What is rabies?

Rabies is a disease affecting all mammals, including man, caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system, including the brain. Symptoms may include unexplained aggression, impaired locomotion, varying degrees of paralysis, and extreme depression or viciousness. After the onset of symptoms, terminal paralysis and death are imminent.

Does Massachusetts law require that my dog or cat be vaccinated for rabies?

Yes.  Massachusetts law requires that dogs, cats and ferrets must be vaccinated for rabies.

When should my puppy or kitten get its first rabies shot?

Massachusetts law requires that vaccinations must be administered by the time the animal is six months old. The second vaccination should be given one year after the initial vaccination.

Are booster shots necessary for rabies, and if they are, how often should my dog or cat receive a booster shot?

Booster shots are necessary for rabies vaccines.  There are different vaccines available that are licensed for use in dogs and cats.  Some vaccines are approved for a period of one year and others for three years.  Your veterinarian can provide you with a vaccination schedule for the particular vaccine that was used for your animal.

I bought an older dog or cat, but was not given a certificate of vaccination for rabies, what should I do?

Take the animal to a veterinarian within 30 days of acquisition to have it vaccinated.

I was bitten by a dog or cat. What should I do?

Be sure to properly clean the wound and seek medical advice.  Contact the Municipal Animal Inspector through the city or town and give the Inspector as much information as possible (e.g. owner information, where the incident happened, description of animal…).  The Animal Inspector will begin the process of locating the animal to observe it to determine if it might be infected with the rabies virus.

I was scratched by a cat. Can rabies be spread from just a scratch?

Yes.  The steps taken for a scratch would be the same as those above for a bite wound.