Even the word “rabies” strikes fear into many a pet owner. You don’t have to watch Old Yeller or Cujo to know that you do not want your furry friend to ever come in contact with the dreaded virus. Luckily, rabies is less common than it once was, though it still affects many wild dogs, raccoons, and coyotes.
If Rabies is Less Common, Should I Even Bother with the Vaccine?
Yes. Yes, you should bother. Because even though rabies is less common than it used to be, that is largely because rabies vaccinations are more prominent, and required, for pets in the US.
How Would My Pet Even Get Rabies?
Rabies is spread through the bites and saliva of an animal that is already infected. If your pet is not vaccinated and is bit by a wild animal or another pet that is infected, your pet will contract this deadly virus. Likewise, if an infected animal licks his paw and scratches your pet, the virus will be passed onto your pet. While rabies can be cured if caught early in humans, there is no treatment or cure for pets and they will die.
How do I Know if an Animal Has Rabies?
While animals that are extremely aggressive and foaming at the mouth a very likely to have rabies, not all infected animals generally behave this way. Rabid animals often appear disoriented, nipping at imaginary objects and unsteady on their feet. Animals most likely to have rabies include racoons, skunks, and bats. Since these are nocturnal animals, if you see them out during the day, they probably are infected.
When Should I Vaccinate My Pet?
Pets are eligible to be vaccinated at 12 weeks and beyond. Before 12 weeks of age is not recommended, but anytime after that is fine to be vaccinated. Once your pet has his or her first rabies vaccination, a booster should be administered the next year and every 3 years after that. Many think the initial rabies vaccine is enough, however, boosters are important for ensuring your pet had the strongest immunity to the virus as he or she gets older. Even if you have an indoor cat, they can become lost or slip out of the door when you aren’t paying attention, so make sure she is vaccinated.
What other Precautions Can I Take?
Keep your pet away from wild animals, especially racoons – the primary carriers of rabies. If your pet gets into a fight with any wild animals, take him or her to the vet immediate just to be sure everything is ok. If you see racoons or any other nocturnal animal out during the day, as well as any animals exhibiting off behavior, call your local animal control and report it. Rabid animals are not only a danger to pets, but a danger to humans as well.