Pets Are Important Too

3 Facts About Rabies Dog Owners Need to Know

by Aurore Fontai

In some parenting circles, a trend of declining children's vaccines has sprung up. The reasons for avoiding vaccines range from fear of side-effects to questions about the efficacy of the vaccines. This trend has led to a resurgence of diseases like measles in some areas.

Now, some veterinarians are concerned that the anti-vaccination movement is spreading to pet owners as well. There are only a few vaccinations that are required for dogs, including those for distemper, parvovirus, and rabies. The consequences of avoiding these vaccines can be disastrous. If you're on the fence about vaccinating your dog, take a look at a few facts about rabies to understand why vaccinations are so important.

There is No Cure

The first thing that you need to know about rabies is that there is no cure for the disease. If your unvaccinated dog is bitten by a wild animal, the CDC recommends that it be euthanized immediately. If you don't want to do that, your only other option is to place your animal in isolation, at your own expense, for up to six months, and vaccinate them a month before they're released, assuming no rabies symptoms develop in the meantime. This protocol is similar to what will happen if your unvaccinated pet bites a person. If your pet is put into quarantine after a bite or other rabies exposure and it develops symptoms of rabies, then your pet will be euthanized. There are no tests for rabies and no cure for a pet that's started showing symptoms.

By contrast, if your vaccinated pet is bitten by a wild animal, it will need a booster shot and may need to be temporarily quarantined, but it will most likely survive. The rabies vaccine is thus a lifesaver for your pet.

Rabies Is Dangerous to Humans Too

The possibility of a rabies infection is also dangerous for human owners. Humans can be treated for a bite from a possible carrier of rabies with a prophylactic treatment administered before symptoms start showing. However, even for humans, once symptoms are evident, the chances of survival are slim. A controversial treatment known as the Milwaukee Protocol, which involves putting the patient into a chemically-induced coma, has saved a handful of human patients over the years, but more patients have not survived the treatment than those who have.

Getting your dog vaccinated for rabies is not only a lifesaving act for your pet. It may be a lifesaving act for you and any other humans your dog comes in contact with as well.

There Is Help for Adverse Reactions

While most veterinarians agree that the benefits of a rabies vaccination outweighs any risk of adverse reactions, it's still understandable that as a loving dog owner, you might worry about possible adverse reactions to a vaccine. Possible adverse reactions include fever, diarrhea or vomiting, pain, redness, or swelling around the infections site, and difficulty breathing. These can definitely be scary symptoms for you and your dog.

However, there are things that you can do to avoid adverse reactions. Make sure that you're present when vaccines are being administered. You know your dog best, and you may be able to recognize signs that something is wrong faster than a veterinarian or vet tech, so that any reaction can be addressed immediately in the office. You should also schedule vaccines for a time when your dog is feeling good; if your pet is suffering from another illness at the time of your appointment, delaying the vaccine until your dog has recovered can help prevent a vaccine reaction. If your dog has shown sensitivity to vaccines in the past, talk to your vet about administering multiple shots separately, instead of all in the same day. Breaking up the vaccine schedule gives your dog time to recover between shots and may reduce the risk of a reaction.

Rabies is a real risk for any dog, regardless of where you live or any other factors. If you're concerned about the rabies vaccine, share those concerns with those at local emergency pet clinics.