September 27th
Rabies Vaccination and Your Pet

As a small animal veterinarian, I have had thousands of discussions with clients about vaccinations over the past 18 years. During a routine healthy-pet visit, I would obtain a thorough medical history, perform a full physical examination and spend time discussing vaccinations, parasite prevention and nutrition.

Members of the public do not typically regard veterinarians and veterinary staff as public health professionals but a large part of our work is focused on protection of human health through the promotion of animal health. For example, providing client education about Rabies transmission, vaccination and legislation is standard practice in every veterinary clinic.

Rabies is zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted between animals – but only mammals –  and people. As Rabies is fatal once clinical signs appear, it is a disease where public safety concerns are paramount with mandatory reporting of suspected cases. Rabies response and prevention exists at all levels of government and is intended to protect animals and public health through vaccination, reporting and surveillance. Veterinarians are legally required to report animal bites and scratches to the local Medical Officer of Health so that the potential risk of rabies can be assessed.

Fortunately, vaccination requirements for pets are straightforward, with a first vaccine for puppies and kittens at three months of age and a booster within one year of the first vaccine. Rabies vaccines in dogs and cats must be kept up-to-date for their entire lives, and are updated on a one or three-year basis depending on which vaccine your veterinarian uses. Discussions about Rabies vaccination are important to have with your veterinarian starting at your pet’s first visit. It is a subject about which we remain enthusiastic, educated and vigilant.