptoms of this deadly virus manifest, the

How Dogs Contract Rabies

To contract rabies, a dog would need to come into contact with the saliva of an infected animal, or by being bitten by an infected animal. Typically, it will take between 10 and 14 days for your pooch to start showing symptoms.

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

Signs of Canine Rabies

Dogs with rabies may exhibit 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 against rabies, you may find yourself facing extremely challenging decisions.

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 a beloved family member. Even if pets are quarantined without immediate symptoms, the chances of their survival are slim.

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. This is why prevention is so critical. 

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies vaccines are highly effective and immunogenic. It's rare for the vaccine to fail.

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 Laguna Beach 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. 

Possible Vaccination Side Effects

Side effects of rabies vaccinations in dogs will usually be because the vaccine stimulates the immune system. These can 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 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:

  • 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 

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

Can my dog get rabies if they are vaccinated?

While there is still a risk of your dog contracting rabies even while vaccinated, the odds are very low. 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.

Is your dog due for their rabies vaccination? Contact our Laguna Beach vets who can administer your pup's vaccines.