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Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is a deadly virus that affects dogs and other animals. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent rabies in dogs. In this article, our veterinarians in Des Moines will discuss how often dogs need these shots, potential side effects and more.

How can a dog get rabies?

Rabies is a virus that spreads from infected animals to dogs and other mammals, including humans. Dogs can get rabies if they come into contact with an infected animal's saliva or nervous tissue, which usually happens through bites or scratches.

Wild animals like raccoons, bats, skunks, and foxes are common carriers of the virus, and dogs who come into contact with them are at high risk of infection.

Domesticated animals like cats, cattle, and horses can also carry the virus and transmit it to dogs. To prevent the spread of this deadly virus, keep your dog up to date on rabies vaccinations and avoid exposing them to wild or potentially infected animals. 

How Rabies Incubates & Spreads 

Rabies is a serious disease that dogs can contract through the saliva of an infected animal or by being bitten by one. After exposure, your pet may exhibit symptoms within 10 to 14 days, but in some cases, it may take much longer.

Symptoms may appear months or even years after your dog was exposed to the virus. It is critical to monitor your pet's health and take them to the vet if you believe they have been exposed to rabies.

What are the signs of rabies in a dog?

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

How to Test a Dog for Rabies

If your pet comes into contact with a rabid animal and has not received the rabies vaccine, you may have to make a difficult decision. Unfortunately, animals cannot be tested for rabies, forcing pet parents to make the difficult decision between isolating their pet and monitoring for symptoms or saying goodbye to a beloved family member. Even if a pet is placed in quarantine, its chances of survival are slim, especially if symptoms appear later.

What is the rabies vaccine?

Rabies vaccines are very efficient and stimulate a strong immune response. The likelihood of the vaccine failing is rare. However, pet vaccination requirements differ depending on where you live.

Nevertheless, ensuring that your pet's rabies vaccines are current safeguards your furry friend and your family members from this lethal brain disorder.

How often do dogs need rabies shots?

At our Des Moines veterinary clinic, we strongly recommend that your puppy receive the rabies vaccine as part of their routine vaccinations. Although some areas do not require it, the rabies vaccine can help protect your dog's health and prevent a variety of fatal illnesses. For optimal protection, puppies should be vaccinated between 14 and 16 weeks of age, and the rabies vaccine is included in our core vaccinations for cats and kittens.

Remember that vaccine immunity fades over time, which is why it's critical to schedule booster shots. These additional doses keep your dog protected and healthy. Boosters are recommended at 12 to 16 months of age and every 1 to 3 years, depending on the vaccine type prescribed by your veterinarian.

Are there rabies vaccine side effects?

The 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

Following a rabies vaccination, a dog may develop a small, painless swelling at the injection site. This swelling can last for a few weeks, and in rare cases, a circular area of hair loss may occur. Not all dogs will experience side effects from the vaccine; if they do, they will typically resolve within one or two days.

However, in rare cases, a dog may have a severe reaction to the vaccine, which is typically caused by an overactive immune system. These reactions usually occur within an hour or two of vaccination.

Rare reactions to the rabies vaccination 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. 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.

Is your puppy or dog due for their rabies vaccinations? Our Des Moines vets can administer your pooch's vaccines.

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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