Why Does My Dog or Cat Need a Rabies Vaccine?

Rabies causes terrible symptoms in animals and humans. Because we don’t have a treatment for this fatal disease, there’s no way to save cats’ and dogs’ lives if they become infected. But the good news is that it’s easy to prevent rabies with a simple vaccine.

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about rabies, why vaccines are so important, and when you should vaccinate your dog or cat. 

What is rabies, and how do dogs and cats get it?

Rabies is a viral disease that affects an animal’s central nervous system, ultimately causing death. It only affects mammals, including cats, dogs, and humans. 

The saliva of an infected animal contains the rabies virus. If that animal bites another animal, it can transmit the virus. Your cat or dog may also get rabies if they are bitten by an infected wild animal. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect information about both animal and human rabies cases each year. According to the CDC, in 2018, 63 dogs and 241 cats got rabies. Human rabies cases are rare, with just one to three cases reported annually.


Rabies is a frightening and fatal disease, but there’s a simple way to protect your pets: Get them vaccinated. A rabies vaccine is available for both cats and dogs. The vaccine can protect them from the virus if they’re ever bitten by a rabid animal. 

What happens if my dog or cat gets rabies?

If a rabid animal bites your dog or cat, the virus will travel through your pet’s nerves to the brain. In cats, this takes between 28 and 42 days. In dogs, this period lasts 21 to 80 days.

As the virus progresses, you may see common rabies symptoms, including:

  • Aggression
  • Fearfulness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Staggering or uneven gait
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

When should puppies get their first rabies shots?

6-8 weeks old1st Combination Vaccine
10-12 weeks old2nd Combination Vaccine
14-16 weeks old3rd Combination Vaccine
9-12 months laterCombination vaccine and Rabies
AnnuallyCombination vaccine
After the second Rabies vaccination, Rabies is administered every three years. By law all dogs in South Africa have to be vaccinated against Rabies.

When should kittens get their first rabies shots?

8 weeks old 1st Combination Vaccine
12 weeks old 2nd Combination Vaccine and Rabies
9 months later 3rd Combination Vaccine and Rabies
Annually Combination vaccine

After the second Rabies vaccination, Rabies is administered every three years. By law all cats in South Africa have to be vaccinated against Rabies.

The Bottom Line

Rabies is a frightening disease that’s transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. While there’s no cure for rabies, a rabies vaccine can help to protect cats and dogs. Even indoor cats need to be vaccinated since you never know when one could escape or be exposed to wildlife. When you vaccinate your pets for rabies, you’ll be protecting both them and the human members of your family. 


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