Rabies is a fatal disease of the nervous system. It is caused by a virus that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans. The virus attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing severe nervous system dysfunction and eventually death. While instances of rabies infection are lower than ever, the disease remains a continuing problem. Vaccinating your pet against rabies is a key prevention method.
The most common way to contract rabies is through a bite from an infected animal. When a rabid animal bites, the rabies virus in its saliva passes through the broken skin of the victim. Rabid cats can also transmit rabies through their scratches if they have saliva on their paws.
Skunks, bats, coyotes, foxes, and raccoons are very susceptible to rabies. Cats, dogs, cattle and horses usually contract rabies through encounters with rabid wildlife.
The symptoms of rabies can be quite varied. In general, the disease shows three stages that occur in succession. (NOTE: not every animal will display these signs, so any animal behaving abnormally should be regarded with suspicion.)