Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some commonly asked questions and answers concerning the recent change to Texas law concerning rabies vaccination intervals:
Q. I heard a rumor that my city can require dogs and cats in my area to be vaccinated against the rabies virus every year. Is this true?
A: Yes. Statutory law (Ch. 826, Health and Safety Code) empowers local jurisdictions to establish more stringent rabies vaccination intervals than those outlined in the amendments to the Rabies Control and Eradication state law. If your city or county requires animals to be vaccinated against rabies on an annual basis, area pet owners must comply with that requirement. Contact your city or county animal control agency for information on local rabies ordinances.
Q. Is Texas the only state with a 3-year rabies vaccination law?
A: Currently, 32 other states require vaccination in accordance with the 3-year rabies vaccination law.
Q. Since Texas is going from a one-year to a three-year rabies vaccination schedule, does that mean rabies is no longer a public health threat in our state?
A: No! Each year many cases of rabies occur in Texas wildlife and domestic animals. For example, in 2002 there were 1,049 cases of rabies in animals. A rabies vaccination is a lot like an "insurance policy" for your pet - you don't necessarily want it, but it comes in really handy when you need it. By protecting your pet against rabies, you are also protecting yourself and your family, as your pet will be less likely to bring rabies into your house.
Q. I have a 5-year old dog, and his last rabies shot was given about 14 months ago. I know I'm a little late for his yearly rabies shot, but can I wait a couple of years to get his next rabies shot?
A: If the vaccination given 14 months ago was your dog's FIRST rabies vaccination,
- he should be revaccinated immediately.
If the vaccination given 14 months ago was your dog's SECOND rabies vaccination, your dog should have his next rabies vaccination
- in 22 months if he was given a 3-year vaccine.
- Immediately if he was given a 1-year vaccine.
Your best course of action would be to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your dog's health status assessed. At that time, you can discuss your dog's vaccination status and any other health issues with your veterinarian.
Q. I have a 3-month old cat. Under the new rule, how many rabies shots will my cat need…and how often will we have to visit my veterinarian to get them?
A: Dogs and cats in Texas must be vaccinated by a veterinarian by the time the animal is four months of age, then given a booster 12 months after the initial vaccination. Thereafter, the animal must be vaccinated at intervals of no longer than 36 months if a 3-year vaccine is used. However, your veterinarian may prefer to use a 1-year vaccine. He/she can explain the pros and cons to you pertaining to which vaccine to use with your pet. Although not required by state law, there are many other diseases for which your pet should be immunized annually. To safeguard your pet's and your family's health, you should visit your veterinarian at least once a year.
Q. Are dogs and cats the only animals that need to be vaccinated against the rabies virus?
A: Although not required by law, livestock (especially those that have frequent contact with humans), domestic ferrets, and wolf-dog hybrids should also be vaccinated against rabies. As with cats and dogs, the frequency of vaccination boosters depends on whether a 1-year or 3-year vaccine is administered.
Q. I am scheduled to relocate to Texas from another state in the next few months. In order to comply with Texas regulations, what information do I need to prove my cats have been vaccinated against rabies?
A: Each dog and cat over three months of age to be transported into Texas for any purpose must be vaccinated against rabies. A vaccination certificate showing the date of vaccination, vaccine used, and signature of the veterinarian who administered the vaccine provides proof of compliance.
Q. I live in a rural area of Texas, where exposure to rabies from area wildlife is a constant possibility. I'm nervous about giving my dogs and my cat the rabies vaccine only once every three years. Will the 3-year vaccine provide the same protection from rabies?
A: An increased number of rabid wildlife has occurred in some parts of Texas as part of the normal cyclical nature of rabies incidence in wildlife. However, vaccinating your dogs and cat with the 3-year vaccine - at intervals no longer than every 36 months - will protect your pets from acquiring rabies from wildlife.
Q. Should we be worried about an increase in the number of rabid cats and dogs in our state as a result of changing the rabies vaccination interval to three years?
A: Over a period of 25 years, 32 states have migrated to a 3-year vaccination interval. Their experience has shown that a three-year interval is sufficient to prevent human rabies. Additionally, states which have changed to a three-year interval did not experience an increase in the number of rabid dogs and cats. No correlation exists between a state's required vaccination interval and its incidence of rabid dogs and cats.
Q. I'm accustomed to taking my cat to the veterinarian every year to get his rabies vaccination. Can I still do that?
A: Yes. Nothing prohibits your veterinarian from recommending annual rabies vaccinations or from using a one-year vaccine. Your veterinarian can evaluate your cat's risk of disease and other health-related problems, and advise you on rabies vaccination intervals.
Q. I've been unable to find the owner of a stray cat who wandered up to my home about two months ago. I've decided to keep him, but I don't know his vaccination status. What should I do?
A: Make an appointment with a licensed veterinarian who will evaluate your new cat's health status. Since vaccination status is unknown, the veterinarian will recommend giving your cat a rabies shot at the time of your appointment and a booster shot 12 months later. If a 3-year vaccine is administered, your cat will need a rabies shot every 3 years thereafter. Again, for various health-related reasons, your veterinarian may elect to use a 1-year vaccine. Your veterinarian can advise you about vaccinations needed to protect your new cat from other diseases as well.
Q. What should I do if a dog bites me, and I'm not sure if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies?
A: Treat the bite as if the animal were rabid and immediately cleanse the wound thoroughly by washing with soap and water. See your physician immediately after washing the wound. Your physician will decide on need for treatment to prevent rabies, proper wound care, and need for a tetanus booster. Report the incident to your local rabies control authority within 24 hours. Be prepared to describe the dog, such as size and color, plus provide the location where the bite incident occurred, and the owner's name and address if known. Your local rabies control authority (animal control or law enforcement) will investigate the potential exposure and ensure that the appropriate actions are initiated.