Rabies can be a major issue for dogs; if medical attention isn’t sought immediately after a dog gets bitten by an animal carrying the disease, it ravages the immune system, often leading to death.
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The most common way to treat a rabies infection is with the tried and true rabies vaccine. Most pet owners are smart and get their dog(s) vaccinated before an infection ever occurs. Sadly, some pet owners don’t believe in vaccines, so their animals never get the inoculation, which leaves them vulnerable to the disease.
If you need more of a reason to get your dog vaccinated beforehand, then you've come to the right place. A new study published in the journal Vaccine now suggests that getting your dog vaccinated for rabies can provide longstanding health benefits.
Study lead author Dr. Darryn Knobel, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, believes that the rabies vaccine reduces the mortality rate of man’s best friend.
Related: A brief history of rabies
Statistics show that the vaccine slashes the chance of death from nearly every natural cause by as much as 56% in dogs aged 0-3 months old. Notably, this highlights how vaccinated dogs have a higher survival rate against more than just rabies infections, but other ailments as well.
Worthy of note, vaccinated dogs of all ages reportedly saw reduced mortality rates, but younger dogs seemed to benefit the most. Trends also showed that most dogs' mortality rates appear to normalize as they get older and the vaccination's effects wear off.
"This led us to propose that rabies vaccine may have a non-specific protective effect in dogs, perhaps through boosting the immune system to provide enhanced defense against other, unrelated diseases," Dr. Knobel said in a statement. "A similar phenomenon has been observed in children, although it remains to be substantiated through more definitive trials."
At this point, it’s not well-understood how or why the rabies vaccine reduces mortality rates in dogs. Nevertheless, it raises some eyebrows for animal scientists and pet owners alike.
Additional research to understand dogs’ fortified immunity toward seemingly all ailments after receiving the rabies vaccination will be necessary if scientists are to develop an explanation for this phenomenon.
For now, however, it seems like vaccinating your dog is still a wise choice, so you should probably listen to your pet's health professional when they recommend it to you.