A booster should do it! Updated rabies guidelines advise less dire protocols

A booster should do it! Updated rabies guidelines advise less dire protocols

Quarantine or euthanasia no longer called for in exposed animals with an out-of-date rabies vaccination status.
Feb 24, 2016
By dvm360.com staff

Now you can take much of the worry away when a pet with a not-quite-up-to-date vaccination status has been exposed to a rabid animal. (Getty Images)

Have a veterinary patient bitten by a rabid animal that isn’t quite up to date on its rabies vaccination? You may be able to hold off on the quarantine, or, worse, euthanasia. The Compendium of Animals Rabies Prevention and Control, 2016, appearing in the March 1, 2016, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, has updated the protocol for such animals to receiving a booster and then putting them under observation.

The change came about after a study conducted at the Kansas State Diagnostic Laboratory found that “dogs with out-of-date vaccination status were not inferior in their antibody response following booster rabies vaccination, compared with dogs with current vaccination status.”1

Other changes from the 2011 compendium—the last time the rabies recommendations were updated—are for dogs and cats that have never been vaccinated but exposed to rabies to be under quarantine only a period four months instead of six as previously advised.

What if you don’t know an animal’s rabies status? In an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) press release, Catherine M. Brown, DVM, MSc, MPH, co-chair of the compendium committee, says, “The most confusing category is dogs and cats that are overdue for a booster vaccination—so, they have received a rabies vaccination at some point, but there is no appropriate documentation. The simplest thing to do is go ahead and booster that animal—get them to veterinary medical care, give them a booster—and then place them in strict quarantine for four months. So, essentially, you’re treating them as an unvaccinated animal.” 


1. Moore MC, Davis RD, Kang Q, et al. Comparison of anamnestic responses to rabies vaccination in dogs and cats with current and out-of-date vaccination status. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2015;246(2):205-211.