An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.
Vaccination of dogs, ferrets, and livestock can be started at no sooner than three months of age. Some cat vaccines can be given as early as two months of age. Regardless of the age of the animal at initial vaccination, a booster vaccination should be administered one year later.
Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets
All dogs, cats, and ferrets should be vaccinated and revaccinated against rabies according to product label directions. If a previously vaccinated animal is overdue for a booster, it should be revaccinated. Immediately following the booster, the animal is considered currently vaccinated and should be placed on a vaccination schedule according to the labeled duration of the vaccine used.
Consideration should be given to vaccinating livestock that are particularly valuable. Animals that have frequent contact with humans (e.g., in petting zoos, fairs, and other public exhibitions) and horses traveling interstate should be currently vaccinated against rabies.
No parenteral rabies vaccines are licensed for use in wild animals or hybrids (i.e., the offspring of wild animals crossbred to domestic animals). The AVMA has recommended that wild animals or hybrids should not be kept as pets (14--17).
Maintained in Exhibits and in Zoological Parks
Captive mammals that are not completely excluded from all contact with rabies vectors can become infected. Moreover, wild animals might be incubating rabies when initially captured; therefore, wild-caught animals susceptible to rabies should be quarantined for a minimum of 6 months. Employees who work with animals at exhibits and in zoological parks should receive preexposure rabies vaccination. The use of pre- or postexposure rabies vaccinations for handlers who work with animals at such facilities might reduce the need for euthanasia of captive animals that expose handlers. Carnivores and bats should be housed in a manner that precludes direct contact with the public (12).
Titers do not directly correlate with protection because other immunologic factors also play a role in preventing rabies, and the ability to measure and interpret those other factors are not well developed. Therefore, evidence of circulating rabies virus antibodies should not be used as a substitute for current vaccination in managing rabies exposures or determining the need for booster vaccinations in animals.
Before interstate movement (including commonwealths and territories), dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses should be currently vaccinated against rabies. Animals in transit should be accompanied by a valid NASPHV form 51 [PDF 13 KB] , Rabies Vaccination Certificate. When an interstate health certificate or certificate of veterinary inspection is required, it should contain the same rabies vaccination information as Form 51.
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