Protecting Our Pets: Ocala Rabies Vaccines and Core Vaccines

Cat next to a hand holding a vaccine syringe.
Author: Natalie Kienzle
Posted: October 18, 2023
Modified: October 18, 2023

Rabies and core vaccines are vital for pet health. At VOCAL, we know this because we see first-hand the sad consequences that can result from their lack. Without these guards against diseases, some ailments can even be deadly. VOCAL’s efforts, in collaboration with the community, can help. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stresses the importance of rabies and core vaccines for dogs and cats. These vaccines help prevent diseases like rabies in both, along with species specific illnesses. All unvaccinated pets are at risk, so for public safety and pet health, these vaccinations are essential.

VOCAL wants our community to understand why these vaccines are so important. We are also working hard to provide pet parents with affordable solutions. 

Why are Ocala Rabies Vaccines Crucial for Cats and Dogs?

In Ocala and throughout Marion County, the well-being of our pets takes center stage. Our pets aren’t just animals; they’re like family to us. And just as with any loved one, their well-being is super important. One of the cornerstones of pet health is the rabies vaccine. But why is it so critical?

Why is Rabies Vaccination Non-Negotiable for Pet Rescues?

In most places, including Ocala, rabies vaccinations for pets aren’t just recommended—they’re mandated by law. This ensures a safe environment for both humans and animals.

The mandate for rabies vaccines in Ocala is for dogs and cats. It’s not just local authority, either. In the state of Florida, under Section 823.30 of the Florida Statues, a current rabies vaccine is a requirement for every dog, cat, and ferret over four months of age.

This is the same statute that addresses animal cruelty. In other words – not having a pet vaccinated can be seen as a form of animal neglect.    

For VOCAL to continue being a qualified animal clinic and pet recuse organization, we must follow these laws to the letter. We also want to follow rabies laws because we know it’s in the best interest of your pet.  

Rabies vaccines also serve two other important roles:

  • Preventing spread from wildlife populations
  • Protecting rescue volunteers, clinic staff, and potential adopters

Rabies isn’t exclusive to our household pets. In fact, wildlife like raccoons and rats are often responsible for transmitting this deadly disease. By vaccinating our pets, we halt the spread and protect both our domestic and wild animal friends.

People are the other factor here. Rabies is just as deadly to humans as it is to animals. Our volunteers and clinic staff are on board to help your pets, but they need to be safe themselves. Proof of a rabies vaccine means peace of mind for those working with animals. 

Ocala rabies vaccines for dog on an exam table

What is Rabies, and How Does it Affect Our Pets?

Most people have at least heard of rabies, but what is it exactly? Rabies is a viral disease that primarily affects the nervous system. Infection leads to a string of severe symptoms and often irreversible damage.

There are three main symptoms, seen progressively in dogs and cats that have become infected:

  1. Confusion: Pets may seem disoriented or out of sorts.
  2. Aggression: They may show unexpected aggressive behavior.
  3. Paralysis: Over time, the disease can lead to partial or complete paralysis.

Most people don’t begin noticing the symptoms until the aggression that rabies is infamous for becomes obvious. This is the stage that most often result in bites to people, mostly by dogs. In fact, according to records from the World Health Organization, 99% of rabies cases in humans result from domestic dog bites. 

How is your pet likely to get rabies? It’s typically transmitted via bites from infected animals. The disease is transferred from the saliva and into the open wound caused by a bite. 

Marion County, and therefore Ocala, is home to many forms of wildlife that are high risk for the disease:

  • Raccoons
  • Bats
  • Skunks
  • Foxes
  • Squirrels

Contrary to popular opinion, no animal carries rabies naturally. So why the belief? This can be mostly attributed to the wildly varying incubation period. Symptoms can start within a few days or take months. In some studies, doctors have seen an animal go a year or more before displaying symptoms. However, the infected animal will ultimately get sick and die.  

During this incubation period, where no symptoms are displayed, the disease can still be transmitted, which leads to the belief of natural carriers. The safest and best thing for everyone is to ensure your pet is vaccinated. 

The rapid progression of the disease once symptoms show is alarming. It means the disease has advanced to a point where treatment is impossible, and the only humane option left is euthanasia.

What Happens if Your Unvaccinated Pet Bites Someone?

Any dog or cat can have a bad moment or react badly to an unexpected situation. In many cases, biting is a defensive action. When a pet bite occurs, it’s a stressful situation for everyone involved—especially in Florida, where specific laws and protocols come into play.

If your pet bites someone and has no rabies vaccine on record, the following can happen:

  • Immediate Quarantine: The duration can typically be up to 10 days. While in quarantine, the animal is observed for symptoms and/or tested for the disease.
  • Possible Euthanasia: In situations where the risk of rabies transmission is deemed high, and the animal shows signs of the disease, the pet will be euthanized. The remains are then submitted for testing at the owner’s expense. 
  • Liability for Medical Expenses: Pet owners can be held responsible for covering medical expenses of the bite victim. This can range from immediate medical attention to any treatments related to potential rabies exposure.
  • Potential Legal Consequences: Florida’s dog bite statute (Florida Statute § 767.04) states that a dog owner is liable for damages if their dog bites someone, regardless of the dog’s previous behavior. When it’s an unvaccinated pet, the legal and financial implications could be even more severe. 

It’s crucial for pet owners to understand the gravity of these consequences. Ensuring pets are vaccinated, especially against rabies, doesn’t just protect them—it safeguards the community and can prevent a host of complications if an unfortunate incident like a bite occurs.

More Than Rabies: Pets Need Core Vaccines

Beyond rabies, there’s a broader range of diseases that can harm our pets. Here is where core vaccines come into play, offering a protective shield against many common sicknesses that affect dogs and cats.

Kitten receiving an injectable vaccine.

What are Core Vaccines, and Why Do Pets Need Them?

Core vaccines are those vaccinations that are universally recommended for all pets, no matter their lifestyle or location. Some vaccines vary by species. There are illnesses which affect dogs but not cats, and the reverse is also true. 

The two core vaccines for dogs include: 

  1. DHPP: This protects against Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus. 
  2. Bordetella: This protects against an upper respiratory infection, commonly referred to as kennel cough, that can impact dogs and cats. 

There is only one core vaccine widely recommended for all cats:

  1. FVRCP: Protects against Feline Viral Rhinotrachitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia. 

Some animal hospitals will also stock a Bordetella vaccine geared towards cats. However, kennel cough among cats is rare, and VOCAL does not count it among the core vaccines we provide.

If you happen to take your cat to boarding facilities or are worried about them interacting with a feral cat colony, a private veterinary service may be able to provide such a vaccine. 

These vaccines protect your animals from viruses that have the potential to be deadly. Remember, treatment is always going to end up being more expensive and risky than vaccinating. 

Whether your pet is only ever indoors or leads a more active outdoor life, core vaccines should not be overlooked. 

How do Core Vaccines Contribute to a Healthier Pet Community?

At the end of the day, wide-spread vaccination of all pets means a healthier community for them and the people who love them. 

Healthier pet communities are ones where wide-spread vaccinations have:

  • Reduced disease spread in public areas like beaches and dog parks
  • Enhanced adoption chances due to fewer health risks
  • Helped people lower vet costs by preventing the need for expensive treatments

We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. Prevention of a disease is always going to be cheaper than treating the disease. With many families struggling because of rising costs, getting hit with high vet bill because of a pet’s sickness leads to a number of sad outcomes. 

Sick pets, even those with treatable issues, are more likely to be euthanized or abandoned. Not only is this emotional for the families, but it leads to increased struggles within the community as a whole. 

Two veterinary staff have a puppy and kitten on an exam table.

Collaborating as a Community: VOCAL is Leading the Way

VOCAL stands at the forefront of pet welfare in Ocala. Our dedication? Ensuring every pet gets the love, care, and vaccines they deserve. We offer low-cost vaccine drive-thru clinics to give every family the opportunity to protect their furred family members. 

Our Commitment to Solving the Homeless Pet Problem

Vaccines lead to healthy pets. It’s one of the many aspects of responsible pet ownership that VOCAL is working hard to educate the community on. 

To help everyone in our community have a chance to keep their pets vaccinated and healthy, we offer monthly low-cost drive-thru clinic services. Pets can receive their core vaccines, a standard medical exam, and more. 

Aside from the rabies and core vaccines we’ve already mentioned, pets can also get:

  • Heartworm tests
  • Nail trims
  • Microchip identification

The clinic offers two different rabies vaccines certifications, a one-year and a three-year. To qualify for a three-year certificate, you must be able to provide proof that your pet has been vaccinated before.  

VOCAL also has a network of pet foster parents and works with local shelters to help with pet adoptions. Every pet available for adoption has received their rabies and core vaccines. They will have also undergone a standard spay or neuter procedure. 

How Can You Partner with VOCAL in This Endeavor?

Our ultimate mission is to solve the homeless pet problem and ensure families in the community have a resource available that makes taking care of their pets easier. 

At VOCAL, we’re helping provide services that make this possible, and we encourage the community to participate. If you have pets that need vaccinations, we invite you to sign up for one of our monthly drive-thru vaccine clinics.   

Get started by following these steps: 

  1. Check our site for the next available vaccine clinic. We typically have dates posted two to three months in advance. 
  2. Pre-register your pet online to choose a time slot that best fits your schedule. Arriving as close to your chosen time allows the clinic to avoid bottlenecks and long wait times. 
  3. Provide your information as well as that of your pet, including proof of previous rabies vaccines or others. 
  4. Choose which vaccines and additional services you would like to receive that day. You may also elect to purchase flea and heartworm prevention medication. 
  5. On the day selected, you’ll drive to the clinic and be checked in from your car. Your pet will be taken inside for the requested services. 

Most services can be taken care of within 10 to 20 minutes and then you’re on your way. For pet parents of new puppies and kittens, it’s important to schedule for booster vaccines as well. Rabies is a single shot, but other vaccines, like the DHPP for dogs and the FVRCP for cats, need a secondary booster shot.

It’s all about the ripple effect: each pet able to stay with their family, and each homeless dog or cat that finds a forever home. A vaccinated pet community is a thriving one. Together, we can make a positive difference.

Every pet deserves a shot at a healthy life. And that often starts with a shot—in the form of a vaccine. Together, as the vibrant community of Ocala, help VOCAL as we strive to protect our pets and pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vaccines in Pet Rescues

Let’s clear up some other common questions you might have.

  1. Is it safe to adopt a pet that’s recently been vaccinated?
    • Absolutely! When a pet is vaccinated shortly before adoption, it simply means they’ve been given a health boost. After vaccination, some pets might feel a bit tired or show minor symptoms, but only for a short time. Adopting a recently vaccinated pet also reflects the responsible care they’ve received from the rescue or shelter.
  2. How often do pets need to receive rabies and core vaccines?
    • Typically, puppies and kittens receive a series of core vaccines starting at 6-8 weeks old and then every 3-4 weeks until they’re around 16 weeks old. Rabies vaccines are usually first given at 12-16 weeks of age. For adult pets, boosters might be needed yearly or every three years. 
  3. My pet is mostly indoors. Do they still need these vaccines?
    • Yes, even indoor pets should be vaccinated. Risks are less for indoor pets, it’s still present. For example, rabid bats can enter homes, and indoor cats can still be exposed. Additionally, dogs might need to be boarded, visit dog parks, or encounter other dogs on walks, all situations where exposure to diseases can occur.
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