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Can a vaccinated dog get rabies?

The chances of a vaccinated dog getting rabies are low; nonetheless, rabies vaccination does not guarantee 100% protection. In today's post, our vets in Des Moines explain more about rabies and if dogs can get rabies after vaccination. 

What is rabies?

Rabies is a potentially fatal illness caused by a virus that spreads through saliva from an infected mammal to any other mammal, including wildlife, pets, livestock, and humans. Rabies can be contracted by your dog if it is bitten by a rabid animal or if it comes into contact with the saliva or brain/spinal tissue of an infected animal, dead or alive, in their eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.

The rabies virus affects the central nervous system. In animals, some of the most common symptoms of rabies are:

  • Behavioral changes (aggression, depression, unprovoked attacks)
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating or drinking
  • Overreacting to touch, sound or light
  • Staggering or falling down with eventual paralysis 
  • Excessive drooling
  • Biting or licking the wound site where the exposure occurred

Rabies is almost always fatal. Animals typically die within 7-10 days of showing symptoms. 

What is the incubation period of rabies?

The incubation period is the time between being exposed to the rabies virus and developing symptoms.

In most cases, your dog will show signs of the disease within two weeks of exposure, but symptoms may take months to appear. This is why it's critical to get your dog vaccinated and to carefully follow any instructions from your local public health unit if you suspect your dog has been exposed.

If your dog is infected with rabies, it can spread the virus to other pets and humans for up to 10 days before showing symptoms of the disease.

Does the rabies vaccine prevent rabies in dogs?

While the rabies vaccine is quite effective in preventing rabies in dogs, it does not guarantee 100% protection.

If your dog is exposed to rabies and their vaccination is up to date, they will receive a booster vaccine immediately and will need to be placed into strict quarantine for 30 days and then restrained by the owner (leashed and kept away from other pets or people) for an additional 60 days. 

Quarantine and confinement times vary by state and county. You should always report potential rabies exposures to your vet and local public health unit and carefully follow their directions.  

Can you get rabies from a dog that has been vaccinated?

While it is unlikely to contract rabies from a vaccinated dog, there is a small risk. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated pets that bite someone must be quarantined for ten days. If the dog was infected at the time of the bite, symptoms of rabies in the animal will usually appear quickly, and certainly within 10 days.

How can I prevent my dog from contracting rabies?

The best thing you can do to protect your dog from contracting rabies is keep their vaccinations up to date

You should never leave your dog unsupervised, especially at night, when bats and other wildlife are most active. Some of the most rabid animals are bats. You should bat-proof your home and avoid capturing, handling, or keeping wild bats as pets.

If you or your dog is bitten, wash the bite wound vigorously with soap and water and contact the appropriate authorities right away.

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.

If you think that your dog may have been exposed to rabies, contact Des Moines Veterinary Hospital right away to book an appointment with to get your dog their booster vaccine.

Welcoming Your Pets to Our Animal Hospital 

Des Moines Veterinary Hospital welcomes cats, dogs, fish, small mammals, and their owners to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Des Moines companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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