The rabies vaccine is an integral part of many pets' vaccination schedules. Yet, why is this? We've all heard about rabies. For many, the memory of the famous Saint Bernard foaming at the mouth from Stephen King's classic Cujo comes to mind. This vaccine is associated mainly with dogs. But, the rabies vaccine is essential for cats too.

Regardless of whether you keep your pet indoors or outdoors, the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs is a game-changer. In this post, we talk about the importance of getting your pets vaccinated against rabies.

Rabies vaccine in cats and dogs: Why is it important?

Rabies is a fatal disease that attacks an animal's central nervous system. The virus passes to other animals through the saliva of an infected animal. If a dog or cat with rabies bites you or another animal, immediate action is needed. Infected animals often have temperament changes, drooling, muscle spasms, and seizures.

Most pet parents associate this disease with wild animals. This isn't wrong. Most animals with rabies live in the wild, such as bats, foxes, skunks, and raccoons. However, that doesn't mean your pet isn't at risk. Why? Because things happen—our pets can come across wildlife in your backyard or while out for a walk. That's why the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs is so vital.

Once your pet gets vaccinated against rabies, they have a 100 percent survival rate if they come into contact with an infected animal. Additionally, if you plan on traveling with your pet abroad or to another state, the rabies vaccine is a required pet travel vaccine.

Rabies vaccination schedule

Unfortunately, the "one and done" rule doesn't apply to the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs. As a pet parent, you should keep their vaccinations up-to-date, including their rabies vaccine. Not sure how often this vaccine is needed? Let's look at the rabies vaccination schedule below.

  • Primary series in kittens and puppies: Kittens and puppies between the ages of eight weeks and twelve weeks should receive a single dose of the rabies vaccine.
  • Primary series in an adolescent cat or dog: If your pet is an adolescent (e.g., between twelve weeks and sixteen weeks), they need two doses of the vaccine.
  • Booster shot: The first booster shot of the rabies vaccine in cats and dogs is due approximately twelve months after the initial vaccination. Following this, you need to schedule annual rabies vaccines.

Each state has its own laws governing the rabies vaccination schedule. If you're unsure how often your cat or dog should get this vaccine, speak to your local vet. Has your pet's rabies vaccine lapsed? Get them vaccinated as soon as possible. If exposed during this time, your pet may need to be euthanized or kept in quarantine for up to six months.

Many pet wellness plans partner with vets that give pet parents a clear vaccination schedule to follow for all their pet's health care needs. This can help keep you organized.

Is this vaccine mandatory?

The rabies vaccine is mandatory in most states across the United States. Currently, Ohio and Hawaii are the only two states without a law requiring pets to be protected against this fatal disease. Twenty-four states have strict measures to ensure all cats and dogs of a certain age receive their rabies vaccine.

Many international countries also require your pet to be vaccinated against rabies before travel. When booking plane tickets, do your research. Check to see which vaccines your pet needs to enter another country. If your pet's vaccination schedule isn't up-to-date, your canine or feline friend might not be able to board. According to the CDC, these countries are where your pet is at most risk from the rabies virus.

Get protected against rabies with pet wellness plans

The rabies vaccine in cats and dogs can ultimately save their lives. The good news is Wagmo's routine pet wellness insurance helps you stay on top of vaccination costs—preventing your pet from missing out on vital vaccines. With our dog and cat wellness plans, you'll be reimbursed for routine vaccines and boosters (up to an annual limit).


Are you interested in learning more? Check out our FAQs or take our pet wellness quiz to find the right plan for you and your fur baby.