Ask the Vet: Does My Pet Need to be Vaccinated for Rabies?

| June 11, 2012

Dr. Lauren - Ask the Vet Dr. Lauren, a local veterinarian, answers your questions about pet health.

My 3-year-old male cat never goes outside. Does he still have to be vaccinated for Rabies?
Submitted by Tyler Nellis

Yes, Pennsylvania state law requires rabies vaccination and imposes a fine on people who don’t vaccinate their pets. It should be noted in particular that wildlife, bats especially, are able to gain access to indoor areas and potentially infect pets and people. Rabies is nearly untreatable once symptoms begin despite all the resources of modern medicine and it is important to take its threat seriously.

Despite vaccination being readily available, every year the U.S. reports hundreds of dog and cat deaths from rabies, not to mention several human deaths.
Unfortunately, rabies is still a problem in Pennsylvania. During 2011, 450 animals tested positive for rabies in the Commonwealth.

Together, Clarion and Venango counties reported six raccoons, three foxes and one bat with rabies in 2011. So far in 2012, there have been three raccoons and one skunk identified with rabies in these counties.

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

Any animal bitten or scratched by either a wild, carnivorous mammal or a bat that is not available for testing should be regarded as having been exposed to rabies. Avoid contact with any animal exhibiting signs of rabies and contact your veterinarian if your pet has been exposed.

Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, and dogs.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Have a question for Dr. Lauren? E-mail her at

Dr. Lauren, a native of Knox, PA, practices in a busy animal hospital in Butler, PA. She received her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University in 2005 and her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Dr. Lauren treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

DISCLAIMER: Neither Explore Your Town, Inc. nor Dr. Lauren Smith will be held responsible for the outcome of any advice given on this website, as a true diagnosis and/or treatment cannot be given without a thorough physical exam and lab test results. Your submissions to this column hold you responsible for the fate of your pets and relieve the above aforementioned parties of all and any liabilities.

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