Rabies is a viral disease, passed from mammal to mammal. The aggressive manner in which it disables the body and brain, before killing its victim, makes rabies a horrific disease. The only way to keep cases low is through awareness and consistent and widespread vaccination.
Mammals contract rabies from open wounds (bites, scratches) and mucus membranes exposed to an infected animal’s saliva. Rabies is only transmitted through saliva or brain matter. After transmission, the disease rips through an infected mammal’s central nervous system and destroys its brain.
Without the use of vaccines, rabies could easily be rampant in wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. For this reason, most states have laws requiring rabies vaccination for domestic pets. Specifics about frequency, authorized administrators, and exemptions vary by state and sometimes county. Go hereto find your state’s regulations.
For areas of the world in which vaccinations are the norm, human and domestic animal cases of rabies are rare. The majority (90%) of rabies-diseased animals in the United States are wild. The most common wildlife that carries and transmits rabies includes raccoons, foxes, coyotes, skunks, bats.
Some people have fears about vaccinating their pets or think it unnecessary for mostly-indoor pets. However, protection is necessary, legally required, and accidents can happen that expose indoor pets to the disease.
Visitors leave doors ajar. Holes appear in window screens. Dogs and cats get spooked, excited, or curious and run out faster than we can stop them. Outdoor animals, including wildlife commonly find their ways into homes. Stray cats and dogs, bats, and even raccoons can come through doors, windows, and chimneys.
When a rabid animal bites a vaccinated animal, the vaccinated animal will require a rabies booster and careful monitoring. Unvaccinated pets are usually euthanized but are sometimes held in quarantine for several months.
Contrary to common belief, infected animals are not always aggressive. They can also be calm. If an animal has bitten your pet, do not wait for symptoms to appear before contacting your veterinarian. That said, common symptoms of rabies in animals could include:
- Disorientation/lack of coordination
- Excessive drooling
- Drooping jaw
- Unusual aggression or shyness
Vaccinating is the best, but not the only, way to protect pets from the rabies disease. Keep pets on leashes and do not let them roam free. Make your home and property as least inviting to wild animals as possible. Keep trash and pet food tightly sealed. Never feed wild animals. Do not let your pets near dead animals.
We love our pets and want the best for their health and safety. Part of that is protecting them with a rabies vaccination. Life is unpredictable, and this vaccination eliminates one risk. It makes sense and the law often requires it. Vaccinate your pets and if they fall victim to an attack or bite, seek immediate veterinarian assistance.