Rabies is a common disease that can affect our pets, especially if they've been in contact with a wild or obviously infected animal. Our vets at Marcello Veterinary Hospital in Houma and Raceland discuss the dangers of rabies in cats and dogs and how the rabies vaccine can help protect your furry friend.
How Rabies Affects the Body
Rabies is a serious and contagious disease that is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies affects mammals such as pets, livestock, wildlife and humans.
Approximately 5,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) each year, the vast majority of which are cases occurring in wild animals. Animals that are most likely to carry the rabies virus include bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.
Cats are infected with rabies more frequently than dogs, although this is likely due to the lower vaccination rate in cats.
Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will typically die within a few days.
The Spread of Rabies Through a Pet's Body
If your dog or cat contracts rabies through the bite of an infected animal or by otherwise coming in contact with the saliva of an infected animal it will typically take 10 - 14 days for your pet to begin showing symptoms. That said, depending on how your pet was exposed to the virus it can take months for symptoms to appear.
As soon as the rabies virus is present in the saliva, an animal will be able to pass it on. This occurs about 10 days before symptoms appear.
Diagnosing Rabies in Cats and Dogs
If you have an unvaccinated pet that comes into contact with a rabies-positive animal you will need to make a decision on what to do next.
Because you cannot test an animal for rabies, pet parents in this position are forced to choose between two options - to euthanize their beloved pet or to quarantine the pet and wait for symptoms to appear. Pets that are quarantined are unlikely to survive even if they do not show symptoms initially.
Rabies is generally diagnosed using the symptoms present, although the brain tissue can be tested after death in order to confirm.
Symptoms of Rabies in Pets
There are a number of possible symptoms that a pet can experience with rabies, these include:
- Excessive drooling
- Uncharacteristic fearfulness, aggression, or even affection
- Barking or meowing differently
- Biting at the site where they were exposed to the virus
- Overreaction to light, sound or touch
- Uncharacteristic aggression
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of balance when walking
- Partial or complete paralysis
Rabies Has No Known Cure
Once your pet has been infected with rabies there is nothing your vet can offer you to treat the disease. Euthanasia and quarantine are the only options.
This makes preventive care using rabies vaccinations extremely important.
How the Rabies Vaccine Can Help Dogs and Cats
While state vaccination requirements vary, keeping your pet's rabies vaccine up-to-date protects both your pets and the human members of your family against this deadly neurological disease.
Why You Should Vaccinate Indoor Cats
Even if you never ever let your cat outside, you should still have them vaccinated against rabies. Our cunning feline friends often manage to sneak out when our backs are turned, exposing them to the risk of coming in contact with infected animals. It is also the case that bats and rodents can make their way indoors where they could put your pet at risk. By not having your cat vaccinated, regardless of their lifestyle, you neglect to provide them with protection that could one day save their life.
Things to Keep in Mind
As a pet parent, it is up to you to do all you can to help your pet live a long and healthy life. Keeping your pet vaccinated against preventable diseases such as rabies is an essential part of fulfilling that role.
If you are unsure about whether to get your pet vaccinated, speak to your vet. At Marcello Veterinary Hospital our veterinary professionals are always happy to address any concerns you may have and answer your questions. We are here to help you keep your pet happy and healthy.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.