To many of us, rabies seems like an exotic or even old-fashioned disease, perhaps conjuring images of Old Yeller and the like. Although it’s hard to imagine it as a threat to our or our pets’ health, rabies is a real and ever present danger even in the modern, developed world.
At Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital we want our pet owner to know how serious of a responsibility it is to protect our pets and set some of the misinformation about rabies aside.
When it comes to rabies, most people have very limited knowledge. It’s a good thing that the general population has little experience with this terrible disease, but it can also make us cavalier. Consider the following statements:
“We don’t have rabies in the United States” – Over 5,000 cases of rabies in this country are reported each year to the Centers for Disease Control. Thanks to vaccination programs, most of these are thankfully in wildlife.
“My pet stays inside all the time and doesn’t need to be vaccinated” – Indoor pets are also at risk of rabies exposure. Wildlife such as raccoons can make their way indoors, and pets can make their way outdoors. Rabies has also been identified in bats in every state but Hawaii. Bats are frequently reported to be in people’s homes without their knowledge.
“With modern medicine we can cure rabies so it isn’t that big of a deal” – While it is true that post-exposure vaccines can stop rabies in its tracks, these are painful and expensive. They must also be administered before the virus enters the nervous system. Once a pet or person is showing symptoms of rabies, it is too late.
“My dog/cat/child can be tested for rabies” – If you or a loved one has potentially been exposed to rabies, it isn’t always easy to decide if immediate treatment is needed. The only way an animal can be tested for rabies infection is by testing brain material after death. There are several tests for humans, but none are foolproof.
“I don’t wish to vaccinate my pets for rabies” – You may not want to vaccinate your pet, but as far as the state of New York is concerned, you have to. All dogs, cats, and ferrets (not allowed in the city) must be vaccinated by law.
Rabies is a serious and often fatal disease. It is also zoonotic (transmissible between pets and people), making it your responsibility as a pet owner to help protect the public.
Your pet should receive its first rabies vaccination before four months of age (three months in New York City) and be revaccinated as recommended thereafter (typically annually to every three years). Please call us if you are unsure as to when your pet’s next rabies vaccination is required.
You can also do your part by avoiding handling or allowing your pet to interact with wildlife. Call animal control right away if you see an animal acting ill or out of character.
Rabies is not anything to play with, and it is our responsibility as animal lovers and friends to protect them and the general public. Do your part and vaccinate your pet as recommended. It is by doing this that we can keep rabies a rarity in this country.