How important are rabies shots for puppies?

It looks llike we’ll be getting a puppy again and this brings up a question left over from the last time: How important is it to give rabies shots to pupppies? And if we do give them, how important is it to keep the dog away from other dogs till s/he is 12 weeks old?

For no good reason I’m inclined to think the whole thing is just a scam. Actually, I do have three reasons, none of them great.

  1. Even if there were no such thing as rabies, the veterinarians would invent something like it that would insure that every new dog owner becomes a customer.

  2. Whenever I’ve asked a vet what the risk of rabies is for dogs who don’t get the vaccinations, they’ve failed to give me a straiaght answer.

  3. I’ve never heard of a dog dying of rabies.

So since those aren’t the geratest reasons to form the basis for a decision, I’m throwing the question out to SDMB.

Dogs don’t die of rabies–people do. I mean, of course dogs do occasionally die of rabies, but basically nobody cares. But people do care when somebody gets bit by an unvaccinated rabid dog–or skunk, or raccoon, or fox, or cat–and dies.

There is currently no cure for rabies in people. If you get bit by a rabid animal, and if you don’t figure out in time that you might have rabies and get yourself to a hospital and begin getting yourself the series of [fairly painful] rabies vaccinations that will save your life–you die. Plain and simple. 30,000 people die of rabies every year in India. Also, there are no tests to tell if you might be incubating rabies. They don’t know you have the disease until you actually come down with it, and then it’s too late for treatment. If you’re ever bitten by an animal that you merely suspect might have been rabid, you are advised to go in for the shots.

Which is why most cities/counties/states require rabies shots for dogs (and cats, and in some places, ferrets) owned by law-abiding dog-owners. And cat-owners, and ferret-owners.

Which is why if Animal Control picks up your stray puppy, and finds no rabies vaccination record on him, and you succeed in locating him at the pound, they almost certainly will not allow you to take him home until you have paid to have him vaccinated.

Bottom line: It’s not a scam. It’s just common sense, to aid in protecting the human community against a dangerous, incurable, fatal disease.

And it’s (usually) the law.

Where do you live?

Check with your veterinarian. Shots aren’t given to pups under a certain age. As the previous poster said, to license the dog in most places you must have rabies shots and pups under some specified age need not be licensed.

I’d make a parody thread about someone thinking that vaccination for his kids was a scam, if there weren’t people who actually think like that…

Here is a really good reason to get the shots.
Your dog bites a neighborhood kid. Animal control finds out your dog does not have rabies shot. This gets back to parents. You get sued. You will lose, since you are not following the law.
Rabies shots for pup $50 (full course plus the others)
Lawyer’s fees, judgement, court costs $20,000.
You do the math.

Rabies is, quite simply, the most fatal infectious disease known to science. The fatality rate in untreated infected people is 100%. There is no well documented case of someone surviving rabies without treatment. It’s also quite common among wild mammals. If your dog gets in a tangle with an infected racoon, he can easily get it himself and pass it along to you.

Incidentally, the modern vaccine doesn’t include the horribly painful series of shots that it once did, but it’s still not fun.

My, aren’t we cynical! :wink:

As to your question “How important is it to give rabies shots to pupppies? And if we do give them, how important is it to keep the dog away from other dogs till s/he is 12 weeks old?” :

Hopefully a vet will come along to give some actual scientific basis to what I am about to say, but my understanding is that the young puppy is protected against disease by the vaccinations it’s mother has. The proteins or antibodies or whatever (you can tell how scientifically inclined I am) is passed on to the puppy from its mother via the milk the nursing puppy drinks.

Due to it’s changing metabolism (or whatever… see disclaimer above) vaccines given before a certain stage in the puppy’s development are useless and irrelevent.

Here is one hospital’s vaccination protocals (that are based on the latest and most accepted scientific protocals) :

Our Hospital’s Vaccination Policies

Note that the first Rabies shots are at age 16 weeks, whereas other vaccines are started at age 4 weeks or at age 6 - 8 weeks.

Unfortunately there are plenty out there who think their kids are above vaccinations. There are some “long gone” diseases coming back thanks to those who believe there children are too precious to vacinate.

I had this discussion with my vets when I was concerned about vaccinating my indoor only cats. I found that rabies is required by law in my area. My cats never go outside, but they still need their rabies shots. Most rabies shots given are good for three years.

If your puppy does happen to bite someone and you have no proof of vaccination, your dog could be quarantined, or worse - killed so it’s head could be examined.

I don’t think that he’d have to be kept away from other dogs after getting the shots, I don’t get that part of your question.

Like other posters have said, rabies shots will do more than protect your puppy from rabies. It will protect your puppy from a long quarantine (at best) or being euthanized and tested for rabies (at worst) should your energetic pup happen to teethe on someone who gets paranoid and screams they’ve been bitten - or from either of those should your puppy be bitten by some other animal or someone else’s unvaccinated pet.

My husband is a letter carrier for the US Postal Service. Several years ago, he was attacked by a dog who burst through a screen door of a house he was delivering; the dog tore up his legs with its claws, and got saliva all over the wounds, though he says the dog didn’t actually puncture with his teeth. He was taken to the hospital and given the rabies treatment vaccinations, as they didn’t know the dog’s vaccination status. It turns out the dog had not been vaccinated, and in fact did test as rabid.

Your dog should also be vaccinated for canine distemper. Unlike rabies, this disease can be passed via casual contact - so casual that you could walk across grass where a carrier had been, pick it up on your shoes, and infect your puppy back home. The disease is incurable and can be fatal; it also can infect ferrets, so owners of both of these pet types need to be sure to get their pets vaccinated. (This is different from feline distemper; neither dogs nor ferrets are affected by that.)

It’s very rare for anyone to die of rabies in the US, and very rare for dogs and cats to die of rabies.

Because the US has an excellent prophylactic program.

This is a classic Kantian moral dilemma. If you don’t vaccinate your puppy, you’re not appreciably increasing everyone’s risk. If everyone decides not to vaccinate their puppy, we could expect rabies rates in the US to skyrocket.


Excellent and extremely useful posts so far. I can’t say how much I appreciate this board…Without it, it would take a heck of a lot of effort to accumulate the same amount of info.

In re-reading the OP I hope I didn’t imply that vets are any less ethical than any other group. Never felt that way at all.