Why are Rabies Vaccinations Important for Pet Travel?

Rabies vaccination for cat and dog

Rabies kills approximately 59,000 people every year and that’s why it is considered a major health concern worldwide. Of all the neglected tropical diseases, especially in under-developed countries, rabies ranks as one of the highest and it is a killer disease. 

While most rabies cases happen to mammals in the wild, bites from rabies-infected dogs are still the cause of most rabies death cases in humans. Other animals commonly held as pets that can contract rabies are cats and ferrets.

There is no cure for rabies once transmitted from an animal to a human, and, unless post-bite treatment is quickly administered, the death is slow and painful.

The good news is that rabies is 100% preventable through vaccination. Prevention is the keyword. Rabies vaccinations will not cure rabies; they will only protect your pets from getting rabies.

As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to vaccinate your pets to ensure that they remain healthy and don’t pose a risk to others, humans and animals alike. When traveling with a pet to foreign countries, your pet can be exposed to new environments where rabies may or may not be controlled.

Here are 3 important things you need to know about rabies vaccinations for your pet when even if they are not traveling.

  1. Not all countries have rabies vaccination programs; however, in some places, it is the law.

There are still countries that do not have a sufficiently developed animal control and vaccination program. However, those that do have experienced a lesser number of human cases of rabies. In the United States, rabies vaccination for pets is required by law in most but not all states. It is then important for you to find out what the laws are for your State. You can ask your veterinarian for this information.

When traveling abroad, especially to a country that is considered a high-rabies country, then a rabies vaccination before your pet travels is essential.

There are several types of vaccines with corresponding schedules that are recommended for pets. The rabies vaccine is a core dog vaccine and also a core cat vaccine. For dogs, there are 1-year and 3-year vaccines available. Both of them can be administered as a single dose as early as 3 months of age. However, the 1-year vaccine requires annual boosters while the 3-year vaccine requires a second dose after one year plus boosters every 3 years. Note that not all countries will accept the 3 year rabies vaccine unless it was administered within 12 months of entry.

Cats, on the other hand, can receive 2 doses at 12 months apart, and as early as 8 weeks of age depending on the vaccine. Boosters may be required annually or every 3 years depending on regulations. If your cat is traveling; however, most countries will not recognize vaccinations that were administered before 3 months of age.

It is also important to know that it takes approximately 21-30 days for rabies antibodies to build up in your pet’s blood after receiving a rabies vaccination. After this time, they are protected from contracting the disease from a rabid animal. That is why every country (except Canada) will require a wait time after vaccination before traveling.

  • Rabies vaccination may be required for traveling pets.

Airlines and countries vary in terms of rules and requirements for traveling pets. Usually, they are required to have proper identification, such as a permanent ID affixed to their leather collars. Depending on where your destination, your pets might also need traveling documents as well as a health certificate that details vaccinations taken, including rabies.

When your veterinarian administers a rabies vaccination, they will give you a signed rabies certificate. When your pet travels from the United States, the rabies certificate should be valid for the entire duration of your trip. They also require that you wait 28 days before traveling if your dog just had his first rabies vaccination. This is to allow for the vaccine to take effect. However, if you have an adult dog or cat with a current rabies vaccination, there is no 28-day waiting period after a booster is administered. 

Vaccination doesn’t guarantee your pet will never get the disease because an animal’s immune responses to vaccines are influenced by different factors. For some, the vaccine may only minimize the side effects of the disease. There are also non-responders, who no matter how many vaccines they receive, never respond at all. Still, this doesn’t render vaccination any less important. In fact, it actually helps protect not just your pet from this dreadful disease, but others as well.

Originally from the U.S., Rana Tarakji is the founder of One SEO, author of Off-site SEO guide: A Hands-On SEO Tutorial For Beginners & Dummies, and a web content specialist who now lives in Beirut, Lebanon. Rana’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including Life Hacker, Upwork, Christian Today, Newswire, and many other outlets.

She’s also a popular speaker in universities and startup events, such as Startup Turkey, and the American University of Beirut.


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