When do dogs get rabies shot

When do dogs get rabies shot

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When do dogs get rabies shot?

If you're thinking about giving your dog a rabies shot, you're probably going to be tempted to wait until the dog comes in for a checkup.

But what do the signs that your dog might be about to be stricken look like? And are there any signs that your dog is at greater risk of having a dangerous rabies infection?

A good rule of thumb, says Dr. Richard Clark, a veterinarian in Fayetteville, N.C., and author of the Dog Care Bible, is that "dogs with aggressive behavior and a history of biting should be considered high risk."

Rabies is a disease of the nervous system that can cause a dog to turn violent and even turn on its owner. (Learn more about rabies.)

The virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, typically a raccoon or skunk. It is highly contagious and, while not fatal, it can cause the animal to exhibit signs of aggression that can lead to death.

If a dog is bitten by an infected animal, even a minor bite can lead to rabies. A scratch or a gash in the skin, or even an open wound, is all that is needed to cause infection. The longer it is open, the greater the risk of rabies.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says the safest and most effective way to prevent rabies in dogs is by vaccination.

Dogs are typically vaccinated when they are between 3 and 9 months old, though dogs with special medical problems can be vaccinated as young as 6 weeks. The vaccine must be given every six months, but the veterinarian should check your dog's vaccination record to make sure it is up to date.

Dogs that are at increased risk for rabies, such as those living in areas where rabies is common or those with aggressive or fearful behavior, should receive a booster dose. If your dog has been bitten, you should contact your veterinarian and ask for a referral to a veterinary neurologist for a series of booster shots.

In many cases, the dog will not show signs of rabies until it is several months or even a year after it has been bitten, so it is important to contact your veterinarian and arrange for a referral to a neurologist, even if the dog seems healthy.

What symptoms should you be on the lookout for?

If a dog is not receiving vaccination, the most obvious signs that it could have rabies are "abnormal behavior that could indicate rabies (such as aggression, excessive excitement or aggressiveness, or excessive restlessness)" or if "an animal has exhibited these symptoms for at least 24 hours and there is a history of recent animal exposure."

The symptoms of rabies are very similar to the symptoms of other diseases in dogs, including distemper, and it is easy for a dog owner or veterinarian to confuse rabies with other diseases, says Clark.

Dogs that are sick, injured or have broken bones and are not vaccinated should be vaccinated, as should dogs that have a wound that is open for more than 24 hours, he says.

The incubation period for rabies is typically three to four months. If your dog seems to be sick, injured or having a strange behavior and you are not sure if your dog has been exposed to rabies, it is advisable to take your dog to a veterinarian for a rabies vaccination.

How much does a rabies shot cost?

The vaccine is very safe, but a rabies shot should not be administered to a dog with a fever.

A complete series of vaccinations (3 to 4 injections) costs around $50, according to the AVMA. (Learn more about pet care costs.)

Rabies shots are generally not covered by health insurance plans, but some veterinarians will waive the fee if you are not able to pay for it up front.

Are dogs contagious before they are vaccinated?

No, they are not.

Once an animal has been vaccinated, the animal does not pose a risk to anyone else, according to the AVMA.

How common is rabies in dogs?

Rabies is rare in dogs, but it is much more common in raccoons and skunks. There have been several cases of raccoon rabies in dogs in the U.S., but these have been very rare in the past decade. In 2012, about 11,000 cases of human rabies were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a drop of almost 20 percent compared to the previous year.

According to the CDC, about 30,000 people are diagnosed with rabies each year.

Most cases of rabies in humans result from contact with an infected animal through a bite or the sharing of an infected animal's saliva.

About 99 percent of dogs are vaccinated in the U.S., and the last human case of rabies in the U.S. was in 2003.

How dangerous is rabies?

While rabies is usually a fatal disease in animals, humans are very rare victims, as it is almost always fatal if not treated quickly with a series of antirabies shots.

Because of the threat of rabies, most dog owners are advised to vaccinate their dogs at least once a year. Most rabies vaccines are a combination of inactivated and live virus. The combination protects against both the rabies virus and distemper, a disease that can cause similar symptoms, such as vomiting, lethargy, and aggression.

Even if your dog is vaccinated, you should check with your veterinarian about giving a booster to your dog to make sure he is up to date. (Learn more about canine vaccines.)

Because dogs do not receive the same level of rabies vaccination as humans, dogs that are exposed to the rabies virus will not necessarily show signs of rabies, says Clark.

If you're thinking about giving your dog a rabies shot, you're probably going to be tempted to wait until the dog comes in for a checkup.

But what do the signs that your dog might be about to be stricken look like? And are there

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