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Many people wonder whether they need to vaccinate their pets against infectious diseases. While rabies is very rare in North America, precautions should be taken with your pets to protect them against catching this deadly disease.
Every year in North America, the Centers for Disease Control monitors the prevalence of rabies. Thousands of wild animals test positive every year and, despite mandatory vaccines for pets, hundreds of cats, dogs, horses, and other domestic animals contract rabies. While it is great that the rabies cases in people and domestic animals is on the decline, proper precautions need to be taken in order to ensure ongoing safety from the potentially deadly disease.
There are several variant strains of rabies in North America, including strains found in skunks, raccoons, foxes, and bats. Although different rabies variants prefer certain hosts, they are capable of infecting almost any mammal, including people. It is important for people and pets to be properly vaccinated to prevent any chance of contracting a rabies strain.
Laws can vary slightly, but all states require dogs to be vaccinated against rabies. For most pets, the initial vaccine after 12 weeks of age starts the series of shots. Depending on a few different factors, your pet might be then vaccinated with a three year or one year vaccine. There is an ongoing study that is attempting to determine how long the vaccines actually provide immunity for pets.
You should follow recommendation from your veterinarian when it comes to rabies vaccinations. You also can’t assume that because your pet is “indoor-only” that it could never contract rabies. Bats are the largest carrier of the disease in North America and can find their way into homes easily. You should also contact an animal control officer or wildlife expert if you see a wild animal acting strangely. Never attempt to capture a wild animal on your own.