With a fatality rate of nearly 100 percent, rabies is the deadliest infectious disease on the planet. Once the signs of infection appear, there are no treatment options. But thanks to widely available and highly effective vaccines, rabies infections have become extremely uncommon in dogs in the United States. Keeping rabies at bay isn’t just a big deal for dogs—it’s important for humans too. That’s because rabies is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can pass from dogs (and other animals) to people. And it’s just as deadly in humans as it is in dogs.
Going to the vet repeatedly over several months for vaccinations, and then for boosters or titers throughout your dog’s life, may seem like an inconvenience, but the diseases that vaccinations will shield our pets from are dangerous, potentially deadly, and, thankfully, mostly preventable. We read about so many different vaccinations, for so many different illnesses, that it can sometimes be confusing to know which vaccinations puppies need and which ones are important but optional. Here is an overview of the diseases that vaccinations will help your pet to avoid.
The rabies virus is present in the saliva of an infectious animal and is most often transmitted to another animal via bite. Though less common, the virus can also spread when infectious saliva comes into contact with a scratch or open wound or with a mucus membrane (e.g. eyes, nose, mouth). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contact with the blood, urine, or feces of a rabid animal is not a cause for concern.
Once the rabies virus is transmitted to a new host, it travels through the nervous system from the site of infection to the brain. During this time, which can take several weeks, the infected animal won’t have any clinical signs and can’t infect any other animals. But when the rabies virus reaches the infected animal’s brain, it multiplies and moves into the salivary glands. It’s at this point that most animals begin showing signs of infection. All mammals can get rabies, but the CDC lists bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, and mongooses as important disease reservoirs in the United States.
Features of Rabies Shot For Dogs
An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.
Vaccination of dogs, ferrets, and livestock can be started at no sooner than three months of age. Some cat vaccines can be given as early as two months of age. Regardless of the age of the animal at initial vaccination, a booster vaccination should be administered one year later.
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