Pipistrelle BatWhether you envision a mad dog roaming the streets or a run-in with a wild animal, the word “rabies” strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. Despite great efforts to minimize the threat of pets and people coming into contact with this deadly disease, there is still some risk when it comes to rabies in pets.

But, what is rabies and how is it transmitted? Understanding this zoonotic virus and how it spreads between mammals is important to keeping you, your family, and your pet safe.

Rabies in Pets: A Primer

Rabies isn’t something many of us want to think about. There are some pretty horrific details associated with this disease, most of which have to do with the severity of the symptoms and its almost always fatal prognosis once the virus takes hold.

Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the central nervous system, including the brain. Rabies is transmitted between mammals, including cats and dogs, via saliva or other body fluid through an open wound, most commonly a bite.

Although people often associate the illness with the symptoms that develop, rabies can remain dormant for days, weeks, or sometimes months before a pet or animal shows any signs.

The initial stage of an infection includes this period of dormancy, followed by symptoms like aggression, salivation (“foaming”), disorientation, and seizure. Some pets will experience what is known as paralytic rabies, or “dumb” rabies,” which includes weakness, inability to swallow, and respiratory paralysis.

Unlike with people, there is no medication that can stymy the progression of rabies in a pet and, in most states, the infected pet must be quarantined to protect the safety of other animals and people.

Now, the Good News…

If all of that seems frightening, it is. Yet, there is good news for pet owners. Keeping your pet’s rabies vaccine current (we stress current because a lapse in protection can be dangerous), If you are unsure about your pet’s vaccine schedule, please call Animal Family Veterinary Care Center today.

Not only is the rabies vaccine effective in preventing the spread of this terrible illness, it is also required by law for cats and dogs (and we recommend having ferrets and horses inoculated, too).

While some pet owners are concerned about over-vaccinating a pet, we strongly encourage you to take rabies very seriously and keep your pet up-to-date on this life-saving vaccine.

Other ways to reduce your pet’s risk of exposure include:

  • Keep cats and ferrets indoors where they are better protected from diseases and predation
  • Supervise your dog at all times when outdoors
  • When in a natural area, keep your pet leashed and close to you
  • Discourage your dog from chasing wild animals by ensuring he knows basic commands and is trained to respond to you
  • Do not feed your pet outside, where wildlife will be attracted by the odors
  • Keep all trash cans in the garage until garbage day or invest in wildlife-proof bins
  • Report all suspicious animals or strays to animal control
  • Do not attempt to handle wildlife – get help from animal control or a wildlife removal business

To check on your pet’s vaccination needs or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.