Canine Rabies Vaccine Options Examined

Canine rabies is a virus that is deadly to dogs if contracted. While the Centers for Disease Control released information in 2007 indicating that canine rabies was all but wiped out in the United States, it is still necessary to immunize dogs against the disease. Even though canine rabies is under control, other animal populations are still being infected and can pass the disease to dogs who have not been immunized.

American Animal Hospital Association Recommendations

In 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommended that core vaccines be given every 3 years. These vaccines include rabies, canine parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus. Rabies vaccinations may have to be given every year, based upon local licensing regulations. The first rabies injection should be given between the ages of 3 to 6 months with a booster injection given at 1 year. Frequency thereafter is dependent upon local law.

Vaccine Options

As scientific research has continued, it was determined that the rabies vaccine could be effective as long as 3 years or beyond. The duration of effectiveness can be impacted by factors such as age, health condition and exposure to the virus so it is best to discuss vaccination frequency with a veterinarian, based upon the individual dog. Current options include:

  • Annual injections are given either subcutaneously between the shoulder blades for absorption into the system or intramuscularly in the dog's rear thigh.
  • Booster injections every 3 years are becoming more of a standard practice. Injections are given either subcutaneously or intramuscularly as in the annual injections.

Current Research on Rabies Vaccines

Oral rabies vaccine is currently being studied for effectiveness in wildlife populations of fox, skunks and raccoons. Field studies have been conducted since 1990 and as yet the oral vaccine has not been approved for use with household animals.

A Rabies Challenge Study is currently underway at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Medical School. Concurrent 5 year and 7 year studies are underway to determine the long-term duration of the rabies vaccine and to potentially change the vaccination recommendations.

Rabies Vaccination Concerns

In recent years dog owners have become concerned over the number of adverse reactions their pets have had to the rabies vaccine. Whether localized injection site swelling or swelling of the face, the various side effects cause concern. The veterinary community has responded by looking into long-term effectiveness of the rabies vaccine as well as other core vaccines and changing their recommendations for vaccination frequency. Local regulations have been slower to make these changes so the dog owner must vaccinate according to their local licensing requirements.

Continued preventative canine rabies vaccinations are a necessity in the control of this deadly virus. While the vaccination may cause a variety of side effects including swelling, nausea or skin disorders, it does put up a defense against rabies in dogs, for which there is no cure. To determine what is best for the individual dog, discuss the available immunization regimens with a veterinarian.