Rabies is an ancient disease that has been afflicting both animals and humans for thousands of years. When we hear the word rabies we often imagine a sick animal, foaming at the mouth, perhaps a crazed gleam in their eye. However Rabies can have a variety of symptoms, some more obvious then others, and can affect any warm-blooded animal or human.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation in the brain. It is most commonly transmitted through a bite as the virus is usually present in the nerves and saliva of asymptomatic animal. The most common animals to harbor the disease are dogs, cats, bats, raccoons monkeys, coyotes, and mongooses but any warm blooded animal can be infected and transmit the disease. Fortunately due to the strict enforcement of vaccination laws, rabies in the United States affecting humans is rare with only a couple cases a year, however there are still thousands of confirmed cases each year for animals.
The symptoms of rabies vary making it often difficult to diagnose. Most cases begin with a tingling in the infected area and can cause an animal to bite, scratch, or constantly lick the infected area, followed by one or more of the following symptoms: aggressive behavior, uncontrolled excitement, loss of appetite, disorientation, hypersensitivity, paralysis, and foaming at the mouth.
It is almost impossible to diagnose rabies unless death has occurred, as it is the brain itself that needs to be tested for the disease. Once a human or animal has been bit it can take anywhere from less then one week to a year for the first set of symptoms to appear. This often depends on the severity of the bite, the type of animal that bit, and the location of the wound. Which brings us to the importance of vaccinating your animals against the disease.
Here in Ventura County it is mandatory to have your dog vaccinated against rabies and failure to do so can result in heavy fines. Not only protecting your animal from the disease, updated vaccination records will also help protect them if they ever happen to get into a tussle with another dog or bite a human. If an animal bites the state mandated quarantine period is at least 10 days. However without proof of vaccination this quarantine period can be more then 6 months! Even animals that rarely leave home need to be vaccinated. People are often surprised to find out the high numbers of cats afflicted with Rabies, even if they are inside only. Cats are natural hunters and small animals that carry the disease can easily find there way into the pantry or garage, falling victim to a house cat. There are roughly 7 types of bats in California and each of them are small enough to fly in through an open window or rip in a screen door where your pet may easily get bit without you knowing.
The following information can help reduce the risk of you and your animal contracting rabies:
- Make sure your animals are vaccinated against rabies and their vaccinations are kept current
- Keep pets under supervision while outdoors
- Keep dogs on a leash
- Do not handle wild animals or strays
- Call animal control if you see an animal acting strangely, such as nocturnal animals wandering around during the daytime
- Make sure your screens have no rips or holes
- Install chimney caps
- Use screens to cover vents
- Cover large holes and cracks in your home and garage
- Do not leave food or water out at night
Vaccinating your animal is easy and affordable! Here at the Humane society of Ventura County we host a low cost shot clinic the first and third Saturday of every month with Dr. Lewis veterinary. A rabies vaccination for your pet is between $10-$15! For more information on how you can protect your pet from rabies please contact your veterinarian.