Rabies is a fatal disease that can affect all mammals, including humans. You can prevent it in your pets with a simple routine vaccine.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a progressive, fatal neurologic disease. It is carried by mammals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Any mammal can be infected with rabies. The rabies virus is carried in saliva, and can infect other animals or people from a bite wound. After infection, the virus travels through the body to the brain.
Clinical Signs of Rabies
An animal can start to show clinical signs of rabies as soon as 10 days after being bitten. It is possible, in some animals, that signs may not start for almost a month, or even longer in some wildlife. The first clinical signs of rabies are non-specific, and include things like fearfulness, restlessness, changes in appetite, changes in bathroom habits, and excessive salivation. As the disease progresses, dogs and cats often become aggressive.
Rabies is fatal.
Rabies is easy to prevent with an annual vaccination.
In Indiana, all dogs, cats, and ferrets must be vaccinated for rabies. The first vaccine should be given at 3 months of age. The pet should receive a booster 1 year later; then boosters every 1-3 years (depending on the vaccine label). A rabies vaccine must be given by a licensed and accredited veterinarian. You should receive a rabies certificate and a rabies tag from your veterinarian. Keep this paperwork in a safe place, you may need it again!
Indiana 4-H also requires that horses receive rabies vaccinations in order to participate in 4-H shows.
In Case of a Bite
Any animal bites should be reported to the local health department within 24 hours. If a vaccinated pet (current on vaccines according to veterinary records) bites a person, the pet must be quarantined for 10 days. If the animal is healthy at the end of 10 days, it can be released back to its owner.
If an unvaccinated pet bites a person, the rules are a bit different. The unvaccinated pet must either be strictly quarantined for 6 months, or it must be euthanized to be tested for rabies. Unfortunately, there is no test for rabies that can be done while an animal is alive.
Other Common Vaccinations
Other vaccines that dogs commonly need include distemper (DHPPL) and sometimes Bordatella. For cats, we also recommend a vaccine against FVRCPC (a combination of diseases, sometimes called the “feline distemper” vaccine) and feline leukemia. Horses should receive vaccination against Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis, Tetanus, and West Nile Virus. Some horses should also receive vaccinations against flu and rhinopneumoninitis.
Your dogs and cats need an annual examination and a rabies vaccination every year. Are your pets up to date on their rabies vaccines? Call us or come in to check the last time your pet had a vaccine, and to get a booster if he needs one.