Rabies – Protecting Ourselves and Our Pets from a Killer

Every year in North America, the Centers for Disease Control monitor the prevalence of rabies. Thousands of wild animals test positive every year and, despite mandatory vaccines for some pets, hundreds of cats, dogs, horses and other domestic animals contract this killer. The good news is that rabies cases in people and domestic animals have decreased significantly, but only continued vigilance will insure our on-going safety.

Several variant strains of rabies exist in North America, including strains found in skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats. Although these different rabies variants prefer certain hosts, they are capable of infecting all warm-blooded animals, including pets and people.

Laws may vary slightly, but all states require dogs to be vaccinated against rabies. Many also require cats and pet ferrets to be vaccinated. For most pets, an initial vaccine after 12 weeks of age starts the series and a second is administered when the pet is a year old. After the first year, regular booster vaccines are required.

Never assume that your “indoor only” pet is safe from rabies. Bats, the largest reservoir of rabies in North America, can find their way into homes. Attracted to their fluttering flight or a dying bat on the floor, our pets, especially cats, risk exposure. Since bat bites are almost undetectable because of their small size, you might overlook the fact that your pet has been bitten.

Always contact your local animal control officer or wildlife expert if you see a wild animal acting out of character. Because of the deadly nature of this disease, you should never attempt to capture a wild animal on your own.

September 28th is World Rabies Awareness Day. Although we rarely see human rabies deaths in our country, more than 55,000 people die from rabies annually in Asia and Africa. That’s one death every 10 minutes! What’s even sadder is that many of these deaths are children. For those of us in North America, we should never lose sight that this killer still lurks in our own backyard.

If you have questions about rabies and to make sure that your pet is properly vaccinated, please call University Animal Hospital today.

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