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The Benefits of Getting the Rabies Vaccine & The Risks if You Don’t

With a proper rabies vaccine injection, you can remain calm if your dog or cat is attacked or has an encounter with a wild animal.

Rabies is a very serious disease that is caused by a virus. It can be transmitted to humans through bites of infected animals which likely can be found near us such as dogs, cats, monkeys or even bats.

Since rabies can bring fatal death, it must not be underestimated and rabies vaccines for both human and animals especially pets is needed for prevention.


Rabies Vaccine for Animals

Rabies as known, is a deadly virus that can be transmitted through saliva of infected animals.

Generally, it is transmitted to humans through animal bites and also through scratches if infected animals licked their paws and nails before they scratch you.

Basically all mammals can get rabies but the most common are dogs, cats, monkeys, bats, skunks, ferrets, raccoons and even mongooses.

Rabies in pets such as dogs and cats seems to be more cautious since these two kinds of animals are most nurtured and interact with humans. If you have pets like dogs or cats or even both, it is mandatory that you give them rabies vaccines, basically rabies vaccines is important and mandatory to all animals which are potential to have and spread rabies.

The vaccine aims to prevent animals infected to spread the rabies virus. Rabies is also often referred as ‘crazy dog’ disease because once animal, in this case a dog, is infected they act far more aggressively than usual.

A rabies vaccine for your pets will keep them safe and are extremely effective when administered on a proper schedule. The veterinarian should keep records of all vaccinations and the batch numbers of the ones administered. This can help in case of a recall.


Rabies Vaccine for Humans

Rabies will become more dangerous when it hits humans because it can harm the brain and central nervous system which may lead to death.

Symptoms of rabies usually begin with fever, weakness of the entire body, headache, severe pain on parts that are bitten, anxiousness, nausea and vomiting, muscle tension to paralysis of muscles and behavioral changes of aggressiveness

Until up now, no drugs that can treat has been found yet so the focus is on the preventive measures. Prevention can only be done by washing thoroughly the bite wound with soap under running water for at least 15 minutes, having anti-rabies serum and vaccines.


Who Should Get Rabies Vaccine and When?

In general, rabies vaccine is given to humans bitten by potentially rabies animals, which is given according to the dosage and within a certain period of time. Rabies vaccines for human are different in their composition as well as how they are administrated than the vaccines for animals. Dogs and other pets with risk of rabies are given the vaccine to prevent the disease. This is not the case for the majority of humans  although human rabies infections are also fatal. It can be given without waiting to get bitten by a rabid animal as prevention.

Anyone can have rabies vaccine, but it is best given to people with high risk of rabies to protect them if they’re exposed i.e :

  • Veterinarians, animal handlers, rabies biologics production workers should be offered rabies vaccine.
  • People whose activities bring them into frequent contact with rabies virus or with possibly rabid animal.
  • International travelers who are likely come to contact with animals in part of the world where rabies is common.

The pre exposure schedule for rabies vaccination is 3 doses, given at following time :

  • Dose 1, as appropriate.
  • Dose 2, seven (7) days after dose 1.
  • Dose 3, twenty one (21) or twenty eight (28) days after dose 1.

For laboratory workers or others who may be repeatedly exposed to rabies virus, periodic testing to immunity is recommended and booster doses should be given as needed while both testing and booster are not recommended for travelers.

It is also a benefit for dog and cat owners to get rabies vaccine as well because you never know whether your pets got infected and transmit their illness.

Rabies vaccine can also prevent the disease if it is given to a person after they’re exposed.

Anyone who has been bitten by a rabid animal or who otherwise may have been exposed to rabies should immediately clean the wound and go see the doctor. The doctor will determine if they need to be vaccinated.

A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated should get 4 doses of rabies vaccine – 1 dose right away, and additional doses on the 3rd, 7th and 14th days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose.

A person who has been previously vaccinated should get 2 doses of vaccine – 1 dose right away and another dose on the 3rd day while Rabies Immune Globulin is not needed.


Tell Your Doctor if You

  • Ever had a serious (life threatening) allergic to a previous dose of rabies vaccine or to any component of the vaccine. Tell the doctor if you have any severe allergies.
  • Have a weakened immune system caused by HIV/AIDS or other disease that affects the immune system/ treatment with drugs that affects the immune system like steroids / cancer or cancer treatment with radiation or drugs.

If you had a minor illnesses such as cold, you can be vaccinated. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover before you are getting a routine (non exposure) dose of rabies vaccine. If you have been exposed to a rabies virus, you should get the vaccine regardless any other illnesses you may have.

The vaccination laws are in place to increase safety and health for both pet owners and the community. The vaccine is important to the health of humans as well as animals. Overall, the rabies vaccine supplies communities with significant health benefits.

On the other side, there are people who own pet such as dogs and cats who sometimes are reluctant to do the rabies vaccine for their pets (especially dogs) for fear that vaccination will carry health risks as a side effect. What they do not know is, medical procedures including vaccine do not carry several level of risk. The risk would be greater and bigger if pets are not vaccinated, they are more easy to get infected by rabies virus.

If you are worried of the potential side effect, you can talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your pet(s). Keep in mind that veterinarians try their best to protect your pets and will not give unnecessary risks to their health care. Vaccinations are given based on numbers of factors including life style and age of your pets beside the potential of various diseases, rabies is one of them.

Reaction after pets get vaccinated are rare, generally it is just only bit of pain and swelling on where the injection took place. Also sometimes, dogs have an allergic reaction to vaccination which will appear quite quickly after a shot is given.

Rabies can be found around the world except Antarctica so travelers who may come into contact with wild or domestic animals are at risk for rabies. This includes travelers spending a lot of time outdoors like campers and cavers, travelers with occupational risks such as veterinarians and wildlife professionals and long term travelers and expatriates.

Children are also at higher risk because they often play with animals, might not report bites and are more likely got bitten by the head or neck. While in many countries the risk of rabies is similar to the US including most of Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia, in other many part of the world rabies in dogs is still a problem and access to preventive treatment may be hard. If traveling to a country where there is an increased risk of rabies, especially in dogs, rabies vaccination may be recommended before your trip so you  can worry less if you might be caught in situation such an encounter with dogs or other wild animals.

The major factor is that we have to consider is the availability of medical care in the destination. Let’s imagine if you never have a pre exposure vaccine, and you got bitten by a dog. You have to find the medical service that are equipped with vaccine and immunoglobulin. Unfortunately, for a long time immunoglobulin is only available in major cities of Southeast Asia so in some cases people who got bitten may have interrupt their trip and fly to Bangkok or Singapore to get their treatment.

So why bother to get a pre exposure vaccines if  you have to get vaccines afterwards anyway?

Because if you had a pre exposure vaccine, then if you are bitten/scratched and got infected with rabies, your body instantly recognizes the virus and start fighting it. It helps you prevent and protect your body from the disease.