Rabies – What you need to know!
What is rabies?
Rabies is a sudden onset, progressive disease caused by a virus that affects the brains of mammals. Bats, skunks, raccoons, and other wild animals are most commonly affected. This disease is FATAL once clinical signs appear. Thus prevention is VERY important because there is NO treatment.
Rabies is transmitted by bites or saliva from an infected animal contacting broken skin of a healthy person or animal.
How to recognize an animal with signs of rabies:
Animals with rabies may show a lot of symptoms or very few. Rabies can cause animals to exhibit sudden and strange behaviors such as sudden loss of appetite, anxious behaviors, irritability, hyper-excitability, or uncharacteristic aggression. Wild animals may act tame, normally tame animals may suddenly act aggressively, or nocturnal animals may be seen out and about during the daytime. Some animals will have paralysis or “dumb rabies” where the changes in the animal’s personality are more subtle and the primary sign is being quiet or depressed, paralysis, or ataxia (wobbly or uncoordinated movement). Not every infected animal will act like rabid animals on TV or in movies!
It is not possible to test a live animal for rabies. Only a sample of tissue from a deceased animal’s brain can be tested to know if that animal had rabies.
Do I need to vaccinate my animal?
In short, YES. Vaccination is the only known prevention. All cats and dogs are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies. Ferrets may also be vaccinated. Horses, cattle, pigs, and small ruminants can all get rabies but are not commonly vaccinated. We highly recommend vaccinating your horses and any other farm animal that has lots of contact with you or your family.
Indoor animals are at risk, too, as rabid animals behave erratically and are more likely to come inside a home. When the rabid, disoriented bat flies down the chimney or in through an air vent, your cat or small dog may be the first family member to find it!
What to remember:
Please remember that there is NO TREATMENT OR CURE for this fatal disease.
Note: Traditional remedies such as chili powder or jackfruit gum do not prevent rabies. Do not substitute these practices for medical treatment. Always seek advice from a medical professional.
Have a licensed veterinarian vaccinate your pets against rabies regularly. If you get bitten by any animal, but especially by a wild animal, cleanse the wound and contact a medical professional immediately. If you notice unusual behaviors or suspect rabies in either a pet or a wild animal, contact a veterinarian or animal control professional immediately.
Use the following list of resources to learn more about rabies and rabies prevention!
World Rabies Day is September 28!
Merck Veterinary Manual – In Depth on Rabies