Vaccines

Rabies can be matter of life or death for pets

You probably know that your dog is required by law to have a rabies vaccination either annually or triennially (every three years). Most states allow owners to decide how often to give the vaccine. But there’s more to rabies-related law than frequency of vaccination. Here’s what you – and your veterinarian – should know.

Most of us assume that our pets are considered vaccinated for rabies once that needle enters the body. Not so. Pets are not considered “currently vaccinated” until 28 days after the initial injection, says Richard Ford, DVM, an internal medicine specialist and immunology expert who spoke at last month’s American Veterinary Medical Association conference in Indianapolis.

Your pet is considered overdue for a booster vaccine one day beyond the one-year or three-year date following the initial vaccination. By law, a pet is not considered immunized beyond that date, even though generally the only difference between a one-year and a three-year rabies vaccine is what it says on the label. In other words, even though a one-year vaccine generally offers the same protection as a three-year vaccine, in law there is no tolerance. Once your pet is revaccinated, though, he returns immediately to “currently vaccinated” status, regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed since the vaccine was due.

Are cats required to have rabies vaccinations? At least nine states do not mandate rabies vaccinations for cats. In fact, Missouri, Kansas and Ohio have no state laws mandating rabies vaccinations for any pets. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to have it done, especially if you allow your pet to go outdoors. In 2015, 244 cases of rabies involving cats were reported to…