Protecting Your Pets: Rabies

When I was first asked to write about rabies, I misunderstood and started writing about babies. I have some experience in that area, having two of them currently under my roof and also being a former baby myself. Then I refocused little bit and I saw that the topic at hand was actually rabies.

World Rabies Day is today and is intended to raise awareness about rabies. Rabies is still a huge problem in many parts of the world (Africa and Asia in particular, due to the high numbers of stray dogs), and even crops up in the US from time to time.  Your only option if you want to find a continent free of rabies is currently Antarctica, which seems a might extreme (since it is currently 887o outside and 237% humidity here in the Midwest, Antarctica is sounding pretty good right about now).

Rabies may seem like a quaint, antiquated disease that we all remember from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is still out there and it is vicious. Each year, 55,000 people die worldwide of this dreaded disease, and about 10% of the victims are children. The disease is nearly uniformly fatal once signs show up.

The rabies virus is diabolical – once bitten, the virus travels up the nerves until it reaches the brain. There, it sets up shop in the very part of the brain that controls emotion and pushes the shiny red ‘rage’ button; animals become aggressive and more likely to bite. It also starts to reproduce in the salivary glands, which produces the classic ‘foaming at the mouth’ vision of a rabid dog. What better way to pass on the disease to a new host than to ramp up the transmission machinery (saliva) and make the carrier prone to injecting it into the next unlucky victim through a bite? Rabid animals have literally had their brains taken over by the virus, becoming a guided missile of viral transmission. No wonder that most zombie movies use a genetically modified rabies virus as a plot point.

Here’s What You Can Do to Improve Your Chances (Courtesy of the CDC):

  • Make sure your pet’s rabies vaccines are current: the first vaccine is usually good for one year, and most are good for 3 years after that (check with your veterinarian or your local animal control for details in your area).
  • Keep away from wildlife: 90% of all rabies cases reported to CDC occur in wild animals, including raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes. Do not feed or handle them, even if they seem friendly.
  • Avoid unfamiliar dogs and cats: They are often in contact with wildlife and can transmit rabies.
  • If you see an animal acting strangely, report it to animal control.
    • Problems swallowing or lots of drool or saliva
    • An animal that appears more tame than you would expect
    • An animal that bites at everything

Many of these rules apply to strange babies you may see wandering the streets, so use caution around them as well. Take note of September 28th on your calendar and make an appointment today to get your pet’s rabies vaccine brought up to date – the babies are counting on you!

Tags: , , ,

  • Print
  • email