Rabies, while not a common infliction for pet health, can be transmitted to our four legged friends. Recently, rabies cases have been on the rise. Just because one raccoon or other carrier tests positive for rabies doesn't mean that there won't be others. That being said, it also doesn't mean that we are in the middle of a rabies epidemic. Right now the most important thing is education on the virus and the risk factors.
Most people think about the movie ‘Cujo’ when they think about rabies. They see a crazy vicious dog that attacks everything, the reality is much different where pet health is concerned. Rabies is a virus that affects the brain and can manifest itself in many ways such as strange behavior, staggering, and weakness. The virus is spread by saliva through bites or eating brain material. Once an animal or a person is bitten it could take weeks to months for symptoms to develop. Unfortunately, there is no cure. Rabies is a virus that is terminal once it reaches the brain and physical symptoms begin. Worldwide there are around 60,000 deaths each year from rabies. Only one person has ever survived being infected but she will never recover from the brain damage she sustained.
There are a few species that are considered high risk for rabies and can have an affect on pet health. The main threat is raccoons with 154 cases or 63.6 percent of all wild animal cases in certain states in the US. After raccoons, skunks had 42 cases or 17.4 percent, bats had 28 cases or 11.5 percent, and foxes with 16 cases or 7.5 percent. In our domestic animals a very surprising statistic shows up with just over ten percent of carriers are our pets. The national average is even wider with 75 percent of domestic animals infections being cats. Another interesting statistic is that pets and humans have generally different threats for exposure. Overwhelmingly our pets are infected by raccoons, skunks, and foxes. In humans, worldwide 95 percent of the infections occurred through dog bites. Having your pet vaccinated against rabies is the best way to keep a layer of protection between wild animals and humans. Secondly, bats are a huge threat, usually because bites go unnoticed due to the fact that the bats live in the attic of the house. Usually, bat bites are small and we can even sleep through them. It is very important to check your roof and attic for signs of bats and have them removed if found. To protect our pets a few simple steps must also be taken. First, making sure your animal is current on vaccines is incredibly important. It is also important to keep your pets away from wild animals as much as possible.
What should you do if your pet gets bitten? How can you protect your pet health? You first have to make sure that your pet is current on its rabies vaccine. Currently there are both one-year and three-year vaccines available. If your pet is not current on its vaccines, and the animal that bit your pet was a raccoon, a fox, or a skunk you will need to call local authorities and alert the health department. They may want to have the wild animal caught or killed to have it tested for rabies. There is another advantage to having your pet vaccinated. If they bite a person and are current on their vaccines then they have to be quarantined for only 10 days for observation. If your pet is unvaccinated or past due on vaccines and it bites a person it will have to be quarantined for six months to be observed for symptoms. The bottom line for our pets is that the rabies vaccine works and without it you are taking a lot of risks with the number of rabies cases we have seen in our area. Please report any strange acting animals to Environmental Health or Animal Control and do not take matters into your own hands.
Gary Pearson is an accomplished niche website developer and author.
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