Older rabies vaccines required painful, daily injections in the abdomen, for up to three weeks, and they could produce severe side effects. Current rabies vaccines are relatively painless and are given in your arm, like a flu or tetanus vaccine. Newer rabies vaccines in use today also cause fewer adverse reactions.
Possible side effects of the rabies vaccine can include:
- Low-grade fever
- Pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle aches
Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, sheep, and cattle. To be effective, these rabies vaccines must be injected before an animal is exposed to rabies. If exposed, the animal should get a booster shot.
One of the best ways to prevent rabies is to keep vaccinations for cats, dogs, and ferrets up to date. Depending on the type of rabies vaccine used, it should be given yearly or every three years. Even indoor pets should have rabies vaccinations. There was a case in which a woman found her unvaccinated, indoor cat with a bat in its mouth. The bat, which escaped, was assumed to have rabies, making for the tough decision of either euthanizing the cat or isolating it for six months.
Not only is it good preventative healthcare to vaccinate pets, but according to The Humane Society of the United States, it's the law -- most states require that dogs and cats receive the rabies vaccine. Some states also require rabies vaccinations for ferrets.
In a cooperative program involving the USDA, the CDC, and state governments, animals such as raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and skunks are being vaccinated orally in certain areas where rabid wildlife are frequently found. The oral rabies vaccine is hidden in a bait of fishmeal or other food. The baits are dropped by airplanes into rural areas and spread by hand in urban and suburban areas.