Vaccinations are one of the best ways we can take charge of our pets’ health. The rabies vaccine is a particularly important one, not just for the health of your animals, but the health of the people around you too. Today, we are going to break down the ins and outs of the rabies vaccine–why it’s so important, why it is safe for your cats and dogs, and what the process of getting a vaccine is like.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease that can affect any mammal. It is transmitted through bites or scratches, and is fatal. Exposure to rabid dogs accounts for 99% of rabies infections each year. Canine and feline rabies has largely been eradicated in the United States due to vaccination efforts. However, other animals are still carriers and can infect an unvaccinated pet.
Rabies is unique in that it can also be transmitted to people. where a majority of states require pets to be vaccinated against rabies, human rabies cases are rare, with only 1 to 3 cases a year. In continents such as Asia and Africa, where canine rabies is endemic, 59,000 people die each year after being infected with rabies.
What are the risks of getting the Rabies Vaccine?
Each year, 24 million dogs are vaccinated against rabies. Fewer than 1% of 1,000,000 dogs vaccinated exhibit any kind of negative reaction. This includes any kind of negative reaction, whether it be mild swelling or a serious allergic reaction.
- Side Effects: According to the American Animal Hospital Association, the most common side effects of getting a vaccine include “tissue swelling around the injection site; mild signs of illness such as fever, lethargy, and soreness” (AAHA, Should my pet be vaccinated? 2023),
- Allergic reactions: Though allergic reactions are possible, the likelihood of your cat or dog having a serious reaction to the vaccine is very low. It is far, far more likely that they will be infected by rabies if they remain unvaccinated and are exposed.
What are the benefits of the rabies vaccine?
- Disease Prevention: The rabies vaccine significantly decreases the chances your dog or cat will contract this serious, fatal infection. In fact, rabies has a 99% fatality rate and is almost entirely preventable with this vaccine.
- Unfamiliar Encounters: It protects your dog for when you encounter other animals on your walks, and your cat if they go outside or are exposed to an unvaccinated cat.
- Community Benefit: Getting a rabies vaccine also helps the U.S. as a country keep rabies cases down. Over 100 years ago, rabies was considered one of the most serious public health crises in the country. Now, because of the vaccine, fewer than 5 people die from rabies a year.
- Cost Saving: Getting your pet their rabies shot also saves money. If a human is exposed to rabies, and seeks treatment before symptoms present themselves, they can survive. However, the cost of treatment for rabies exposure can cost as much as $10,000. The more dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies, the less likely exposure is and the less likely you are to face a large hospital bill.
Getting Your Pet Vaccinated for Rabies
Rabies is a relatively inexpensive, easy vaccine to get. It can be administered by your veterinarian after any exam. Here are some factors to consider:
- Cost: In 2023, you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $75 for a rabies vaccine for your dog or cat. There are lower-cost options as well–mobile vaccine clinics at shelters or pet stores pop up in many cities. Ask your local pet shelter for more information.
- Vaccination Frequency: The initial rabies vaccine lasts one year. After that first year, a booster is required every 3 years. Like with all vaccines, getting the vaccine is not a perfect guarantee that your puppy or kitten will never contract the infection. However, the rabies vaccine is 100% the best defense we have to keep our fluffy friends safe from rabies.
In conclusion, the rabies vaccine stands as a crucial safeguard for the well-being of our beloved pets and, indirectly, for the safety of our communities. Understanding the risks and benefits of this vaccine reinforces the importance of making it a priority in our pets’ healthcare routine.