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Can Dogs Get Rabies If Vaccinated?


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Most dogs seem to be able to eat anything and roll around in any substance without getting ill. While humans can break an ankle from tripping up on pavement, dogs seem to be a bit more invincible. However, can your dogs catch the same serious illnesses as we can? Rabies for example, can kill humans in just days and can also be fatal to your dog. Handling any individual with rabies requires extreme caution as it is highly contagious as well as life-threatening. The disease is so serious, most states require dogs to be vaccinated regularly. But could your dog get rabies even if it’s been vaccinated?

short-coated white dog

Can dogs get rabies if vaccinated?


Although there have been a few cases of dogs that have had vaccines and still contracted rabies, this is misleading. If your dog has had a good quality vaccine, is kept up to date with their boosters, and enough time since the vaccination has passed to build up satisfactory immunity, then your dog will not catch rabies post-vaccination.

golden retriever puppy on grey wooden fence - can dogs get rabies if vaccinated

Does my dog have rabies?

If your dog has not been properly vaccinated, rabies could be fatal, so being aware of the symptoms and causes is important. Have you noticed your dog eating unusual items? Does your dog all of a sudden seem sensitive to light and sound? Does your dog appear disoriented? Is your dog, irritable, aggressive, or anxious? If you notice any of these signs, your dog may be have rabies and you should keep them quarantined.

What would cause your dog to contract rabies after a vaccination though? The virus is transmitted through saliva or blood of an infected host. Has your dog attacked or eaten a dead skunk, racoon, rabbit, bat, or cat recently? The virus is usually transmitted through a bite, but it can also be transmitted through contact with an open wound.

Even if your dog has been vaccinated, the first thing to do if you suspect rabies contamination is quarantine your dog. If your dog has been vaccinated, hopefully, symptoms will not develop. But your vet will observe the dog for up to 10 days to look out for the symptoms mentioned above.

If you would like more detailed information about rabies and its symptoms, visit our guide to Rabies in Dogs.

medium short-coated white dog lying on green gas

How do I treat my dog's rabies?

If your dog has already been vaccinated then treatment usually entails just a booster vaccine. This will help re-affirm the dog’s immunity to rabies and further reduce the chances of it developing. If you are visiting a new vet, you will need to show proof that your dog has already been vaccinated. Even though your dog may be vaccinated, your vet will often be required by law to keep the dog in for observation for up to 7-10 days if rabies is suspected.

If symptoms of rabies do develop, your dog will usually have to be put down, as is the law in most states. Thankfully, this can be done quickly and painlessly. This may seem like an extreme measure to take, but this is often the safest thing for everyone around the dog and ends the increasing suffering your dog will be going through as the virus develops.

It can also be helpful to read first hand accounts from other owners who have had dogs that have already had the rabies vaccine.Also, benefit from the answers from our trained in-house vets to a range of frequently asked rabies questions.

While rabies is rare in the US, other common viral infections like kennel cough can be expensive to treat. Fortunately, most pet insurance companies reimburse claims within 3 days, putting 90% of the bill back in your pocket. In the market for pet insurance? Compare leading pet insurance companies to find the right plan for your pet.

golden retriever on grey sand during daytime

How is rabies similar in dogs, humans and other animals?

Rabies has a lot of striking outward symptoms. These are symptoms seen not just in dogs, but in humans and other animals as well. Some of the most similar symptoms are:

  • Dogs and humans often appear disoriented and stagger around if they have contracted the rabies virus.

  • It is commonplace to see signs of severe fever in both dogs and humans.

  • Dogs and humans will often display aggressive behavior to those around them.

  • It is also common for dogs and humans suffering with rabies to experience partial paralysis. This could leave dogs and humans unable to walk or raise their legs and arms.

How is rabies different in dogs, humans and other animals?

In a lot of ways, rabies manifests itself similarly in dogs as it does in humans and other animals. However, there are also a number of differences in symptoms worth highlighting. Those differences are:

  • Headaches are one of the earliest symptoms we see in humans, but we do not see this symptom in dogs to let us know rabies may be developing.

  • While humans tend to be disoriented and anti-social, it is more common in dogs to see them chewing and biting unusual objects.

  • It is well documented that humans develop hydrophobia (a fear of swallowing), this is a symptom we have less evidence of in dogs.

Case Study

Callic was a 3-year-old Yorkie mix who had two rabies shots but then seemed to develop worrying symptoms. She started drooling excessively, her breathing became rapid, and she suddenly appeared to have no energy. The owners began to worry Callic was developing rabies, but in actual fact, Callic had just suffered an adverse reaction to the vaccine. These symptoms cleared up of their own accord after a couple of days.

This case is important because it highlights the fact that, unfortunately, some dogs will have adverse reactions to the vaccines, but they will usually pass of their own accord. But it is always worth being diligent and wary if you see rabies symptoms developing, even if you suspect it’s just an adverse effect to a vaccine.

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