World Rabies Day is September 28. Is your pet protected?
Rabies is a dangerous, fatal, incurable disease affecting a handful of warm-blooded mammals called vector species. The virus is most commonly transmitted through saliva entering the bloodstream, making bites the main mode of transmission. But the good news is that rabies is preventable.
The virus attacks the neurological system causing acute brain swelling. Early onset symptoms include a fever and tingling sensation near the bite site. Common advanced signs include disorientation, foaming at the mouth, fear of water, and fainting.
Typically, signs appear within one to three months after transmission but can be as short as one week to as long as one year. Once symptoms appear, death usually occurs within a week.
A rabies vaccine can protect your pet from the virus. Dogs, cats, and ferrets require the vaccination by state law in the U.S., and many pets require proof of rabies vaccination prior to traveling abroad. Some countries and states, such as Hawaii, are free of the virus and so pet travel requirements are even more stringent to prevent bringing the disease across borders.
Post-exposure vaccines can be administered immediately following the bite of an infected or presumably infected animal, but this does not guarantee protection. Additionally, bite sites should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for 15 minutes following a bite. A series of pre-exposure vaccinations are often required or recommended for individuals working with rabies vector species to prevent transmission, similar to dogs and cats.
Pets and wild animals that are high-risk vector species include raccoons, skunks, coyotes, foxes, bats, and groundhogs. You should keep your furry pet away from these wild strays and any that you have as pets should be properly vaccinated to ensure protection.
Though rabies is unlikely to become an epidemic in Western countries, it is possible. It has been prevented because of regulated injection protocol. Vaccines are typically administered in a three-part series to puppies and kittens and then booster shots given every one to three years in adult canines and felines.