Any mammal can contract and spread rabies, but the primary carriers involve wildlife such as bats, skunks, raccoons, and foxes. In fact, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, more than 90% of the 5,000 annual U.S. cases of rabies affect wildlife. However, that means approximately 10% of all rabies cases affect companion animals. Since pets can become infected with rabies and potentially pass it on to people, the prevention of the disease is vitally important. Fortunately, the rabies vaccination for dogs and cats is required by law.
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the brain and nervous system. As a zoonotic disease, rabies can spread between animals and humans. Unvaccinated dogs and cats are placed at a high risk for rabies infection.
How It Spreads
Rabies is replicated and shed through the salivary glands. A pet exposed to a rabid animal’s saliva, whether through a bite or open wound, is at risk. If you or your pet is bitten by an animal you know or suspect has rabies, quick action is required.
The Importance of the Vaccine
Contrary to popular belief, all pets, even those that are indoor-only, could encounter the disease, and benefit from the protection of the rabies vaccination. Any encounter with wildlife (even unexpected ones inside the home) can lead to a rabies infection. Similarly, a pet that has had previous vaccinations, but no follow-up booster shots, should not be viewed as protected from possible infection.
A fenced-in yard or enclosure certainly reduces a pet’s ability to wander or escape, but doesn’t fully keep wildlife out (especially bats). All mammals are at risk of contracted rabies, and pets should definitely be vaccinated.
Best Course of Action
If your pet is exposed to rabies, emergency veterinary care is critical. Even if they are up to date with their vaccination schedule, we may recommend a booster following a bit from a rabid animal.
- Separate your pet from other household members (human and animal alike).
- Do not attempt to treat wounds yourself.
- Contact us right away.
- The State of New Jersey Department of Health should be contacted. They’ll provide specific instructions regarding self-protection and quarantine, and can dispatch a crew to deal with the rabid animal in question.
How Will You Know?
Rabies symptoms may not present themselves right away. If you do see any of the following, please act quickly:
- Extreme or uncharacteristic affection
- Light sensitivity
- Reluctance to be touched or held
- Eating odd objects
- Paralysis of the jaw, throat or mouth
There is no treatment for rabies, and once symptoms appear the result is fatal. The only way you can protect your pet is with the rabies vaccination. The standard recommendation is a single dose at 12-16 weeks of age, followed by a second dose a year later. A booster given every 3 years thereafter stimulates the immune system to create antibodies to the rabies virus.
We offer the rabies vaccination for cats and dogs for $30 per vaccination.
Rabies is a threat to public health, but together we can help protect our companion animals. If you have questions about your pet’s vaccination schedule, or concerns about their overall health, please call us at (732) 387‑7977. Mobile Vet MD is always here to help your pet!