When would I need rabies shots if I’ve been bitten by a dog?

Rabies is an infectious disease caused by a virus and is spread by bites and scratches from infected animals. If untreated, it is almost always fatal.

Factors That Determine Whether You Need Rabies Shots

There are a number of factors that determine whether you need treatment to prevent rabies. If the dog that bit you has been vaccinated, it is unlikely you will need any shots. But what happens if the dog has not been vaccinated or you are not sure if he had his shots? There are a number of factors to consider in deciding on your treatment:

  • Whether the dog appears healthy and is available for observation in a secure location, such as a veterinary clinic, for 10 days. If the dog can be observed, you can defer getting any shots. If the dog remains healthy during this 10-day period, you would not need treatment.
  • Whether the dog is suspected to have rabies. If this is the case and the dog cannot be observed for 10 days, you should seek medical care immediately and probably will need shots.
  • Whether the attack was provoked or not. Dogs with rabies are more likely to bite when unprovoked.
  • Whether you were bitten multiple times near or on the head. There is a greater chance of getting rabies in these situations.

While most people in California vaccinate their dogs against rabies, some do not. If there is any doubt about whether the dog has rabies, a person must start the rabies treatment, since rabies is fatal.

Rabies shots are given in four doses over a fourteen day period. There can be many complications, including redness and soreness in the area where the shot is given (in the arm for adults, in the thigh for children), headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, muscle aches, and dizziness. There is no guarantee that the shots will be 100 percent successful. Rabies shots are extremely expensive—between $2,000 and $7,000 per person.

If you or a family member was attacked by a dog, you may have a claim for compensation against the dog owner and his homeowner’s insurance company. Call us at (800) 989-6385 for a free consultation to learn about your legal options.

Peter Steinberg, Esq.
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982