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Health & Wellness

Rabies shots are necessary for dogs. Here’s why

There are two rabies vaccine options to talk to your veterinarian about.

Do you and your dog spend a lot of time out in nature? While afternoons at the park or hiking your favorite trails make for many quality memories, you’ll want to ensure you’re preparing for the what-ifs of outdoor adventures. 

One serious infection to keep in mind is rabies, which is spread from contagious animals through bites, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

And if you think the most telltale rabies signs are frothing at the mouth or aggression, you might be surprised to learn that some animals don’t act that way at all. 

What’s rabies in dogs? 

“Rabies is a deadly infection caused by the rabies virus,” Dr. McCullough says. Dogs (and humans) are at risk of being bitten in environments where there’s a lot of wildlife, like skunks, wolves, bats, foxes, raccoons or weasels, that commonly have rabies infections. 

Animals with rabies don’t all show the same symptoms, and they can vary depending on the severity. For example, some animals might just be lethargic or disoriented. On the other hand, those with more severe symptoms might present aggression, incoordination, drooling, seizures, weakness or paralysis (which can lead to death). 

If a rabid animal bites your dog, Dr. McCullough recommends contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible because the state veterinarian and local public health officials have to be informed, too. 

RELATED: My dog was bitten by a mosquito. Now what?

Treatment options for rabies in dogs

Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for rabies. “Due to the risk of infecting humans and animals, dogs that are strongly suspected of having rabies are euthanized and tested,” Dr. McCullough shares. 

However, rabies is a preventable infection. So not only does getting your pup vaccinated prevent them from the worst-case scenario, but it also protects other humans and animals. 

This infection is so severe that rabies shots are considered core vaccines and legally required in most states (and needed to attend dog daycare, training courses or visit the dog park), Dr. McCullough explains. 

How long do rabies shots last for dogs?

These shots work by forcing a dog’s immune system to develop rabies antibodies so that if an infected animal bites them, the virus will be attacked and prevent infection, Dr. McCullough says. 

Once your pup is 12 weeks old, they can start receiving rabies shots. Your veterinarian will determine which version — one lasting 1 or 3 years — is best for your dog (including follow-up booster shots) by following state and local guidelines. 

How much are rabies shots for dogs?

In Dr. McCullough’s veterinary experience, rabies shots cost anywhere between $15 to $25. However, the cost can vary depending on your location and the type of veterinary hospital you visit. If you’re looking for a low-cost place for your pup to get a rabies vaccine, visit your local animal shelters or community vaccination events.

“Vaccinating your dog for rabies is an easy, low-cost way to protect them, your family and your community,” Dr. McCullough says. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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