Vaccinating your pet for rabies is an essential part of their heath care, and it keeps you and your family safe as well. Rabies is a virus that attacks the neurological tissue of mammals. It can be found in common North American wild animals like raccoons, bats, and skunks. Although rabies is not a very common disease, the animals that carry it populate the entire North American continent. Due to the prevalence of its carriers, rabies can potentially be found anywhere these animals call home.
Rabies virus vaccines for dogs and cats are required by law in most states. In some areas, pets may be confiscated if they are not properly vaccinated. If runaway pets are picked up by animal control, proof of vaccination may be required in order to bring them back home. Where pet licenses are required, licensing often requires proof of vaccination. Newer vaccines and vaccination techniques mean that it is only necessary to vaccinate pets for rabies about every 3 years after the first year of vaccinations. Current veterinary research is being performed to determine if pets may actually need fewer vaccinations, so this may change over time as well. Most pets should not be vaccinated for rabies until they are 16 weeks old.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies. State laws are very strict regarding rabies exposure and vary from state to state. Vaccinated animals that are exposed to potentially rabid animals typically require a veterinary quarantine. If an animal contracts rabies, they must be put to sleep. You may think that your pet can’t be exposed to rabies, but exposure is more common than most people suspect. Bats can carry rabies, and it’s possible for them to live in and around our homes. Bat bites can be small and painless so it’s possible your pet may get bitten without you noticing, and a single bite from an infected bat is sufficient to transmit the disease. With this possibility in mind, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to rabies vaccinations for your pet.
The good news is that thanks to vaccination, rabies is rare in pets in the majority of North America and even rarer in people. Keeping your pets vaccinated and protected against rabies decreases your exposure as well. Even if your pet was exposed, if they have been vaccinated against rabies they are not likely to contract or spread the disease.