Rabies Vaccines: Why They Matter for Dogs

18 September 2017
 Categories: , Blog

You may know that puppy vaccinations are important when you get a young dog. These help to protect against common and often deadly diseases. However, many people who have dogs often forget that beyond puppyhood, dogs still need booster shots. This is especially important for diseases like rabies.

Rabies is a virus that is often carried by wild animals, but domestic mammals can also be affected. Most notably, raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes may carry rabies. Cows, other dogs, and cats can also carry the virus. Rabies is transferred through saliva and through contact with nerve tissue. This is one reason why animal bites can be such a huge health concern. 

If you're wondering why your dog needs a rabies booster and initial rabies puppy vaccinations, here is why they are so essential to your dog's health, your heath, and the health of other people and animals who live near you. 

Rabies Affects Humans

When your dog becomes infected with the rabies virus, they become a carrier for the virus. If your dog should bite you, or if you touch something your dog has left residual saliva on and you have broken skin, you could become infected as well. 

Sometimes humans might not realize they have been infected. Once full-on symptoms of rabies infection begin to show, treatments are often only minimally effective, if they are effective at all.

Rabies Does Not Only Occur in Rural Areas

Many pet owners make the mistake of thinking that since they live in the city, their pet doesn't need to worry about rabies. Bats, raccoons, rats, and other mammals with rabies still infiltrate urban areas, including urban homes. Dogs can visit other parts of the country and return to the city as a rabies carrier. 

No matter where you live, you should make the rabies vaccine a priority, especially if you visit dog boarding facilities and dog parks often. 

Rabies is Difficult to Treat

There is no cure for rabies. The only effective way to manage rabies it to prevent it with a vaccine. Sometimes if you catch that your dog has been bitten or near another rabid animal, your vet can administer the vaccine immediately after infection (this is what doctors do for human cases of infection). If you suspect that your dog has been in a fight or altercation with an infected animal, your vet may quarantine them and provide more doses of rabies vaccine just to make sure that your animal is not affected and therefore not a danger to other animals and humans. 

Rabies Can Take a Long Time to Manifest

Many people can be lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to rabies. Your dog may not get sick right after exposure. In some dogs, rabies will manifest within weeks of infection, but in others, months may pass before signs of illness begin to show.

Even more concerning, initial symptoms of infection mimic less serious illnesses, including coughing, sneezing, a running nose, and watery eyes. People might avoid seeking treatment for their pet because dogs can also experience cold and flu symptoms. Shortly after these less severe symptoms come, your dog's nervous system begins to be affected. This is usually when a pet owner seeks veterinary care, but by this point, the illness has passed the point of treatment. The most humane course of action is putting a dog to sleep in order to spare the progression of the disease. 

It's very important to vaccinate your dog and to stay on top of rabies booster shots throughout your pet's life. For more information about the rabies vaccine and other puppy vaccinations, contact a local veterinary office.