Ask a Vet Archive

When it comes to your pet's health, there's no such thing as a dumb question. Search questions real clients have submitted to our popular Ask a Vet Q&A series, and then submit a question of your own.

  • I recently adopted a dog from the shelter with an unknown vaccination history. I have an appointment to get her vaccinated for rabies on Thursday. I've read online that if a dog has an unknown vaccination history it can take six months for rabies to manifest. How do shelters know if the dogs they're adopting out to the public aren't infected? Should I be worried?

    Thanks for giving your new dog a second chance for a great home. You should go ahead and keep your appointment with your veterinarian. Ending up in a shelter with an unknown vaccine history is very common so your situation is not unique. If the shelter had any concerns about the health of your new dog, especially with regards to rabies, they would not have put her up for adoption.

    Rabies, although possible, is not common in pet dogs or cats and in order to be infected would have to have been bitten by an infected animal like a fox, raccoon, skunk, bat etc. (also uncommon). Unfortunately there is no specific test for rabies in a live animal so pre-screening pets with unknown vaccine status is not practical.

    You can discuss all of this information with your veterinarian who will be able to tell you whether there have been any concerns for rabies in your specific geographic area. You may also be able to go onto the website for your state and get information about any animals that have tested positive in your state. I hope this has been helpful and thanks for the great question. Have fun with your new dog.


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