How Often Should Dogs Get Rabies Shots?

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How Often Should Dogs Get Rabies ShotsDog owners have the responsibility of giving their adult dogs and puppy vaccines to prevent the spread of this highly contagious and viral disease. Rabies is a fatal disease and almost all dogs will die once the onset of symptoms begins. So you’re probably wondering, “How often should dogs get rabies shots”, and want to know more about the best way to keep your dog protected and safe. 

Read on below to find out more and to get the answers to your questions. 

What is Rabies? 

Rabies is a life-threatening disease that’s mostly transmitted through the bite of wild animals. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system in mammals, causing damage to the brain, and ultimately leading to death. This is the reason why it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as you are bitten — there are also no available tests to check a potentially infected animal. 

Moreover, there is currently no veterinary medicine in existence that can be used for treatment once symptoms appear. Even with humans, rabies can be a deadly virus; once it reaches the brain tissue, there’s no way to turn back the damage it can cause. Fortunately, this deadly virus is preventable through a vaccine made from the rabies virus itself; the vaccine can be given to you if you have been exposed. 

If you aren’t vaccinated against it, you could become infected if bitten by a potentially rabid animal. As such, it’s essential that you strictly follow your veterinarian’s medical advice when it comes to your puppy’s vaccination schedule for rabies, including non-core vaccines.   

How Often Should Dogs Get Rabies Shots?

Every state will have a different mandate for how often a dog’s rabies vaccines should be. But in most states, vets will give dogs their first rabies vaccine once they reach 4 months of age or 16 weeks of age. The next step will be to provide them with a booster shot 12 months later —  after this, a fully grown adult dog should get a rabies shot once every 1-3 years depending on your state’s law.    

Your vet will need to take note of your puppy’s next rabies vaccine schedule within an annual vaccination record book, as well as its other core vaccines. You can also visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website to find out more about the laws regarding rabies in your state. 

How Long Do Rabies Vaccines Last for Dogs?

There’s no simple answer to this question and will depend on both medical and legal aspects — the state law will also have varying vaccine schedules. Local regulations will also determine how long the vaccine or rabies shot will be good for as well as the time when your dog will need boosters. As such, your schedule for pet vaccinations will depend on your geographic location and the state laws there. 

You can also check the label on your rabies vaccine which should have dates listed to confirm if it’s a one-year vaccine or a three-year vaccine. There are also states that require pet owners to give their dogs annual vaccinations whether or not their vaccines have a validity period of 3 years. This is why it’s extremely important to follow and stay updated on your dog’s rabies vaccination appointment and schedule.  

Do Rabies Vaccines Last More than 3 Years for Dogs?

Apart from the validity of your dog’s initial vaccination and the state’s mandate, how long a dog’s vaccine lasts also depends on your dog’s immune system. There are around 5,000 rabies cases found in wild animals every year according to the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases. When adult dogs are given a 3-year vaccine, the animal can be protected for over 35 months after the first vaccination and may even reach 42 months. 

However, it’s still best to give your pup the rabies booster according to their schedule — without it, your dog may be considered unvaccinated legally.  

How Many Vaccines Can Dogs Get Over Their Lifetime?

It’s not so simple to answer this question since it will depend on various factors such as your dog’s lifespan as well as state laws. Most veterinarians will recommend giving dogs their first rabies shot at 16 weeks old. They will then suggest that dogs get revaccinated once every 1 to 3 years according to your state’s mandate.  

What Will Happen if Dogs Are Overdue for a Rabies Shot?

Again, this will have medical and legal implications. If your puppy is overdue for its rabies shots for more than a year or three years after its scheduled vaccination, and there are laws that require you to keep up with its current rabies vaccination, then it may be legally considered unvaccinated and may be a high risk. Medically speaking, however, your pet may still be protected by the last vaccination even if it was more than a year ago. 

Be sure to see a licensed veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that your puppy has been bitten by a wild animal. They will be able to conduct health assessments or a titer test to check whether your puppy is still protected from rabies and help lower their risk of exposure. According to dog experts, it’s best to give your dog a booster vaccination if it has received its initial vaccine which should be valid for a year. 


Below are just a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to the vaccination of dogs.  

When to Stop Vaccinating Dogs? 

According to experts, dogs will need both core and non-core vaccinations every year no matter the age of the animal. It’s also worth mentioning that there are canine diseases that are particularly harmful to older dogs — they will have a decreased immune response as they age. As such, non-core dog’s vaccinations for diseases such as canine influenza, kennel cough, leptospirosis, and Lyme disease may be necessary once every 6 to 12 months for dogs older than 7 years.   

What are the Four Core Vaccines?  

Apart from rabies, the other core vaccines needed by dogs include canine hepatitis, distemper, and parvovirus. 

Why Do I Need to Give My Dog Rabies Shots Every Year?

Rabies shots are the best prevention and can help your dog’s body create the necessary antibodies that will protect your pup from this deadly virus. However, antibodies decrease in time and their effectiveness will wear off, so your puppy will need booster vaccines every year or three according to local laws.  

How Much Are Rabies Vaccines? 

Depending on where you live, the cost of rabies vaccines may be between $15 to $20 for every dose. 


Luckily, almost every state will recognize the 3-year validity of rabies shots but there are still state municipalities that will ask that dogs be re-vaccinated through a booster every year. After your dog gets its first vaccine at 16 weeks old, stick to its routine vaccinations every year or three years. Make sure that your furry friends get the veterinary care they need and that you contact your local health department if you see signs of rabies.