Rabies and Your Pet
September 28 is World Rabies Day, a global health observance started in 2007 to raise awareness about the burden of rabies and bring together partners to enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide. Rabies is a 100% preventable disease, but thousands of people and animals die from the disease each year.
In 2016, rabies was diagnosed in 4,910 animals in the United States. Bats represented the largest population of rabid animals, with raccoons and skunks not far behind.
Since 2003, there have been 40 human cases of Rabies in the United States, 37 of which resulted in death.
Rabies is responsible for 1 death every 15 minutes worldwide and 4/10 deaths are in children.
Rabies cases are not unheard of in our area! More than half of all rabid domestic animals reported in 2016 were found in these 5 states: VA, PA, TX, NY, MD.
Cats are the most common domestic animal infected with rabies.
Rabies can only be diagnosed after death, through microscopic examination of the brain.
What is Rabies?
A deadly viral disease that attacks the nervous system
Virus is secreted in saliva and is transmitted to people/animals from an infected animal when saliva comes in contact with an open wound on the skin or the eyes/nose/mouth
Once signs of the disease appear, rabies is nearly 100% fatal.
What animals can get rabies?
Most cases occur in bats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes
Fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians do not contract/carry rabies
What are the signs of rabies?
Fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, paralysis, seizures
Rabid animals can also be uncharacteristically affectionate or may display sensitivity to light
Rabid wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans
Have your veterinarian vaccinate your dogs, cats, ferret and livestock for rabies
Reduce the possibility of exposure by not letting your pets roam free and by supervising dogs while they’re outside
Do not pet/approach stray dogs or cats or owned animals without first checking with their human. Teach children how, or whether to, approach a dog: https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx
Do not leave garbage or pet food exposed outside of your home, as this may attract wild/stray animals.
Do not approach or handle wild animals. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to your local animal control.
Bat proof your home and other outbuildings: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/bats/management/index.html
What if my pet has bitten someone?
The victim should see a physician immediately
Check with your veterinarian to determine if your pet’s rabies vaccination is up-to-date.
Report the bite to the local health department and animal control (local regulations may require the pet to be confined/isolated for monitoring from signs of rabies).
Immediately report any illness or unusual behavior by your pet to your veterinarian and the local health department.
Do not let your pet stray and do not rehome your pet during the period of confinement/isolation.
Have your pet vaccinated for rabies after the observation period if their rabies vaccination was not current.
What is my pet has been bitten?
Consult your veterinarian and report the bite to local animal control.
Even if your pet is current on their rabies vaccination, he/she should be revaccinated immediately, kept under the owner’s control and observed for a period as specified by local law.
Dogs, cats and ferrets that have NEVER been rabies vaccinated and are exposed to rabid animal may need to be euthanized or placed in strict isolation for six month.
Under NH state law every dog, cat, and ferret 3 months of age and older must be vaccinated against rabies.
Vaccines start protecting dogs and cats about a month after they are vaccinated.
A dog’s first rabies vaccination is valid for one year. Thereafter, dogs may be vaccinated for rabies every 3 years.
We recommend yearly rabies vaccination for cats.
Indoor-only cats need rabies vaccinations too! Cats can escape and wildlife can sometimes access the home!
The rabies vaccine is a killed product, meaning it contains inactive virus. The vaccine cannot cause rabies. It is a small volume liquid that is injected under the skin, usually in the right hind leg.
Vaccine reactions are rare: one study of over 1 million dogs reported a reaction rate of 38/10,000
Seek veterinary care immediately if any of these signs develop soon after vaccination: persistent vomiting or diarrhea, hives/itchy skin, swelling of the muzzle/face/neck/eyes, severe coughing or difficulty breathing, collapse