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Rabies Vaccines and Your Pet: A Public Health Necessity

2020-09-02

When most of us hear the word RABIES, our minds typically go to images of crazed raccoons, developing countries with massive amounts of strays, or to that scene that we won’t mention in Old Yeller. The word itself sounds dreadful, and it elicits a high level of fear and panic in most people. But the truth about rabies is we don’t really need to be so worried about it here in the US because we have access to high quality and effective vaccines for our pets. The only way rabies can spread out of control as it does in developing countries, is if we as pet owners do not step up and vaccinate our pets on time and though a qualified veterinarian.

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system. Usually transmitted through a bite, rabies enters the bloodstream and makes its way up the central nervous system, though the spinal cord and eventually to the brain. Once established there, the rabies virus infects the salivary glands and the newly infected animal can now pass rabies along through their saliva.

How is it transmitted?

Most commonly, rabies is transmitted through a bite. However, rabies can also be transmitted through scratches or saliva of the infected entering though the nose, eyes or mouth of the attacked. Rabies can not penetrate unbroken skin.

What Animals can contract Rabies?

Almost all mammals can contract rabies. In Minnesota, the most common wildlife carriers of rabies are bats and skunks. In the United States, rabies is also highly reported in raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. Contrary to popular belief, rodents like mice and squirrels are less at risk to have the rabies virus. Opossums are also commonly associated with rabies, but very rarely have the virus.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies?

Rabies symptoms can be broad. There are two manifestations of rabies known as Furious Rabies and Dumb or Paralytic Rabies. Furious Rabies is the most common and easiest to spot. Animals with this type of rabies will exhibit classic rabies behaviors like foaming at the mouth, aggression, and no fear of humans. On the other hand, animals with Dumb/Paralytic Rabies will drool excessively, show symptoms of paralysis, seem drunk or disoriented and often times will have signs of self-mutilation though excessive biting and scratching.

What happens if my pet is exposed to Rabies?

  • If your pet is up to date on their rabies vaccination: Pets that are up to date on their vaccinations have a very good chance of survival assuming the attack by a rabid animal was not life threatening. Your pet would need to be brought to a veterinarian immediately to be administered a booster shot. After the booster, your pet would be released to you with instructions to quarantine and monitor for any signs or symptoms of rabies.
  • If your pet has had rabies vaccinations in the past but is out of date on their most recent vaccination: Your pet has a much higher chance of contracting the rabies virus. A round of vaccinations would be given and your pet would need to be held at a veterinary or other secure facility for upwards of 45 days and monitored regularly by a veterinary professional. This option is very costly and can still result in your pet being humanely euthanized if signs of rabies appear.
  • If your pet has never been vaccinated: Common procedure for pets that have never been vaccinated is to have them euthanized immediately.

How can I do my part to keep rabies rare in the US?

Vaccination and education are the two most important things to keep your pet safe! Keeping up to date on vaccinations is not only more cost effective in the long run, but it can keep your pet healthy longer. All domestic cats, dogs and ferrets need to be vaccinated - even pets that are strictly indoor animals.

Know what signs to look for and always give wildlife the space they deserve. Do your best to keep your pets away from wildlife. This includes leashing your pet when you are adventuring in the wilderness or walking in the park, bat proofing your home to make your indoor pets are protected, and always reporting an animal that is showing signs of rabies to the appropriate authorities.

To get your pet protected today, give us a call to set up a vaccination appointment and schedule!