World Rabies Day: Is Your Pet Protected?


World Rabies Day was September 28, and we’d like to do our part in raising awareness about this deadly disease. Do you know the facts about rabies? Rabies is a virus that is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies can infect both animals and humans and is found almost everywhere in the world.
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control says, “Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate.” Though the rabies fatality rate is so high, the WHO and CDC both state that this illness is absolutely preventable. The first line of prevention is vaccination for your pets.
The second line of defense is prophylactic treatment, which needs to be started immediately (before symptoms manifest themselves) if exposure is suspected.
Symptoms of rabies in animals are slow to progress and can come in several phases. The virus travels from the bite site to the victim’s nerves and then to its brain. The time from the initial exposure to Rabies to the first onset of symptoms can range from weeks to months. After the virus reaches the brain, the animal may show signs of anxiety and agitation, and fever may also be present. The animal may also lick the bite site repeatedly. As the virus progresses and does more damage to the brain, the animal becomes mean, often attacking those around it without provocation. Once this erratic behavior begins, the animal dies shortly thereafter. At some point during the process, the animal will also begin to salivate excessively—this is because the rabies virus affects the salivary glands as part of the disease process.
Once symptoms of rabies are present, there is no treatment available. Thus, preventative vaccination for rabies in both cats and dogs is essential. The vaccine schedule for both cats and dogs is the same: the first dose at 3 – 4 months of age, with a followup dose when your pet is one year old. Then, one year later, a three-year vaccine can be administered; your pet will need to continue to be vaccinated for rabies on a regular schedule determined by your vet for the rest of your pet’s life.
Because of the prevalence of the disease, any bite from a wild animal should be considered to have the potential for rabies transmission. If you suspect your pet has been exposed to rabies, you should contact your vet immediately.
Rabies vaccination for your pet is the most effective way to prevent transmission of this deadly disease. If you suspect rabies exposure or need to discuss vaccine recommendations for your cat or dog, the veterinarians at Hudson Animal Hospital can offer immediate consultation at their clinic located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.