Content Reviewed by an Essentials PetCare Veterinarian

Rabies can be transmitted from pets to humans. Labrador with toddler in the care.

The Basics  

1. What: Rabies is a viral infection of the nervous system that may affect any mammal, humans included. The rabies virus is transmitted by saliva through the bite of an infected animal.  

2. Why: Rabies is a fatal disease.  There is no treatment to cure rabies in dogs or cats. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the illness.  

3. When: All dogs and cats are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies periodically, in intervals of 1 or 3 years depending on local ordinances. Puppies and kittens must be vaccinated too.  

4. How: The vaccine works by causing your pet’s body to produce antibodies against the virus. Vaccination is crucial to keeping your pet protected.  

5. EPC affordable price: Rabies vaccination for dogs and cats: $40, including a doctor’s exam. Check in now.  

What Is Rabies?  

Rabies is a viral infection of the nervous system that may affect any mammal, humans included. It is a fatal illness that causes irreversible inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.  

The rabies virus is transmitted by saliva through the bite of an infected animal. The virus can be in the body for weeks before symptoms develop. In dogs, the incubation period prior to symptoms varies from 21 to 80 days after exposure. By the time clinical signs are present, there is no treatment.    

In the United States, while most pets are vaccinated, rabies is widespread among wild animals, such as bats, foxes, coyotes, skunks, and raccoons. As population density grows and humans encroach further onto wild land, the exposure risk increases for both people and pets.  

Rabies Symptoms  

Most rabid animals show unexplained and progressive paralysis, along with varying behavioral changes, such as:  

  • Loss of appetite  
  • Skittish demeanor  
  • Irritability progressing to aggression  
  • Withdrawn and aloof attitude  
  • Unusual friendliness  

Rabid patients will usually fall under one of the two rabies categories: 1) furious rabies, commonly known as the mad-dog syndrome, which may actually afflict all species; 2) and the paralytic type, also called dumb rabies.  

Furious rabies or mad-dog syndrome.  The animal displaying furious rabies symptoms becomes vicious and aggressive, seeking to bite during every interaction. As the disease progresses, seizures occur and lack of muscle coordination sets in. Death is inevitably caused by progressive paralysis. The diagnosis of this type of rabies is rare, because it can be easily mistaken by a pet’s natural aggressive tendencies.  

Paralytic rabies or dumb rabies. The animal suffering with paralytic rabies will experience paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles, display a dropping jaw, and produce excess salivation. The inability to swallow leads to foaming at the mouth, an image commonly associated with rabies. A pet with dumb rabies is unable to bite.   

Previous outdated vaccination or some level of immunity passed down from the mother during gestation may retard the development of rabies symptoms. On the other hand, the gravity of the bites may accelerate the development of the illness, because more virus is transmitted through severe bites or multiple bites.   

Keep in mind that animals infected with the rabies virus transmit the virus before showing any symptoms of illness. Rabies is only diagnosed through laboratory tests. Infected animals must be euthanized and the remains sent for laboratory analysis.  

When Your Pet Needs Rabies Vaccination  

Rabies can be prevented through vaccination. Rabies vaccination is a core vaccine, which means it is recommended for all dogs and cats. It is also required by law in the U.S.  At Essentials PetCare, puppies and kittens receive rabies vaccines at 16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination is necessary one year following the initial vaccination.   

Local laws vary, but typically re-vaccination is required every 1 to 3 years. States normally regulate the age at which the rabies vaccine should be first administered to pets and the frequency of boosters. Ask your veterinarian about your state’s laws and make sure your pet follows the appropriate vaccination schedule.   

Even if your local laws only demand rabies vaccination every 3 years, it is important to bring your pet for an annual wellness visit. Cats and dogs often do not show early signs of disease, and regular checkups will allow you to keep your pet in optimum health. Prevention is the best medicine.  

Essential Tip: Choose an Essentials PetCare vaccination package to save with bundled services. See our affordable pricing and check in today!  

Even if your pet is vaccinated, beware of the dangers posed by contact with wildlife. It is important to supervise your pets when outdoors. Keep your dogs on a leash, cover outdoor garbage bins to avoid attracting animals searching for food, and call animal control if you see stray or wild animals in residential areas.  

How Rabies Vaccination Works   

When given before the virus enters the pet’s nervous system, rabies vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccine deploys an active immunizing agent to prevent the infection caused by the rabies virus. The vaccine works by causing your pet’s body to produce antibodies against the virus. Vaccination is crucial to keeping your pet protected.  

How Rabies Is Treated  

Unfortunately, there is no treatment to cure rabies in dogs or cats. Vaccination is the only effective way of protecting you and your pet against rabies, a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans. If your pet is infected, the veterinarian is required by law to notify the local health authorities and animal control agencies. If a previously vaccinated pet is exposed to rabies, the veterinarian will administer a vaccine booster to help your pet fight the rabies virus.  

What to Do After Contact with a Rabid Animal  

If your pet is bitten by another animal—domestic or wildlife—assume it is at risk for rabies infection. Wear gloves or wrap your pet in a towel to protect yourself.  You do not want any fluids in contact with your skin. Call a full-service veterinary hospital for an emergency appointment. A dog or cat who is up-to-date with vaccinations and was bitten by a possibly rabid animal should get a rabies vaccine booster immediately and be kept under observation for 45 days.  

Be mindful that without a current rabies vaccination, you may be required by law to quarantine or even euthanize your pet for biting someone or being bitten by a potentially rabid animal.   

Essential Tip: If your pet is not up-to-date with her vaccination,  visit your local Essentials PetCare clinic today. We offer affordable pricing and convenient hours.  

Contact local animal control if the animal who bit your pet is at large. They are equipped to safely capture the animal. If you are bitten and suspect the possibility of rabies infection, go see your doctor immediately. You may need a series of injections, even if you were already vaccinated. Just like in animals, rabies infection is one hundred percent fatal in humans if post-exposure vaccine treatment is not started before the onset of clinical signs.  


The visit to administer vaccinations at Essentials PetCare takes 15 minutes on average. Check in now. We are conveniently located inside Walmart. 

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