How Often Should My Dog Get a Rabies Shot?

How often your dog should get a rabies shot depends on their age. Generally, they get one shot when they’re puppies. Then, they get vaccinated every one to three years.

Jun 8, 2024By Sara Payne
how often should my dog get rabies shot

If you have a new puppy, you’ve prepared for how often you should feed and walk him, but have you thought about how often you should get your dog a rabies shot? Vaccines are an important preventative measure for your dog to stay healthy and live longer.

Puppies get rabies shots when they are between 14 to 16 weeks old. Then, they will get a booster every one to three years after that. Read on to learn more about the rabies vaccine and how often your dog needs it.

When Should My Dog Get His First Rabies Shot?

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There are different vaccination schedules for dogs based on where you live. Typically, a veterinarian will administer your puppy’s first rabies vaccination when your dog is between 14 to 16 weeks old. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that puppies should not get a rabies vaccination before they are three months old (12 weeks).

After this shot, your dog will be given a certificate signed by the vet that indicates your puppy’s vaccination status. Then, they’ll get the shot once every one to three years. A dog’s rabies certificate is a “passport” of sorts. That’s because some airlines require that your dog is vaccinated for rabies each year. This ensures the safety of everyone on board.

What Is Rabies? Why the Vaccine?

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Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects mammals. The rabies virus is transmitted from one animal to another when an infected animal bites an uninfected one.

After the bite, the virus reproduces at the wound site and travels through the nervous system. It spreads to the spinal cord, then the brain, and finally to the salivary glands and other organs. Rabies is fatal once it manifests symptoms. So, if your dog is bitten and develops rabies, there is no cure. They will be put to sleep to prevent them from infecting other animals and people.

A rabies vaccine is a shot the vet gives your puppy that causes your dog’s body to produce antibodies against the rabies virus. This helps to prevent your puppy from contracting the disease and spreading it to other dogs. It’s a lifesaver for many dogs bitten by rabid creatures, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.

What Happens if My Dog Is Bitten?

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If your dog is bitten by another animal, the first major concern is rabies. That’s because, as noted, this condition is fatal once it manifests symptoms. Many animal control organizations err on the side of caution, and if they suspect a dog has rabies, they’ll put it down. If you have proof that your dog was vaccinated for rabies, the onus of the bite becomes more on stabilizing your dog’s condition rather than worrying about fatal infectious diseases.

If your dog was not vaccinated for rabies and bitten by another animal, take them to the vet immediately. There are some medications that could save your dog if administered in time. Dog bites are not common health conditions that can withstand the wait-and-see approach. They need emergency veterinary care, no matter how minor they may seem.

Why Dogs Need Regular Vaccinations

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Many countries require dogs to be vaccinated for rabies. In the U.S., 39 of the 50 states require that dogs are vaccinated for rabies. Some states allow for exemptions and others only require rabies vaccination for imported dogs. Hawaii is the only state with no rabies vaccination laws. If you are traveling, the EU requires a health certificate that verifies your dog’s identity, health, and rabies vaccination status.

So, often, you must keep your dog up to date on their rabies vaccinations to comply with local laws. Beyond laws, however, vaccines are important because they keep your dog from contracting deadly diseases.

What Other Vaccines Are Required?

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Many dog vaccinations are available today to help prevent deadly and infectious illnesses. The core vaccines that veterinarians give to puppies combat:

  • Canine distemper. This is an an illness affecting the GI tract, nervous system, and respiratory systems. This illness has no cure and is very deadly.
  • Canine hepatitis. Canine hepatitis affects your dog’s kidneys, spleen, lungs, eyes, and liver. Mild versions of the disease may be overcome, but the severe cases are deadly.
  • Parvovirus. Puppies and young dogs can develop this illness after being in contact with infected fecal matter. Parvo is high in untreated dogs, exceeding 90 percent. Yet, dogs that recover from parvo can live healthy lives with minimal health problems.
  • Parainfluenza. This condition is a respiratory ailment that can cause sneezing, coughing, and fatigue. It’s also known as kennel cough.

Are There Optional Vaccines?

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There are other vaccines available that are not a part of the core vaccines. These are administered to dogs based on your geographic location and the risk in your area. They may also be requirements for certain doggy daycares, dog parks, boarding care, and grooming businesses. Also, if your dog travels with you or is in the wilderness or water often, they may need some other vaccines, such as:

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough)
  • Leptospira
  • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease vaccine)
  • H3N2/H3N8 (canine influenza)
  • Crotalux atrox (rattlesnake vaccine)

Discuss these optional vaccines with your vet to determine whether they are a good option for your puppy.

Every Dog Needs a Rabies Vaccine

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Getting your puppy his rabies vaccine is an important part of caring for your dog. Make sure you comply with local laws by following the rabies vaccination schedule. Keeping your dog up to date on their vaccines will keep them from contracting and spreading deadly diseases. There are many required vaccines and some other optional ones based on your geographic area and lifestyle. Ask your veterinarian about the exact timing and vaccine requirements on your next vet visit.

Sara Payne
By Sara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.