Rabies: Vaccinate to Eliminate
September 28, 2019 is World Rabies Day - the only global day of action for rabies prevention. World Rabies Day launched in 2007 in hopes of raising awareness about the impact that rabies has on human and animal public health. This disease is one hundred percent preventable and all control efforts are focused around prevention through vaccination.
Rabies is a deadly disease that is caused by a virus which attacks the nervous system. Any mammal can get rabies and most cases occur in wild animals. The virus is most commonly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal or when the infected saliva comes in contact with an open cut, eyes, nose, or mouth. Cats are more likely to be exposed to rabies than dogs because they are less likely to be vaccinated. Vaccinating your pet means you are protecting yourself, your family, neighbors, veterinary staff, and anyone else who comes in contact with your pet. Vaccination programs paired with the control of stray animals is most effective in the prevention. It’s just as important for indoor pets to receive the vaccine because you never know when they could escape the home and come into contact with an infected animal.
Unfortunately, once an animal is infected and clinical signs appear, there is no treatment. As the virus travels along the nerves to the brain, infected animals will show a variety of signs. Fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, staggering, seizures, and difficulty swallowing are all common. An infected wild animal may even be unusually affectionate through their loss of natural fear. The disease can only be confirmed after death through an exam of the animal’s brain.
What are some other ways to help to prevent rabies? Spay and neuter your pets. This may keep your pets from roaming and coming into contact with infected animals. Keep your property clean and clear of garbage and pet food to keep from attracting wild and stray animals. Always observe wild animals from a distance, even if they appear friendly. Teach your family members about the safe ways to approach and interact with animals that they don’t know.
If you believe your pet has been bitten by an animal showing signs of rabies, contact your veterinarian immediately and report the bite to animal control. Even if your pet is up to date on vaccinations, your pet will need to be revaccinated to give it the best possible chance of protection. World Rabies Day will hopefully serve as a reminder to keep your pets up to date on their vaccinations, to help people in need, and for everyone to commit to the American Veterinary Medical Association 2030 goal of eliminating rabies death all-together. Rabies is one hundred percent preventable, so let’s do our part to protect our pets, ourselves, and loved ones.