Vaccinations still need to be administered in accordance with state laws and veterinary guidelines. Preventive medicine is the best thing you can do to ensure your furry friend stays happy and healthy, and proper vaccinations are a crucial part of that.

Because rabies is such a serious and lethal disease, and vaccination is the only way to keep you and your pet safe, most countries have laws and regulations regarding rabies vaccinations for dogs, cats and other small mammals. Without a current rabies vaccine, your pet may have to be quarantined or even euthanised for biting someone or being bitten by a potentially rabid animal.

While there are tests to determine whether an animal is carrying the rabies virus, they cannot be performed on a live animal, as brain matter samples are taken for this purpose.

With such serious health risks and lack of testing, it makes sense that you would want to protect your pet and your family from this deadly disease through a simple vaccination.

How do vaccines work?

First, let’s look at how the immune system works in pets. When a foreign disease agent, such as a virus or bacteria, enters your pet’s body, its immune system develops antibodies to fight the disease. Once the body has created those antibodies, your pet is unlikely to be infected with the exact same strain of disease again, because the body will recognise it and destroy it immediately.

Some diseases are so devastating, especially in young animals, that vaccines are a crucial part of protection. A vaccine consists of small particles of a virus or bacteria that have been altered so that they do not cause active disease, but the antigen remains intact to stimulate the immune system. Once administered, the body will generate an immune response against the bacteria or virus by creating antibodies. If your pet is exposed to a disease against which it is vaccinated, its antibodies will go into action to protect it.

How often does my pet need to be vaccinated?

While some rabies vaccines are valid for one year, others are administered and labelled to last for three years, but some countries require annual vaccination regardless of the label. Your vet will know your country’s laws and will keep your pet on the current vaccination schedule. In Spain, the rabies vaccination schedule is annual, following WHO recommendations.

Whether where you live you must vaccinate every 3 years or every year, it is important to schedule annual check-up visits for your furry friend. Regular health exams are the most important preventive measure you can provide for your pet, and vaccinations are just one component of a wellness visit. Since pets don’t always show signs of early disease, annual or semi-annual exams are vital to keeping your pet in optimal health, regardless of how often vaccinations are administered.

Can the rabies vaccine cause side effects in my pet?

All vaccines can create side effects in your pet, so monitor your pet after each vaccination appointment for the following signs of a reaction to the vaccine:

  • Mild discomfort or swelling at the vaccination site.
  • A slight fever.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Decreased activity.

These signs are mild and relatively common, appearing a few hours after vaccination and resolving within a day or two.
However, if you notice the following signs, a more serious reaction is occurring and you should return to your veterinarian:

  • Vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the muzzle or around the face, neck or eyes.
  • Severe coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Collapse.

Severe reactions can occur within minutes of vaccination, but can also take several hours to appear. These more severe reactions often require emergency treatment. While reactions to vaccines can be alarming, seeing your pet succumb to rabies is a much worse scenario.

What does the rabies vaccine protect my pet from?

Keeping your pet up to date with rabies vaccination ensures that it should be protected against the disease if it is bitten by a rabies-carrying animal. Depending on the laws of your country, your pet may have to be quarantined for a period after a bite for safety reasons, even without developing the disease, due to the strong antibodies through vaccination.

Vaccination requirements for each type of pet and geographic location are different. Talk to your vet about the best rabies vaccination protocol for your specific pet, location and lifestyle. If you are in Barcelona, make an appointment with us, at Hospital Veterinari Glòries we will be happy to keep your pet’s health up to date.