There is not a day that goes by at the clinic that I don’t give a dog a rabies vaccine. The rabies vaccine is that commonly given, and with good reason. While giving rabies vaccinations is an everyday occurrence for me, it’s one that can often trip up a dog owner. It’s hard to keep straight when different vaccines, including rabies, need to be given. Fortunately, this article will help outline those guidelines as well as give you details about the costs.
Why is the rabies vaccine so important?
Once a dog starts showing signs of rabies, there is no treatment and the dog will die1. Rabies can infect any mammal, including wildlife, which is where the virus maintains a steady infected population. Your dog is more likely to get rabies from being bitten by a rabid raccoon or fox than your neighbor’s dog next door.
Since there is no treatment for rabies once you see symptoms in your dog, your best option is to prevent it through vaccination.
Rabies vaccination schedule & costs for dogs
The last thing you need is another something to remember, so we’re here to help you out. Here’s a schedule for when dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies. Of course, this doesn’t take the place of your veterinarian’s guidelines, so be sure to check with them as well.
|3 months||The first rabies vaccination can be given when a dog is 12 weeks old or older.|
|15 months||A booster should be given one year after the initial vaccination.|
|Every 1-3 years following||Boosters should be given every 1-3 years after the initial two vaccinations as seen by your veterinarian.|
|As soon as possible if late||If you get a little behind on your pup’s rabies vaccinations, don’t fret. Just get it done as soon as you can.|
Rabies vaccine cost by year
The cost of a rabies vaccination is going to vary based on where you live. The good thing to know is that the dose is the same regardless of size, so big dogs cost the same as little ones. Also, if are on a schedule to vaccinate your dog once every three years, you only have this cost to pay every three years!
With this in mind, look to pay $20-$30 per rabies vaccination no matter how old your dog is2.
This may be higher in larger cities. Keep in mind that there may be additional costs for an exam or other vaccinations/preventative care costs that happen at the same time.
Can I save this cost and not vaccinate my dog?
I’m going to give you three very important reasons to not skip your dog’s rabies vaccination:
- Rabies is a nearly 100% fatal disease for dogs. That means that if they are bitten by a rabid animal and start to show signs of the disease, they will die. There is no treatment. Some treatment options are available if caught before signs show up, which can be hard to do.
- Proof of a rabies vaccination is needed for most dog city licenses. In cities where dogs are required to have licenses, and therefore current rabies vaccinations, you may end up paying a fine if your pup isn’t up-to-date.
- If your dog were to bite someone or some animal, having a current rabies vaccination makes it a lot easier. If not, your pup may need to be quarantined and tested to be sure they aren’t infected with rabies.
Is there a way to lower the cost of rabies vaccinations?
Hopefully we’ve convinced you that keeping your dog up-to-date on rabies vaccinations is an important part of their overall health. But we also understand that finances may not always allow you to do what your pup needs. Fortunately, many veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and dog rescues offer low-cost vaccination clinics.
These clinics are usually funded through donations or fundraisers that cover part or all of the costs for the basic dog vaccinations so that owners don’t have to stress financially. Many veterinarians will donate their time or money to help with these clinics as well.
If you’re interested in a low-cost vaccination clinic to get your canine companion vaccinated against rabies, the first step would be to check with your vet. Otherwise, contact any shelters, humane societies, rescues, or pet stores in your area to see what is available.
What is the risk that a dog gets rabies?
Vaccinations help keep the count of rabies cases low: according to the CDC “around 60 to 70 dogs and more than 250 cats are reported rabid each year. Nearly all these animals were unvaccinated.”
How do I know if my dog is overdue for a rabies vaccination?
No one wants your dog to miss their rabies vaccination booster, so most places that provide rabies shots will also send you reminders. Veterinary clinics and some animal shelters have a system in place that generates reminders to be mailed, emailed, or texted to dog owners to let them know their dog needs updated.
If this isn’t the case, you will also get a rabies certificate verifying that your dog has had a rabies vaccination. These are the proof that most cities need to issue you a license. They will also have the date of the vaccination, and sometimes, the date of the next one needed. Your dog will also get a rabies tag to put on their collar that will give the year of vaccination. You’ll be able to determine when another one is due by either adding a year if this was the first one, or adding three years if your pup has had at least two.
When in doubt, talk to your vet. If you have no idea when your pup was vaccinated and can’t find any documentation, they may recommend that you start from scratch by giving an initial vaccination followed by a booster one year later.
What happens if I miss a rabies vaccination?
If you get a little off in your dog’s rabies vaccination schedule, don’t worry. Just get it done as soon as you possibly can. Also, unless your dog is particularly sensitive to vaccinations, getting more than one within a year usually doesn’t affect them. This can sometimes happen if you don’t have documentation of when previous vaccinations were given and your vet decides to error on the side of caution and give a booster.
Can I personally administer a rabies vaccine to my dog?
Since rabies vaccinations are required by most cities in order to receive a dog license, they also require that a veterinarian give them. That’s why you won’t see rabies shots available at feed and pet stores in the way that you may find other dog vaccines.
What are the signs of rabies in dogs?
Before we dive too deep, let’s look at the disease itself: rabies. Rabies is caused by a virus that makes its homebase in the nervous system. The virus can infect any mammal and is passed through saliva-most commonly with a bite. The time that it takes from the bite until an animal shows signs of disease can vary, from a week to over a year, but for most dogs, signs start to show up about two weeks following an infected bite. Those signs may be:
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change in behavior including aggression or increased affection
Does the rabies vaccine have any side effects?
Vaccinations are made for the dog population as a whole. They are to benefit the most dogs possible, knowing that a small number of dogs aren’t going to have a proper immune response and that some may have a reaction. Some of those reactions may include:
- Redness, swelling, and itching at the injection site
- Decreased appetite
- Allergic reaction: difficulty breathing, hives, itchiness
Health status of the dog, including being overweight, and the number of other vaccines given at the same time can affect the likelihood of having a rabies vaccine associated reaction3.
If you have any concerns about the side effects of the rabies vaccine, be sure to discuss with your veterinarian.
Your visit at the vet for a rabies vaccine
Your dog’s rabies vaccination will most likely happen at an annual wellness or puppy visit. They may or may not be given additional vaccines or preventatives at the same time. They may also have a wellness exam.
Your vet will want to review your dog’s vaccination schedule, or start them on one if you have a new puppy or new-to-you dog without previous vaccinations. They will also want to check their overall health and ask you questions about their lifestyle, appetite, elimination habits, and any previous vaccine reactions.
If deemed appropriate, your vet will give your dog’s rabies vaccination, issue a tag and certificate. They will then inform you when additional boosters need to take place and advise you on signs of a vaccine reaction to look out for.