The vaccine offers a simple, effective way to protect your pet from the deadly disease. Although the number of rabies cases in the U.S. has declined, thanks to the introduction of the vaccine, the disease hasn't been completely eradicated and still remains a threat to people and animals. According to the AVMA, rabies rates are higher in cats than other domestic pets, although dogs are at risk too. This could be due to a lower vaccination rate among cats.
Which Pets Are at Risk of Developing Rabies? Rabies can occur in any mammal, including dogs, cats, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, pigs, horses, cows, bats, coyotes, goats, foxes and sheep. Small mammals, like squirrels, rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils, can technically be infected with the rabies virus. But, these animals rarely develop the disease.
How Do Pets Get Rabies?
The rabies virus is transmitted in an infected animal's saliva. Pets are usually infected when they're bitten or scratched by infected bats, raccoons or other wildlife. Once your pet becomes ill, it can infect you too. You don't have to be bitten by a rabid animal to develop rabies. The rabies virus can enter your body if your pet licks your hand, and you have a small scratch or a patch of dry skin on your hand.
What Are the Symptoms of Rabies in Pets?
- A Change in Behavior: Normally calm pets may become aggressive or irritable, or your dog or cat may seem much more affectionate than usual.
- Drooling and Swallowing Issues: Pets that have rabies may drool continuously and have trouble swallowing food and water.
- Difficulty Walking: Pets can become uncoordinated and might even develop paralysis as a result of the infection.
- Disinterest in Food and Water: Dogs and cats with rabies lose interest in drinking or eating.
- Seizures: Seizures can occur as the virus worsens. Eventually, death may occur.
Rabies symptoms don't appear immediately after your pet comes in contact with a rabid animal. In fact, he or she may appear perfectly healthy for two weeks to two months after being exposed to the virus. The best preventative is vaccinating your pet!