Why Does My Pet Need A Rabies Vaccine?

Did you know that our pets need routine vaccines just like humans do?. However, not all vaccinations are considered “core pet vaccines” which means they are highly recommended by every vet for every pet. “Non-core vaccines” may be advised depending upon your pet’s lifestyle and where you live. The rabies vaccine, however, is a core pet vaccine due to rabies’ 100% fatality rate with no available treatment. Prevention is the only way to keep both yourself and your pet safe from rabies.

“Rabies is a lethal disease, and the best way to protect your pets is to vaccinate,” according to Charlie Hatcher, DVM, state veterinarian with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a preventable viral disease that is most often transmitted through the saliva of a rabid animal. It affects the central nervous system in mammals, leading to disease in the brain and eventually death. Rabies travels from the brain tissue to the salivary glands during the final stage of the disease, which is when an animal can spread it, most commonly through a bite.

Worldwide, rabies causes approximately 59,000 human deaths annually

A concept called one health recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the surrounding environment. Rabies is a perfect example of this concept. When dogs are suffering and dying from rabies, humans are as well. By saving dogs, humans are saved.

Protecting Your Pet Protects You

Humans usually get rabies from the bite of a rabid animal, but it’s also possible for people to get rabies from scratches, abrasions, or open wounds that are exposed to saliva from a rabid animal. Other modes of transmission are very rare.

Thanks to widespread pet vaccinations, effective post-exposure treatment for humans and animal control programs, the number of human deaths from rabies in the United States has declined to an average of only one or two per year.

Although rabies is no longer a widespread problem in America, the most important global source of rabies in humans is from uncontrolled rabies in dogs. The major source of rabies in humans can be eliminated through ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control.

How to Protect Your Pet from Rabies

There are several ways to protect your pet from rabies. Obviously, keeping them up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations and visiting your veterinarian on a regular basis is the most important step. PetWellClinic offers an affordable rabies vaccine that you can either add on to a wellness package or purchase alone, making it convenient for you to ensure your pet stays up-to-date on their vaccine.  

You should also keep your pets indoors and only let them outside when you can supervise. Finally, we recommend spaying or neutering your pet, as an accidental pregnancy increases the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly. The best way to avoid rabies is to stay away from wildlife. However, because you can’t tell your pet to do the same, it’s important that they are vaccinated in case they come into contact with an infected animal.

Never handle a wild animal, especially bats!

Your pets may be exposed to rabies from rabid animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes, or bats. Do not feed or handle wild animals, and contact your local animal control agency if a wild or stray domestic animal seems sick or acts strangely. Bats in particular should not be handled. But don’t panic over every bat sighting! Less than one-half of one percent of all bats in North America carry rabies, but still be careful. 

Despite the slim odds of contracting rabies, the remote possibility still exists and should not be taken lightly. To protect yourself and your pet, please follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t approach or handle wild animals
  • Vaccinate all of your pets
  • Contact your local animal control if you see a wild animal who may be sick
  • If you or your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek medical advice immediately
  • Scrub any wound immediately and aggressively with soap and water
  • If you find a bat in a room where someone was sleeping or where children were, assume that they have been bitten and seek medical advice
  • If you handle a pet who has been in a fight with a potentially rabid animal, take precautions to keep any fresh saliva from getting into an open wound

Symptoms of Rabies

After exposure, the virus has to travel to the brain before it can cause symptoms. The time between exposure and symptoms can last from weeks to months. 

This incubation period may vary based on:

  • Location of the exposure site 
  • Type of rabies virus
  • Any existing immunity

Symptoms of Rabies in Animals

You can’t tell if an animal has rabies by just looking at it, and the only way to confirm if an animal has rabies is to perform lab testing. However, an infected animal usually acts noticeably strange. Some may be aggressive or drool more than normal, while others may act timid and shy. 

Keep in mind that most wild animals stay far away from humans, so if they approach you or let you approach them, this could be a sign that something is wrong. For the health of yourself, your pet, and your family, leave all wild animals alone. 

Additionally, be careful with pets that you don’t know. If you see a stray cat or dog, don’t pet it. Especially if you are traveling outside of the country where rabies-exposure has a higher possibility. 

Some common symptoms of rabies in animals includes:

  • General sickness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Excessive drool or saliva
  • Increased aggressive
  • Biting at imaginary objects
  • Unusual tameness

There are other signs of rabies, such as having a hard time moving, paralysis, circling, acting disorientated or self-harm. However, most of these signs can also be indicative of other diseases like distemper or lead poisoning. If your pet is exhibiting any unusual behavior, bring them to your local PetWellClinic right away for a physical exam and lab testing.

Once you see the symptoms of rabies, there is no treatment. This is why it’s crucial to bring your pet to our vet right away if your pet was bitten by a wild animal. If your pet’s rabies vaccination is current, we will give your pet a booster shot and recommend observation for multiple days.

If your pet isn’t current, we will try to vaccinate for rabies to help prevent symptoms. However, your pet will have to stay in isolation for up to 8 weeks to prevent them from transmitting rabies to humans or other pets. 

Symptoms of Rabies in Humans

If you’ve been in direct contact with any wildlife or unfamiliar animals, especially if you’ve been bitten or scratched, you should visit your doctor. Wash any wounds immediately with soap and water. Please remember that bats have very small teeth which means their bite marks disappear quickly. If you are unsure whether or not you were bitten, seek medical advice to be safe. 

If the animal you were exposed to can be found and tested for rabies, this will help determine if you need to be treated. However, if this isn’t possible, talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses. 

Symptoms of rabies in humans include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Cerebral dysfunction
  • Itching at bite/scratch
  • Anxiety/confusion/agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Fear of water
  • Insomnia

Importance of Rabies Vaccinations

The simple, affordable rabies vaccination is a small price to pay to protect your pet and family from exposure to rabies.

Prevents Rabies in Animals

Preventing rabies in animals has many benefits. It helps the animal live a longer and healthier life and prevents the spread of rabies to other animals and humans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, nearly all pets and livestock that get rabies had not received vaccinations or were not up to date on their rabies vaccinations. 

There are many states that are starting to vaccinate wild animals to prevent the spread of rabies. Obviously they can’t catch every animal and give it a shot, so they have started using a vaccine in a special type of food that works when the animal eats it. 

Check out this story from Emergency Vets:

“A few months ago a client told me about a bat that had gotten into his home. He found one of his cats playing with it, and took it in for testing. The bat came up positive for rabies. He had no idea how long the bat had been inside, and often people sleeping can’t feel a bat’s bite. So, he and his entire family had to get post-exposure rabies vaccinations. The total cost was $126,000. The only reason his cats weren’t euthanized? You guessed it: They were current on their rabies vaccine.”

Keeps Humans Safe

Your pet’s vaccine can save your life. The most likely route rabies will take to get from wildlife to you is through your pets. So their vaccine acts as a barrier to protect you and your family. It also gives you peace of mind knowing that your pet is protected against the deadly virus. 

Imagine this: You find a stray kitten on the street and bring it home for your family and neighbors to adore. A few days later, everybody is getting sick with similar symptoms and you find out that the adorable kitten has rabies. Now your entire family and all of your neighbors are exposed and you have to pay the bill for their treatment.  

This entire scenario could’ve been prevented with a quick walk-in visit at your local PetWellClinic before bringing the kitten home.  

Some States Require Pets to be Vaccinated

Most states specifically regulate the administration of rabies vaccines as well as the frequency. Some states have adopted statewide mandated vaccinations while others delegate that decision to local governments. If you are unsure of your state’s vaccine requirements or their law on the administration of rabies vaccination, you can visit the American Veterinary Medical Association. 

When to Get Your Pets Vaccinated

The easiest way to ensure that your pet stays up-to-date on their rabies vaccine is to follow vaccination schedules. At PetWellClinic, we send annual reminders to make it easy. There are two different variations of the rabies vaccine. Rabies 1yr is administered in one dose as early as 3 months old and requires a yearly booster. Rabies 3yr is also administered in one dose at 3 months old, but the second booster isn’t required for 3 years. However, we recommend getting an annual vaccination to ensure that your pet is protected. 

The solution to rabies is simple. Get your pet vaccinated. You owe it to yourself, your family, your friends, and your pet to ensure that you have played your part in preventing the spread of rabies. 

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Ensure your loved ones safety and your furry-friends health by keeping your pet up-to-date on their rabies vaccine.  
PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for cat owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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