When many people think of rabies, they think of wild animals. While animals such as raccoons, foxes, bats, and skunks are more likely to have rabies, it can affect dogs, cats, and humans as well. However, rabies is 100% preventable through vaccines and postexposure prophylaxis (PEP). In the United States, rabies in domesticated dogs is very uncommon since vaccination is required in nearly every state.
Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and central nervous system of mammals. It is transmitted through saliva, and exposure often occurs from being bitten by a rabid animal. You can also get it if you have an open wound or scratch that comes in contact with infected saliva or tissue from the animal. Immediate treatment can prevent rabies infection from developing, but once there is an established infection, the disease can be fatal. But remember – with proper care, it is preventable!
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your pets from this disease:
Get your dogs and cats vaccinated. Most states require vaccines, as do most animal care providers such as boarding facilities. Vaccines are approved for dogs as young as 12 weeks old, and there are one-year and three-year products available. Depending on the type of vaccine, your pet may require a booster shot annually or every three years. Cats typically have the same treatment schedule, though they may be eligible as young as eight weeks old. Some organizations provide free or low-cost vaccinations.
Have your dog or cat spayed or neutered. This can help control the animal population and prevent an overabundance of feral animals. Stray animals are often unvaccinated which can increase their risk of developing and spreading rabies.
Avoid wild animals. Keep your dog on a leash when outside so that you have more control over where they are and can quickly get to safety if you encounter a rabid animal. If you go for hikes or live near wooded areas, be alert for wildlife that may show signs of a rabies infection. This can include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Unusually affectionate behavior
- Excessive drooling
- Unsteady walk
You may notice that these animals are acting strangely or out of character. They may be in an area where they do not usually live. Even if the animal is not displaying common rabies symptoms, they could still be infected, so it is a good idea to steer clear.
Report stray animals. If you see stray animals in your neighborhood, call animal control. You never know if an animal may be infected, and you do not want them posing a danger to pets, humans, or other animals in the area. Do not feed wild animals as that can encourage them to stay close and reduce their fear of humans.
If you or your pet is bitten by a rabid animal, or you believe you may have been exposed to rabies, seek immediate care.
Lake Wylie Pet Resort cares about the health and safety of the animals in its care, and rabies vaccinations are required. Let your pet run, play, and relax in a safe environment while you are at work or away by signing them up for doggie daycare or boarding. Contact us today to schedule their next stay.