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Why does my cat or dog need a Rabies Shot?

Rabies remains a major concern worldwide, killing more than 55,000 people every year. In the United States, one to two people die annually and there were more than 6,000 reported cases of animal rabies in the U.S. in 2014.

Every September, World Rabies Day is an opportunity to unite as a community of pet lovers by doing our part in helping to prevent the spread of this fatal disease.The doctors and staff of Rolling Hills Pet Clinic are committed to helping pet owners make the best choices for any pet’s health. By vaccinating all cats and dogs, it protects both pets and the pet's family from rabies. According to the World Health Organization, 99% of human exposure to rabies occurs through dog bites.

Here's what you need to know about rabies to protect your pet and your entire family.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a fatal viral infection that attacks the nervous system of all warm blooded animals. This puts our family pets and also humans at risk for contracting rabies. This deadly disease is always fatal once clinical symptoms appear.

How is rabies transmitted?

Rabies is transmitted through body fluids such as saliva, blood, or semen. Most often, it is transmitted through a bite or a scratch from an infected animal that has the rabies virus in its saliva.

What animals can contract the rabies virus?

Any warm-blooded mammal can contract the rabies virus, but it is generally carried and transmitted by wild animals. In 2016, Pima County had the highest rate of rabies positive wildlife in the Arizona. Bats, skunks, and foxes were the types of wildlife in our area that had the highest occurrence of Rabies infection. However, past reports also included coyotes and bobcats.

These animals bite other animals such as dogs, cats, and humans and spread the virus through the saliva in a bite wound. Pets have also been exposed to the Rabies virus when a rabid bat flies into homes or into a pet’s yard. The curious pet may then approach it, leading to rabies exposure. Also, younger animals typically have a higher risk of contracting rabies.

How do I know if my dog or cat has rabies?

Once the rabies virus enters the body, it travels along the nerves to the brain. The incubation period varies greatly. Symptoms may start as early as only a matter of days, but can even take up to weeks or months to start.

The symptoms of the rabies virus commonly affect the central nervous system. They may include:

  • stumbling around or weakness
  • foaming at the mouth or salivating heavily
  • sudden aggression or behavior changes
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • rigid muscles or stiff bodies
  • wild animals may lose fear of humans
  • nocturnal animals may be seen wandering in daylight

What happens if my pet has been exposed to rabies?

If your pet has been potentially exposed to rabies, immediately seek veterinary care.

Vaccinated pets typically are given an after-exposure rabies booster and placed under rabies quarantine, which may be in the pet owner’s home.

Unvaccinated pets that have never had a rabies vaccine, will receive an after-exposure rabies vaccine too. However, the rabies quarantine is much stricter. They are required to stay at a veterinary clinic up to 6 months at the expense of the pet owner, which can cost anywhere from $2000 and up.

When should my pet be vaccinated for rabies?

Along with a physical exam, the rabies vaccine is given as early as 12-weeks of age for puppies and kittens, and a vaccine booster is given at their 1-year adult visit. After the 1 year booster, most Rabies vaccines provide 3 years of protection.

How can I help prevent the spread of Rabies?

By keeping your pet vaccinated from rabies, you are helping create a barrier between wildlife and humans. Meaning that if your rabies vaccinated pet has been exposed to a rabid animal, it will help break the rabies transmission cycle to humans.

Another key part of stopping the spread of rabies is by preventing cat or dog bites to people. Learning how to understand aggressive or unfriendly cat or dog body language will help keep you out of harm’s way.

By knowing the simple truth about the rabies virus, it should provide all pet owners considerable awareness about the importance of ensuring your pets are up to date on rabies vaccines. It is required in Pima County that all dogs starting at the age of 12 weeks must be vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian.

Contact us to schedule an appointment to get your pet up to date on Rabies today!