Signs of rabies infection include:
- Extreme lethargy
- Abnormal mental status
- Drooling (the muscles of the throat are paralyzed and the animal cannot swallow)
Once signs of rabies develop, there is no cure and the disease is fatal. There is no treatment for those animals in the final stages of the disease. If your pet is showing the signs of rabies, euthanasia and testing is recommended. If your pet is euthanized or dies for reasons not related to rabies and has bitten someone within 10 days before its death, testing is required by law. People exposed to rabies can receive injections to reduce the risk of rabies infection but these injections have not been extensively tested in animals. For information about human testing of advanced rabies, consult your family physician. Due to the serious risk of transmission to humans, animals that have been bitten by another animal with confirmed rabies should be euthanized. For these reasons, reducing the potential risk of rabies in our companion pets is very important.
It is so important that vaccinating your pet for rabies is required by law. The best way to prevent rabies exposure is to have your pet appropriately vaccinated. All states agree that the first rabies vaccine should be given when a pet is around 4-6 months of age. A booster injection 1 year later is necessary. After that, laws vary and some areas require annual rabies vaccination, whereas other areas allow vaccination every 3 years. The vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian. The purpose of the rabies vaccination is to help your pet fight off a rabies infection if it should be exposed to the virus. The vaccine is not a cure for rabies and pets vaccinated against rabies can still become infected with the virus. After initial vaccination, it takes about one month before peak levels of rabies antibodies are reached and the pet is considered immunized for rabies. If you adopt an adult dog or cat without an accurate vaccination history, initial rabies vaccine should be administered with a follow up vaccine one year later. After that, local laws regarding frequency of vaccination apply.
It is also important to reduce your pet’s risk of exposure to wildlife. This is done by keeping your cats indoor and your dogs confined or leash walked only. Allowing your pets to roam will only increase the risk of exposure to rabies. In the United States, rabies is most commonly found in skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and bats. Despite their bad rap, rabies in ferrets is quite uncommon. Recently in the United States, cats have become the number one domestic animal diagnosed with rabies. It is suspected this is due to more cats being kept as pets and allowed to roam their neighborhoods. Both indoor and outdoor cats are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. Every state and county requires every pet to be vaccinated for rabies. Even indoor cats could be at risk of getting out and being bitten by a rabid animal. An additional benefit is that IF your cat ever does bite someone, you and your cat will be in compliance with the law since your cat will have had all of the required rabies vaccines.
Rabies perpetuates because of the wild animal reservoirs. Foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and bats have high rates of rabies infections and exposure to these animals is the primary method rabies is spread to our pets and us. In people, the current US cases of rabies have been associated with bat exposure. Bats have tiny sharp teeth. You may have been bitten but do not know it and may not find any marks. Children and incapacitated people may be unable to tell if a bite occurred. Consult your physician immediately if: A. you were sleeping and woke to find a bat in your room, B. a bat is found in a room with an unattended child, mentally challenged individual or intoxicated person, or C. if the bat is not available for testing, many physicians will recommend rabies exposure treatment.
If a person is bitten by an unvaccinated dog or cat, euthanasia and testing is recommended. Another alternative is to isolate the animal for 6 months. If after 6 months no signs of rabies appear, the animal can be vaccinated and released from quarantine.
If a person is bitten by a vaccinated dog or cat, the animal is observed for 10 days. If signs of rabies develop, the animal should be euthanized and tested for rabies. The reason for the 10 day quarantine is that if the animal was shedding the virus when he/she bit the person, he/she would be dead from rabies within 10 days. If the animal appears normal after 10 days, then he/she was not shedding the virus at the time of the bite. It does not, however, mean the animal is free from rabies. The virus may not have reached the brain yet. (If this is the case, the animal was still not contagious when he/she bit the person). Contact your physician for human treatment guidelines and recommendations. Every animal bite should be reported to your local rabies or animal control center.
World Rabies Day Mission: The mission of World Rabies Day is to raise awareness about the impact of rabies in people and animals, how easy it is to prevent it, and how to eliminate the main global sources. Even though the major impact of rabies occurs in regions of the world where many needs are present, rabies should no longer be neglected. The tools and technology for human rabies prevention and dog rabies elimination are available.
World Rabies Day is Saturday, September 28, 2013
World Rabies Day events have educated 150 million people and vaccinated 4.6 million animals worldwide!
Rabies in humans is 100% preventable through prompt appropriate medical care. Yet, more than 55,000 people, mostly in Africa and Asia, die from rabies every year - a rate of one person every ten minutes. The most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies. They are more likely to be bitten by dogs, and are also more likely to be severely exposed through multiple bites in high-risk sites on the body. Severe exposures make it more difficult to prevent rabies unless access to good medical care is immediately available. This major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating those at risk, and enhancing access of those bitten to appropriate medical care.
We here at Hope Animal Medical Center want to keep you and your pet protected. Please call us if you are in need of updating your pet’s rabies vaccination status. We offer 1 year rabies vaccinations as well as 3 year rabies vaccinations (if previous vaccination has been sufficient).