21 February, 2018

The Rabies Vaccine: Facts, Controversy, and Benefits

The Rabies Vaccine_ Facts, Controversy, and BenefitsThe health of domestic animals is an ongoing concern for many families. The safety of family members is believed to be directly related to proper vaccination of pets. The rabies vaccine is required by law with the intention of removing the deadly threat from both dogs and humans.

A dog exposed to rabid wildlife can easily return to the home carrying the rabies virus, putting humans at risk.  Research has initiated the observance of safe antibody levels in dogs of different ages, sizes, and breed.

These studies assist in the identification of rabies risk factors and proper vaccine timing. This particular vaccine retains a superior level of significance due to the deadly results of the rabies virus across species.

What is the Rabies Vaccine?

The rabies vaccine consisted of a modified live virus up until the 1970’s.

The illness overcame a pair of kittens following their routine vaccination. The fear of further complications spurred a sudden change in the vaccine’s composition.

The vaccine now contains an inactivated version of the disease.

This decreases the risk of infection from the vaccine; however, increases the risk of exposure in nature. Proper titer levels are harder to reach and maintain when inactive viruses are used.

The vaccine, basically, assists the body in creating an immune response to the rabies virus and other lyssavirus varieties. Antibodies can be seen in the blood after receiving the shot. Over time the amount of the rabies antibody declines and the pet requires a booster shot.

In dogs, effectiveness seems to vary due to size, age, and breed of dog. Humans are not usually given the option of pre-exposure rabies vaccine. Mandatory vaccination of pets, by law, has greatly decreased the exposure to rabies.

Difference between Rabies Vaccine for Humans and Rabies Vaccine for Dogs

Rabies vaccines for humans are different in their composition, as well as how they are administered. 

Dogs are given the vaccine in order to prevent infection. This is not the case for the majority of humans, although human rabies infections are also fatal.

Most humans are given the vaccine after potential exposure to the virus. Professionals with high-risk jobs in animal care may be given the vaccine as a pre-exposure prophylaxis measure.

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Dogs receive one intramuscular dose annually or every 3 years for rabies prevention. When travel overseas is imminent, there are strict vaccination requirements.  Two doses are given to increase immunity for dogs entering a new country.

Dogs that have been exposed to an infected animal may also receive a booster vaccine to secure protection. The rabies vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect after a preventative dose is given to animals. Humans, however, must build immunity quickly after exposure to avoid fatality.

Humans are given one dose immediately after exposure to a rabid animal. A total of four doses are given over a period of fourteen days. These are meant to kick-start the body’s immune response before the rabies virus can take over.

The Imovax rabies vaccine passed studies on humans that were attacked by rabid animals. The subjects reached full immunity when the vaccine was combined with rabies immune globulin treatment (RabIg). The RabIg shot is given along with the first vaccine shot. This is placed directly in the wound, as well as around it. Any leftover RabIg should be administered in an intramuscular fashion.

The time frame of treatment for the rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) routine is an urgent matter. The vaccines should be given immediately, if possible. The vaccines need to enter the body prior to the onset of symptoms, which usually happens within 60 days.

There have been cases, however, where humans have avoided treatment and presented with the illness several years later. Safely passing the 60-day mark with no symptoms of rabies may give a false sense of security. After treatment, an antibody titer test can be done to ensure resistance.

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The preventative vaccine for humans is given over a 21-28 day period and is split into three doses.  Previously vaccinated individuals follow a different post-exposure prophylaxis routine. Response to exposure for vaccinated individuals only involves two booster shots, with no rabies immune globulin (RabIg) necessary.

Human immunity is directly related to the reinforcement of rabies vaccine laws regarding pets.

Due to significant allergic response to the vaccine and the high cost, regular preventative care has not been initiated in most communities.  Allergic reactions are thought to occur in response to preventatives and the human serum used during formation of the vaccine. An allergic reaction by a recipient often denotes the need for further vaccine testing.

Pet vaccines vary in the additional components referred to as adjuvants. Adjuvants often add to the immune response. The standard rabies vaccine for animals is considered to be effective because of the glycol protein antigen. This helps the dead virus to retain its effectiveness.

Immuno-stimulants are also added to the pet vaccine in the form of adjuvants. Common adjuvants in human vaccines are thimerosal and aluminum. Thimerosal is being phased out due to avoidance of childhood vaccines by concerned parents.

Vaccinations for pets, in general, are more updated.

The testing process can often take place on the receiving subjects, allowing for faster introduction into veterinary practice. All adjuvants included in human vaccines must adhere to a strict testing and approval process. These tests are often dependent on rats in a lab environment. Proper research documentation must follow.

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Exposure to Rabid Animals = Viruses, Diseases, and More

Exposure to rabid animals depends a lot on your residential location or travel destination.

Raccoons, wolves, and rodents are all possible carriers of animal rabies. The zoonotic nature of the disease allows it to cross species.

Humans that receive bat bites are usually required to receive a series of shots. Medical professionals follow a strict protocol when deciding who should receive treatment. They tend to err on the side of caution when this decision must be made. Medical care should never be put off until signs of rabies are apparent.

Risk assessment depends on the type of animal, date of possible rabies exposure, and whether or not the animal is in custody. A neighborhood dog with proper vet references is not a big concern. A stray dog, however, would warrant immediate treatment.

Wild animals are usually considered high risk, as well. Bats are the main culprit in most areas. It can be helpful to avoid stray and wild animals. Limit your associations to pets of people you know well. Seek treatment immediately if you receive a bite or have close contact with bodily fluids of a wild or rabid animal.

Rabies Vaccine Cost

The cost of rabies vaccinations are minimal for pets at a variety of locations. Owners can take their animals to a local veterinary clinic.

Many low-cost clinics have opened up in recent years. Shelters include vaccinations in their adoption fees, and often have affordable clinics to return to for future shots.

Low-cost clinics and shelter clinics often keep their prices between $10 and $20 per shot. This does not include visit and disposal fees.

The cost at a veterinary clinic or hospital may be $25 or more and is usually accompanied by a $30-$60 visit fee.

Efforts to keep pets fully vaccinated have spurred the creation of mobile clinics and free vaccination sites. Considering the ramifications of a widespread rabies infection outbreak, these options are extremely beneficial to the community.

Keep your Pet Safe! Importance of Rabies Vaccine

Rabies vaccinations protect pets, as well as humans.

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Every single pet that becomes vaccinated brings the public closer to a manageable rabies control level. The popularity of household pets opens the window for greater human risk. This is especially critical in rural areas with a greater wildlife population.

Dogs and cats are more likely to initiate contact with rabid animals. Their curiosity often gets the better of them. The rabies virus could be brought to the pet’s family simply through the saliva.

A pet with rabies, however, could also become violent and bite.

The rabies vaccination spares lives.

Regular vaccination around the globe decreases the prevalence of the disease over time, making communities safer for their residents. A routine vaccination schedule is important for everyone involved.

It’s the Law!

The majority of vaccinations are not mandatory by law. The rabies vaccine, however, is necessary to keep a pet in the home.

Shelters do not animals home without a rabies shot, nor do animal rescue organizations. Animals purchased from a breeder may be taken home before they reach the proper age for rabies vaccination, however, leaving this responsibility to the new owners.

Law enforcement has little to do with unvaccinated pets unless there is an incident. If a pet bites another animal, the victim’s owner may require a check to be made. At this point, many negative actions may be taken.

An unvaccinated dog may be quarantined and charges may be filed against the owner. Visits to state parks, boarding facilities, and daycares all require proof of the rabies vaccine prior to entry. Regular vaccination helps to protect pets and owners from negative consequences.

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Dog Rabies Vaccine

The rabies vaccine for a dog should ideally be given for the first time when the dog is very young.

The dog should remain home with family to avoid exposure to the virus prior to vaccination. Annual shots are given after the first one for the duration of the pet’s life.

A veterinarian may suggest the three-year vaccine after two consecutive annual vaccines are given early or on-time.

Travel indicates the need for increased doses. It is best to check the rules specific to the country you are planning to travel to. There are strict time limits on travel vaccinations. Delay by even one day may affect your travel plans.

Cat Rabies Vaccine

The feline rabies vaccine follows the same timing as the one for dogs.

The first dose should be given at 12 weeks of age or soon after. Follow safety procedures by keeping the kitten away from strange animals until the vaccination can be administered. A repeat of the annual shot should be given one year later, with a three-year vaccine offered after this.

The Controversy! Rabies Vaccine for Cats & Dogs

There has been some controversy surrounding dog vaccinations.

The rabies vaccination is different from the rest of the pet vaccinations. Titer tests show that vaccinations for common illnesses, such as parvo and distemper last much longer than one year. Veterinary professionals are pushing for the acceptance of a titer test in place of annual vaccinations. Adverse reactions in animals may increase over time.

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The rabies vaccination is the center of a different kind of controversy.

There is some resistance to giving all sizes of dogs the same amount of the vaccine. There are different stances on this, however.

The necessity of a specified amount of vaccine is needed to elicit a response from the immune system. Therefore, the weight of the dog may not have any relevance for this particular vaccine. Titer tests show a decline in immunity over the course of one year, with minor variations due to breed or size.

The preservatives in vaccines are often carcinogens when given at high doses. The amount in vaccines, however, is considered minimal. The vaccination schedule of pets is thought to overload them with cancer-causing agents. The call to action over titer tests is intended to remedy overexposure.

Risks and benefits must be weighed to make the best decision for families and their pets.

What Studies Say…

Studies show that antibodies to the rabies virus decline over the course of one year when the annual vaccine is given.

The studies on dogs used antibody titer tests over the course of several months to determine the resistance to rabies and other lyssaviruses. Larger dogs showed more difficulty staying at the required count.

While titer tests may be a good idea for other vaccines, the rabies vaccine should remain on the annual schedule.

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Antibodies to the virus should be checked when a pet is exposed to a rabid animal. The results of the blood test are used to plan a course of action for the pet. Safety practices dictate regular vaccination is necessary for families to remain confident of their pet’s immunity.

FAQs on the Rabies Vaccination

How long does rabies vaccine last?

The rabies vaccination lasts one year.

Immunity declines throughout the year. Dogs that have adhered to a previous annual routine can be given a three-year dosage.

Can a dog survive the rabies virus?


Once rabies symptoms begin, it is fatal. Vaccinations for dogs are meant for preventative purposes only. A vaccinated dog should not develop symptoms.

What’s in the normal rabies vaccination dose?

The average vaccine includes the inactivated virus and adjuvants in the form of preservatives. There are also immuno-stimulants meant to strengthen the effectiveness against rabies.

How does rabies spread?

Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected animal or human.

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The virus can enter through a bite or any other opening. Mucous membranes and small scratches on the skin are also susceptible.

What is the dog rabies vaccine schedule?

The first rabies shot is given between 12 and 24 months of age.

The vaccine is repeated annually until eligible for the three-year vaccine. The three-year vaccine is usually recommended after 2 annual doses have been administered.

Can the vaccine result in an infection?


Rabies cannot be contracted from the vaccine. The vaccination consists of an inactivated form of the virus. The live virus has not been used in vaccines for many years.

How long does it take for rabies symptoms to show up?

Symptoms usually show up between 30-60 days.

They can, however, show up earlier or later.

Unvaccinated dogs are quarantined for 60 days. Humans have presented symptoms after many months and years.

What are some common symptoms of infection in dogs?

Dogs present with strange behaviors. They may begin to eat non-food items, foam at the mouth, and bite. Activity levels and normal barking sounds may also change.

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Where to get rabies vaccine/rabies vaccine near me?

Your nearest veterinary clinic is able to provide you with the vaccine. Animal shelters, mobile shot clinics, and low-cost clinics are also available in many areas.

The 5 Steps on What to Do if a Rabid Animal Bites Your Pet

If an animal suspected of Rabies illness has contact with your pet, there are a few recommended steps to help keep everyone safe.

  1. Avoid touching the wound and seek emergency vet treatment for proper wound care. Use bleach to clean the area if the bite occurred in, or near, your home. Seek medical care for yourself if exposure to blood or saliva happened. Plan to stay in touch with your doctor until all involved parties are deemed safe.
  2. Assess the danger to you. Check the date on your pet’s shot records. If your dog is up-to-date on the rabies vaccination, the vet is obligated to issue a booster shot. If your pet is not up-to-date, euthanization is recommended. The alternate choice requires vaccination and a six-month quarantine. No guarantee of health can be issued in these cases.
  3. Animals that are allowed to return home must be isolated for 45 days. Keep your pet at home.
  4. Report any sign of illness to the health department.
  5. If your pet becomes ill with the rabies virus, family members should seek medical treatment.

Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Dogs

  • Throwing up
  • Soreness
  • Allergic hives
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes
  • Loose stools
  • Swelling in the facial area
  • Low fever
  • Anaphylactic reactions in rare cases
  • Failure of the kidney or liver

Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Cats

  • Refusal to eat
  • Loose stools
  • Itchy skin
  • Throwing up
  • Pain and swollen area near the injection site
  • Lethargic
  • Feverish
  • Allergic-type sneezes
  • Anaphylactic responses in rare cases

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A Rabies Vaccination for Your Pet Will Keep Them Safe

Rabies shots are extremely effective when administered on a proper schedule.

The veterinarian should keep records of all vaccinations and the batch numbers of the ones administered. This can help in case of a recall. With a proper rabies vaccination, you can remain calm if your dog is attacked or has an encounter with a wild animal.

The vaccination laws are in place to increase safety and health for pet owners and the community.

The rabies vaccine is required by law in most areas. This mandatory vaccination, however, is difficult to monitor. The vaccine is important to the health of humans, as well as animals. Recent vaccination controversies have raised some health concerns, mainly pertaining to long-term exposure to preservatives.

Overall, the rabies vaccine supplies communities with significant health benefits.

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