Rabies: It’s Not Like the Movies

Nov 19, 2016 | Cats, Dogs, Infectious Diseases, Uncategorized

The first image many of us have of rabies is an animal, driven to the heights of aggression while foaming at the mouth. This image is driven by movies like Old Yeller, books such as Stephen King’s Cujo and even children’s films such as Over the Hedge. These have skewed the public’s understanding of rabies and its signs.

Let’s review the facts:

Rabies is caused by a virus. Rabies only affects mammals, and it can affect any type of mammal: Cats, dogs, squirrels, cows, and humans. An animal with rabies sheds the virus in its saliva and mucous secretions. Direct contact such as a bite is required to spread the virus. Rabies does not survive in the environment, only in host animals.

The scary thing about rabies is that after a bite, it can take up to a year before the pet or human shows clinical signs. Once infected the virus moves into the nervous system of the animal. It hides out here, invisible to the pet’s immune system, until it migrates to the brain. In addition, the animal is actually shedding the virus ten days before the clinical signs are seen.

The virus can affect animals in two forms. The first is the furious form—this is the one that inspired all the pop culture representation. These are aggressive animals that will try to attack you. The second form is the dumb form. In this form, the animal can show neurologic signs such as weakness, drooling, bumping into objects, and a change in personality. Some affected animals can also show a voice change.

Prevention

Bats, raccoons, and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in Central Virginia. Since bats are one of the most common carriers, even pets that remain indoors should be vaccinated. In fact, this is required by Virginia State law. Your pet should receive its first rabies vaccine at four months of age. Virginia law requires a booster at one year of age. If your pet is not vaccinated or up to date on their vaccines and bites a person, they will need to either have a forced quarantine period of six months or be euthanized and tested for rabies.

If your unvaccinated pet was attacked by an animal afflicted with rabies, it will be euthanized.

If your pet is up to date on its rabies vaccine and gets bitten, they should receive an immediate booster and a 45 day observation period.

If your pet is attacked by a wild animal and kills it, the animal’s body should be brought to your veterinarian for rabies testing. If you are bitten by a wild animal and kill it, the body should be brought to your veterinarian for rabies testing. If you are bitten by an unvaccinated dog not showing signs, the animal should be placed in quarantine for 10 days of observation as rabies is only shed 10 days before showing clinical signs. No person in the United States has ever contracted rabies from a dog, cat or ferret held in quarantine for 10 days.

Rabies is very rare in vaccinated animals. It is however endemic in our area. The best prevention method is avoiding animals that are not acting normal. This could be a raccoon running around in the day; they are normally nocturnal. This could be a skunk charging towards you and your pet. This could be the neighbor’s sweet dog that is not acting like itself or is suddenly aggressive. If you find a pet on the side of the road, injured, move slowly and use precautions. If the animal was hit by a car, they are likely in a great deal of pain and are apt to bite you. As always in any bite case, you should seek medical attention. Be cautious and avoid placing yourself in dangerous situations. Even small bites can become infected and have grave consequences. Keep your pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations. This protects both of you.

For more information, contact our team at VETSS, a Charlottesville VA urgent care animal hospital!

Planning for your Pet when Traveling

As the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions wind down and things open up, many people are taking trips again. During the pandemic there was an explosion of pet ownership. Now you may be wondering what to do with your beloved pet or how best to transport them safely. This...

A Summer Guide to Heat Stress and Heat Stroke for Dog Owners

As we get into summer and the temperature rises, it’s important to be aware of how the heat affects your pup. Please read below to recognize the signs of heat stress and know when you should seek veterinary care for your pet. I’m comfortable outside. Why is my dog so...

A Caring Guide to Planning for the Loss of Your Pet

Having pets is one of the most rewarding relationships a person can have. They provide us with humor, love, and lots of snuggles. With all pet families, however, there comes a time when we must say goodbye. Preparing to Say Goodbye to Your Pet For some, this comes...

One Shot. Four Viruses. Protect Your Dog With the DAPP Vaccine

New dog owners are often full of questions: Why does my dog chew this? Why did it eat that? One of the most important questions is, “Why does Lucky need all these vaccines?” Simply put, puppies are very vulnerable to diseases. Which is why it is pretty amazing that...

Resource Topics

Grapes, Beer, and Nuts: People Foods You Should Avoid Giving to Pets

Many pet owners are guilty of feeding their beloved companions treats from the table at dinner time. Those who do may...

The Complete Guide to Dog and Cat Vaccines

When considering getting a new puppy or kitten, one of the most important decisions you can make is regarding...
Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
2 days ago
VETSS

It's wellness Wednesday. We are coming at you with dental health tips for the month of February. Check out this helpful video on how to teach your pet about tooth brushing. What challenges do you anticipate with your pets?
... See MoreSee Less

Video image

Comment on Facebook

3 weeks ago
VETSS

www.youtube.com/embed/j6gNkXpRZkE
In our world, every month is Dental Health Month, but we are happy to bring awareness to pet dental disease and prevention in the month of February.

Curious about your pet's dental health? We can help! Now is a great time to schedule your pet's next dental cleaning and x-rays. We are offering special pricing on our dental procedures for the month of February. Schedule your pet's next exam today.
... See MoreSee Less

Video image

Comment on Facebook

Load more