What Is the Danger of Rabies in Dogs and Cats this Fall?

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Fall can present an increased risk for rabies, since this season is when rabies is most often seen in bats, one of the common carriers of the disease.

Most states in the US specifically require that cats and dogs be vaccinated against rabies, and that their vaccines stay up to date. And most kennels and dog boarders won’t accept a pet without proof of a rabies vaccine. So just what is rabies, why is it so scary, and how can you recognize its symptoms?

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is caused by a virus of the Rhabdoviridae family that attacks the central nervous system and the salivary glands, causing brain inflammation, increased saliva, seizures, hallucinations, paralysis, and death. It usually takes hold within a few weeks of infection, but could act as quickly as one week. Once symptoms of rabies appear, according to the CDC, survival is very rare.

rabies-symptoms

How Do Pets Get Rabies?

Any mammal, humans included, can get rabies through a bite from a rabid animal. In the US, most cases of rabies are known to be in wild dogs, cats, skunks, wolves, foxes, raccoons, and bats. If a house pet contracts rabies, it’s likely from a bite from a wild animal.

What Are the Symptoms of Rabies in Pets?

Sometimes drooling and tongue paralysis are the only signs that a dog or a cat has rabies. Other signs include excessive saliva, or the “foaming at the mouth” that is a common image associated with rabies,  aggression, constant growling and barking, seizures, and paralysis.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Pets?

Vaccinate your pets against rabies! The American Veterinary Medical Association has put together a chart with the rabies laws by state, but to be on the safe side, all cats, dogs, and ferrets should stay up to date on their rabies vaccine.

Humans are usually only given a rabies vaccine post-exposure, or after a bite from an animal suspected to have rabies. If you’re ever bitten by a wild animal, you should assume contraction and get medical care.